Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonatas: No. 8 in c,
No. 19 in g; No. 29 in B?,
François-Frédéric Guy (pn)
Guy, born in 1969, is a highly gifted French pianist who revels in the most challenging repertoire. Reviewers have heaped praise on his recordings of Beethoven, Brahms (including a live account of the Concerto in B?
with the London Philharmonic), the Liszt Sonata, and Prokofiev’s Sonatas Nos. 6 and 8. He also seems to play more chamber music and contemporary works (Stockhausen, Nono, Dufourt, and others) than many pianists of his generation.
The mighty “Hammerklavier” has been central to his repertoire for many years (his impressive earlier recording of it, on Harmonia Mundi, is already 10 years old) and he has performed it dozens of times in public. In the stormy first movement, he sails through the difficulties at a fast clip and is able to shape the expressive moments beautifully without much tempo adjustment, except when Beethoven specifies it. His sound is big and warm, never becoming clangorous, even in the loudest moments. It is compelling playing indeed, beautifully conceived and paced. The same applies to the great slow movement, where the balance of chords, the lyric projection, and pregnant rests almost take one’s breath away. And he captures the craggy drama of the final fugue to perfection, never sounding—unlike so many pianists—rushed, awkward, or tense. This version ranks with the best I know, including those by Wilhelm Backhaus, Claude Frank, and Eric Heidsieck, and at least one of Daniel Barenboim’s.
The tiny Sonata No. 19 is a perfect foil, with a lovely opening slow movement that displays his gift to play simply, followed by a most witty rondo. The “Pathétique” begins dramatically, with the introduction thoughtful and somewhat tentative and with some slight elongations of beats that I find refreshing. The slow movement is expansive yet always flowing, a very beautiful conception; and the finale is perfectly paced, with fine variety of touch and excellent balances. All in all, some of the finest Beethoven-playing that I’ve heard recently. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Charles Timbrell
Works on This Recording
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, "Pathetique": I. Grave - Allegro di molto e con brio
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, "Pathetique": II. Adagio cantabile
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, "Pathetique": III. Rondo: Allegro
Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106, "Hammerklavier": I. Allegro
Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106, "Hammerklavier": II. Scherzo: Assai vivace - Presto - Tempo I
Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106, "Hammerklavier": III. Adagio sostenuto, appassionato e con molto sentimento
Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106, "Hammerklavier": IV. Largo - Allegro risoluto
Piano Sonata No. 19 in G minor, Op. 49, No. 1: I. Andante
Piano Sonata No. 19 in G minor, Op. 49, No. 1: II. Rondo: Allegro
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