Dina Ugorskaja

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Opp. 90, 101, 109 & 110

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There's certainly no shortage of recordings of these four late Beethoven sonatas, but Russo-German pianist Dina Ugorskaja proposes an unusual grouping of them: having already put together the monumental Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 ("Hammerklavier"), and No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111, she now records the comparatively more intimate No. 30 in E major, Op. 109, and No. 31 in A flat major, Op. 110, together with two slightly earlier works not always grouped with the late sonatas: Sonata No. 27 in E minor, Op. 90, and Sonata No. 28 in A major, Op. 101. This has several advantages over the usual grouping of the final three, notably that her performances let the natural differences of mood among the works emerge. When the Op. 110 sonata, for example, is put together with Op. 109 and Op. 111, there's an almost irresistible tendency to bang away at the final fugue, but Ugorskaja avoids this. The program starts out at drawing-room dimensions with a gentle, deliberate, very Mendelssohnian Op. 90 sonata, and it builds slowly. When power is called for, as in the ebullient finale of Op. 101 and in the virtuoso variation set of Op. 109, Ugorskaja delivers it, and the ecstatic nature of these movements is all the more enhanced. Elsewhere Ugorskaja takes her time with transitional phrases, opens up textures, hangs back, and seemingly lets the music develop in a natural way. These aren't interpretations that call attention to themselves, but they're beautiful. Bavarian Radio's studio sound is excellent.

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