Evgeny Kissin, one of the world's great piano technicians, rarely played Beethoven during the first part of his career. When he did, it was the Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 ("Moonlight"), which appears here, along with works to which he came for the first time. The recordings here were all made live, in line with Kissin's belief that studio recordings offer only a pale substitute for the live performance experience, between 2006 and 2016, and each one places the pianist's technical gifts in the service of a novel and often profound interpretation. Works from all three Beethoven periods are presented, but you might start by sampling the finale of the Piano Sonata No. 3 in C major, Op. 2, No. 3, whose leaping opening figure is often treated as a prime example of the young Beethoven's obstreperous nature. Here it is an elegant group of pirouettes, akin to the music in the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43. Few pianists other than Kissin could have made the whole gesture hang together so effortlessly. In the last movement of the Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 ("Appassionata"), the opening diminished chord is not the usual slice of gripping panic, but almost incidental to the flawlessly rendered contrapuntal complexities to come. In general it's fair to say that you'll hear details in these performances that you may have missed in a lifetime of listening to Beethoven, and that each performance proceeds both logically and thrillingly. The inclusion of two variation sets, the 32 Variations on an Original Theme in C minor, WoO 80, and the finale of Beethoven's last sonata, the Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111, is an inexplicably rare programming decision that sets the stage for the mysteries of late Beethoven. The live sound in most of these performances is consistent and is miked close to Kissin, avoiding resonance; the effect is to put you in the pianist's orbit and to minimize the coughers in the audience (which, at several points, Kissin does too). This is a major Beethoven release.
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas No. 3, No. 14 "Moonlight", No. 23 "Appassionata", No. 26 "Les Adieux", No. 32; 32 Variations in C minor Review
by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2
|Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor "Appassionata" Op. 57|
|Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major "Les Adieux" Op. 81a|
|Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111|