Listeners unfamiliar with pianist Garrick Ohlsson owe it to themselves to check out at least one of his albums, especially his recordings of Chopin and Beethoven. His approach to the piano is consistently clean and sparkling, never sullied with excessive use of the pedal or too much of his own rubato. He is truly an artist who gives the listener precisely what is in the score. His recorded sound is also quite pleasant, balancing the need for crisp and articulate treble notes with round and full left hand.
This album provides listeners with a wonderful cross-section of Beethoven's piano sonatas, jumping periods from Op. 2 to Op. 81a to Op. 111. Ohlsson's technique keeps up with these style changes and offers an appropriate distinction between the stylistic elements of each. Tempo choices are very distinctive; the Adagio introduction of Op. 81a is truly Adagio (and therefore maybe a little slower than what is typically heard) and the Allegro vivace is quite sprightly. The third movement of Op. 81a is a shining example of Ohlsson's clean approach to his instrument. This movement, which is so often susceptible to over-pedaling, is as lucid and transparent as it could possibly be. The late Op. 111 Sonata is quite powerful, and Ohlsson's nuance in tempo is remarkably effective. The second-movement Arietta is beautifully refined, relaxed, and graceful.