This is the final release in Stephen Kovacevich's ten-year survey of Beethoven's sonatas. It is understandable that anyone would want to leave the "Hammerklavier" Sonata until the last. It is Beethoven's most challenging piano sonata in almost every respect, but Kovacevich is definitely up to the challenge. He brings out some of the more percussive elements of Beethoven's writing in the first movement; a refreshing lightness in the Scherzo, even in the minor mode Trio; fleeting glimpses of Chopin-esque harmonies and lyricism in the third movement; and clear differentiation of character and lines in the final Largo and fugue. Kovacevich then goes from one of the longest of Beethoven's piano works to the shortest. The Bagatelles, Op. 119, are played with charm and grace, but are not necessarily delicate little whimsies. Pay attention or you'll miss the 13-second-long Allegramente one. Again, with Sonata No. 26 "Les Adieux," Kovacevich plays with clarity, not using too much pedal and not getting carried away by the sentiments of the sonata's program. The sound is generally nice and clear, picking up the piano's tones evenly, but there are faint rushes of air around the microphones that can be distracting. However, this is a minute flaw in the recording of a first-rate performance.
AllMusic Review by Patsy Morita
|Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major ("Hammerklavier"), Op. 106|
|Bagatelles (11) for piano, Op. 119|
|Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major ("Les Adieux"), Op. 81a|