Yoshiko Okada

Ludwig van Beethoven: Klaviersonaten

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Yoshiko Okada's 2012 release on Gramola presents clean and careful readings of Beethoven's Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, "Pathétique," the Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10/3, and the Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111. A connection can be drawn between the two C minor works because Beethoven's ideas in the earlier sonata continued to occupy him and came to full fruition by the time he composed the first movement of Op. 111. However, even if there had been no traceable ideas between these two pieces, the choice of sonatas in this key surely struck either the pianist or the producers of this CD as suitable bookends for the program. Situated between these brooding sonatas is the comparatively light and sunny Sonata No. 7, which provides considerable contrast and shows that Beethoven didn't always compose under a cloud. Okada's performing style is emotionally restrained but technically proficient, so reactions to her interpretations and playing may be at odds. On the one hand, she doesn't push the boundaries of expression, so her Beethoven is cool and conservative in feeling and possibly a bit too clinical in temperament to light any fires. On the other hand, she plays with a sure touch and transparent textures, and her hands are always under her control, so this album might appeal to listeners whose sensibilities are hyper-refined. Gramola's digital sound is moderately resonant, but close up enough to give Okada credible presence.

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