Igor Tchetuev

Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2

(Super Audio Hybrid CD - Caro Mitis #62006)

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This is the second volume in a Beethoven piano sonata cycle on the audiophile Russian label Caro Mitis. A new set of Beethoven sonatas by a little known pianist on a small label might seem less than a necessity, but thus far the interpretations offered by the young Ukrainian-born pianist Igor Tchetuev have been distinctive enough to warrant exploration even for listeners who already have several sets of Beethoven sonatas to choose from. Tchetuev's readings are all extremely restrained. The performances are as far as can be imagined from those of the old Russian school. In the opening movement of the Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, "Pathétique," he lets the slow introduction and the mode mixture in the main Allegro theme make their own points. The top dynamic level is not high and nothing gets pounded or distorted. Yet you couldn't say that Tchetuev is oriented toward Beethoven's Classical side, either. The extreme precision of his playing tends to give Beethoven's music an episodic feel, to turn each movement into a carefully told story. And he has obviously thought out each piece in every detail. The Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28, "Pastoral," doesn't sound very pastoral, but of course it wasn't Beethoven who called it that, but a later publisher. The work in Tchetuev's hands turns into an odd kind of quiet fantasy, with great emphasis on details of figuration and decoration whose motivic links to one another emerge with sometimes startling clarity. The little two-movement Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp minor, Op. 78, offers an ideal illustration of his approach. He plays the tiny slow introduction in a completely unassuming way, and all the emphasis is on the motivic and texture structures of the two short movements. He brings out the way the movements are linked by call-and-response devices, and there are many absorbing small details. Listeners who like the fist-shaking, barricade-storming Beethoven may be nonplussed by Tchetuev's playing, but it's ideally suited to an audiophile sound environment, and it provides plenty to absorb over repeated hearings.

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