Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Beethoven: Hammerklavier

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Beethoven: Hammerklavier Review

by James Manheim

Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 ("Hammerklavier"), is one of the most difficult pieces in the repertory, and many players take a go-for-broke approach with extreme tempos whereby they challenge themselves even more. In this beautifully recorded PentaTone release, pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard goes the other direction, with a sober, precise reading that takes the music just a shade slower than normal. He gets good support from his annotator, Nigel Simeone, who notes that Liszt, giving one of the earliest performances of the work in 1836, apparently took the music just this way, observing all markings in the score and neither eliding nor adding anything (probably a novel approach at the time). This may not be what one would expect from Liszt, but he had studied the work with Czerny, who learned it directly from Beethoven, so it may be that what Aimard offers here is a kind of "authentic" performance, although on a modern piano. His playing is not inexpressive, but he is more oriented toward the long line than toward local fireworks; his slow movement in the "Hammerklavier" builds rather hypnotically toward a strong climax, and the fugal finale has an inexorable quality. The Variations and Fugue in E flat major, Op. 35 ("Eroica"), makes an excellent pairing, for, in addition to being the direct ancestor of the Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica") finale, it also looks forward to the big variation sets of other late Beethoven sonatas. This is hardly a typical "Hammerklavier" recording, but it's one that merits close attention.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major, Op. 106, "Hammerklavier"
1 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 11:57 Amazon
2 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 02:53 Amazon
3 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 16:46 Amazon
4 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 12:11 Amazon
15 Variations and a Fugue in E-flat Major, Op. 35, "Eroica Variations"
5 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 03:25 Amazon
6 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:38 Amazon
7 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:50 Amazon
8 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:43 Amazon
9 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:40 Amazon
10 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:52 Amazon
11 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:39 Amazon
12 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:38 Amazon
13 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:53 Amazon
14 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:40 Amazon
15 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:37 Amazon
16 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:47 Amazon
17 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:42 Amazon
18 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 00:40 Amazon
19 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 01:16 Amazon
20 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 04:29 Amazon
21 Pierre-Laurent Aimard 04:31 Amazon
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