Fazil Say / Gianandrea Noseda / hr_Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3; Piano Sonatas, Op. 111 & Moonlight

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Turkish pianist Fazil Say, equally uncompromising in his playing and in his defense of free expression against Turkey's Islamist regime, returns to Beethoven after a gap of almost ten years since his last Beethoven recordings, with spectacular results in which his flamboyant virtuoso's personality is harnessed to the structure of the music. This is a stirring and often thrilling recital in which Say interprets all three works in original ways. The hands-down triumph is the Piano Concerto in C minor, Op. 37, in which Say is one of very few pianists who look definitively forward in the work, downplaying its links to Mozart's language and finding the fearsome young virtuoso Beethoven in the music. He does it by deploying a variety of heavy accents throughout and using them to launch into passagework that's full of flair. It's a daring, exciting reading, and that it does not fly off the rails is due partly to the efforts of conductor Gianandrea Noseda, leading the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra: he matches the rather unpredictable rhythmic structure Say sets up. The two piano sonatas that round out the program are likewise novel. The Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111, which is almost never put in the middle of the program, features a titanic opening movement that nearly balances it with the ethereal finale, and the chilly, otherworldy "Moonlight" sonata opening movement set against an extremely explosive finale truly makes something new out of that chestnut work. Superb Beethoven from one of the most compelling pianists active today.

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