Martin Roscoe

Beethoven Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2: Waldstein

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This album is part of a complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas by British pianist Martin Roscoe, who approaches the sonatas not chronologically but in unique groupings with one famous work per album as a centerpiece. It is grouped with another work or works that have something to do with it, and then smaller pieces may be added as a kind of intermezzo. Here the centerpiece is the Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 ("Waldstein"), and the album bears the subtitle "Waldstein." The subsidiary attraction is the Piano Sonata No. 4 in E flat major, Op. 7, dubbed the "Grand Sonata," and the first to definitively break free of the Haydn sonata pattern. In these two large, virtuoso works, Roscoe cultivates an almost preternatural cleanness and smoothness, putting on a display of true keyboard mastery. Distant indeed are heroic treatments of Beethoven, even in the clattering octaves of the "Waldstein"; the theme of the finale remains lyrically luminous even as the double-octave runs begin. Perhaps the most attractive feature of the album is the inclusion of the two short sonatas of Op. 49, early works despite their middling opus numbers. Beethoven plainly became intrigued by these little pieces and allowed them to be published even as he ignored numerous other works from around the same time. In a perfectly balanced performance such as Roscoe gives here, they are almost hypnotic. The acoustics of Suffolk's famed Potton Hall are marvelously well suited to Roscoe's quietly luminous efforts here, representative of the superb state of British pianism in the early 21st century.

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