Trudelies Leonhardt

Beethoven: Works for Piano

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The pianistic beast heard on this disc by Trudelies Leonhardt, brother of Gustav, is an unusual one indeed. An 1815 Viennese fortepiano, it has four pedals creating various effects (the odd one, not often used here, is a "bassoon" pedal, which lowers a parchment-covered bar onto the strings and thus creates a sort of drone sound). Leonhardt sets out to create interpretations that take advantage of the peculiarities of this instrument and in general of the lower levels of resonance in the fortepiano as compared with a modern grand. Her tempos are slow, her interpretations detailed. And though she is a very quiet and restrained player overall, she draws out dramatic moments in the music, aiming, perhaps, to give a sense of the way Beethoven was exploring the new powers of the piano as it changed rapidly during his career. Leonhardt's approach works best in the Piano Sonata in D minor, Op. 31/2, the "Tempest" -- she produces a moody, fantasy-like performance with a sense of constant surprise. The short but elusively profound Piano Sonata in F sharp major, Op. 78, is less successful; Leonhardt's tempos are just idiosyncratically slow. There is no way her second movement can be made to correspond with Beethoven's marked Allegro vivace tempo. Also included are Beethoven's Six Minuets, WoO 10, of 1795, and the even more obscure Variations in B flat major on Salieri's "La stessa, la stessissima," WoO 73. It's nice to have recordings of these rarities, and the Salieri variations suggest the ambitions of Beethoven's later works in the variation form. But it's not clear why these rather impersonal pieces were chosen; they represent little about Beethoven's career-long conversation with the piano, which seems to be the focus of the larger works on the disc. This Beethoven disc will be of interest primarily to listeners involved with historical piano performance.

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