Glenn Gould

Beethoven: Sonatas No. 8 in C minor 'Pathetique', No. 9 in E major, No. 10 in G major

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This recording of three early Beethoven sonatas, made in 1966 and reproduced here with its original back cover notes included in the booklet, might have been anticipated with cringing among Gould's detractors. In the event, Gould delivered one of his more mainstream and generally accepted performances here. True, the opening movement of the Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, "Pathétique," goes by at blazing speed, basically losing the syncopation in the main thematic material of its Allegro di molto e con brio. Even here, however, Gould avoids idiosyncrasy, if not unorthodoxy; he finds an unusual relationship between the Allegro and the Grave sections of the movement, treating the return of the Grave material not as a wrenching shift but as part of the stream of thought of the movement, almost as a recollection of sadness and exhaustion. In the two quiet sonatas of Op. 14, Gould's brittle speed sometimes seems at odds with the pastoral spirit of the music -- but there are again moments where he has intriguing insights to offer. His slow movements, so often taken to be the weak point in early Beethoven, are so full of wit and unusual voicings that there are times you are tempted to say of course that's what Beethoven had in mind: check out the stumpy little variations in the center of the Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 14/2, which in Gould's hands seem full of suppressed humor. Definitely a must for Gould fans who've somehow missed them, these Beethoven sonatas are also likely to cause even the Canadian's detractors to admit that they're better than they had any right to be.

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