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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2 / Jean-efflam Bavouzet


Release Date: 01/28/2014 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10798   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet
Number of Discs: 3 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



The virtues of the first three-CD set that launched Jean Efflam-Bavouzet’s Beethoven sonata cycle for Chandos largely prevail throughout Volume 2. Like Richard Goode and Claude Frank, Bavouzet’s lean, pinpointed sonority, rhythmic directness, freedom from mannerisms, and strong linear awareness convey both a strong sense of classical style and expressive economy. Bavouzet’s dynamic range is not particularly large, yet his subtle variety of articulations, thoughtful accentuation, and very discreet use of the sustain pedal give the playing a distinctive profile that recalls other intimate, Apollonian Beethoven stylists like Wilhelm Kempff, Walter Gieseking, and Robert
Read more Casadesus. Moreover, Bavouzet brings more tension and fire to his interpretations than those of his label mate Louis Lortie.

If Bavouzet falls short of Stewart Goodyear’s brash audacity and risk taking, at least this pianist avoids the occasional fussiness we hear from Paul Lewis and András Schiff, or the often faceless perfection of Mari Kodama, among recent Beethoven cycles. The opera buffa-like character of Op. 22’s Allegro con brio comes out through Bavouzet’s minuscule stretching of certain rests and note placement of cadences. The steady, slightly muted Adagio leads gracious, simply shaped third and fourth movements that nevertheless sound a trifle bland next to the Pollini remake’s heightened left-hand details.

A soft-grained start to the Op. 26 opening movement variations does not prepare you for the minor-key variation’s sudden intensity, or for the Scherzo’s forceful detached articulations. The Funeral March is as focused and rock-steady as one can wish, yet never rigid, while subtle accents and dynamic hairpins gently illuminate the toccata-like Allegro’s cross-rhythmic phrasings. I like Bavouzet’s long-lined animation in Op. 27 No. 1’s opening Andante theme, but the sudden quick episode’s barrage of notes loses impact when the pianist makes slight ritards at the end of phrases. While the second movement moves slower than what I take Beethoven’s Allegro molto e vivace to represent, Bavouzet’s steady momentum wins the day.

The “Moonlight” Adagio sostenuto proceeds at an ideal “walking” tempo, with bass notes, lilting arpeggiated accompaniment, and right-hand melody voiced with harmonious transparency. The Presto agitato is slightly held back, yet its carefully gauged climaxes and textural clarity make up for the droopy, foursquare Allegretto. The “Pastorale” receives another clear and transparent reading that somehow leaves a plain and matter-of-fact impression when compared to the similar yet more imaginatively nuanced account by recent contender Jonathan Biss–yet sparks eventually fly in the Rondo, capped by Bavouzet’s buoyant prance through its treacherous final pages. He plays the two little Op. 49 works well, if not with anything to displace more characterful and affectionate traversals (Stephen Kovacevich, for example).

Bavouzet’s “Waldstein” evokes the classicism, bracing rhythm, and refinement of Solomon’s great 1950s EMI recording, down to an ever-so-slight reluctance to take the Rondo’s controversial long pedal markings on faith. A lovely, understated Andante Favori makes for an apt encore, in that it was Beethoven’s original “Waldstein” slow movement.

I save the three Op. 31 sonatas for last, because they contain Bavouzet’s most consistently inspired and satisfying work here. Few pianists sustain the G major sonata Adagio grazioso’s detached left-hand accompaniment and intricate right-hand writing to Bavouzet’s slow, concentrated effect. The “Tempest” abounds with vivacious linear interplay in the first movement, while minute gradations of touch and emphasis bring new life to the Rondo’s galloping accompaniment. Also notice Bavouzet’s sardonic, gruff handling of the woodwind-like keyboard writing in Op. 31 No. 3’s Scherzo, and the deftly contoured (if not quite “con fuoco”) Presto finale. In short, Volume 2’s few disappointments should not detract from its considerable felicities, and I look forward to this cycle’s next installment.

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com

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Works on This Recording

1. Sonata for Piano no 21 in C major, Op. 53 "Waldstein" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1803-1804; Vienna, Austria 
2. Sonata for Piano no 19 in G minor, Op. 49 no 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797; Vienna, Austria 
3. Sonata for Piano no 18 in E flat major, Op. 31 no 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1802; Vienna, Austria 
4. Sonata for Piano no 17 in D minor, Op. 31 no 2 "Tempest" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1802; Vienna, Austria 
5. Sonata for Piano no 16 in G major, Op. 31 no 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1802; Vienna, Austria 
6. Sonata for Piano no 15 in D major, Op. 28 "Pastoral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801; Vienna, Austria 
7. Sonata for Piano no 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 no 2 "Moonlight" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801; Vienna, Austria 
8. Sonata for Piano no 13 in E flat major, Op. 27 no 1 "Quasi una fantasia" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800-1801; Vienna, Austria 
9. Sonata for Piano no 12 in A flat major, Op. 26 "Funeral March" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800-1801; Vienna, Austria 
10. Sonata for Piano no 11 in B flat major, Op. 22 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
11. Andante for Piano in F major, WoO 57 "Andante Favori" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1803; Vienna, Austria 

Sound Samples

Piano Sonata No. 11 in B-Flat Major, Op. 22: I. Allegro con brio
Piano Sonata No. 11 in B-Flat Major, Op. 22: II. Adagio con molto espressione
Piano Sonata No. 11 in B-Flat Major, Op. 22: III. Minuetto
Piano Sonata No. 11 in B-Flat Major, Op. 22: IV. Rondo: Allegretto
Piano Sonata No. 12 in A-Flat Major, Op. 26: I. Andante con variazioni
Piano Sonata No. 12 in A-Flat Major, Op. 26: II. Scherzo: Molto allegro
Piano Sonata No. 12 in A-Flat Major, Op. 26: III. Marcia funebre sulla morte d'un eroe
Piano Sonata No. 12 in A-Flat Major, Op. 26: IV. Allegro
Piano Sonata No. 13 in E-Flat Major, Op. 27, No. 1: I. Andante
Piano Sonata No. 13 in E-Flat Major, Op. 27, No. 1: II. Allegro molto e vivace
Piano Sonata No. 13 in E-Flat Major, Op. 27, No. 1: III. Adagio con espressione
Piano Sonata No. 13 in E-Flat Major, Op. 27, No. 1: IV. Allegro vivace
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2, "Moonlight": I. Adagio sostenuto
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2, "Moonlight": II. Allegretto
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2, "Moonlight": III. Presto agitato
Piano Sonata No. 16 in G Major, Op. 31, No. 1: I. Allegro vivace
Piano Sonata No. 16 in G Major, Op. 31, No. 1: II. Adagio grazioso
Piano Sonata No. 16 in G Major, Op. 31, No. 1: III. Rondo: Allegretto
Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor, Op. 31, No. 2, "Tempest": I. Largo - Allegro
Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor, Op. 31, No. 2, "Tempest": II. Adagio
Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor, Op. 31, No. 2, "Tempest": III. Allegretto
Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-Flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3, "La Chasse": I. Allegro
Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-Flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3, "La Chasse": II. Scherzo: Allegretto vivace
Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-Flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3, "La Chasse": III. Menuetto: Moderato e grazioso - Trio
Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-Flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3, "La Chasse": IV. Presto con fuoco

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