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Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas Vol 2 / David Allen Wehr


Release Date: 11/21/2006 
Label:  Connoisseur Society   Catalog #: 4262   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  David Allen Wehr
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 38 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A large-scaled, imaginatively phrased, virile account of the "Pathétique" sonata begins the second double-CD installment of David Allen Wehr's Beethoven cycle. With little help from the sustain pedal, Wehr's sharp accents, hair-trigger dynamics, and incidental inflections vivify the outer movements' dramatic mood swings. The central Andante cantabile is not too fast, not too slow, and is as heartfelt and flexible as the finest performances on disc. The Op. 14 sonatas also are well paced and characterfully judged. However, I question the pianist's slight pause before each of the No. 1 finale's subito pianos, and would prefer a nimbler, more biting Scherzo in No. 2. The latter critique also stands for Op. 28's Allegro vivace, Read more although Wehr's marvelous legato touch elsewhere again mostly results from fingers rather than feet.

Wehr brilliantly conveys Op. 22's Rossini-like lightness and sly humor. The Menuetto is brisk and uncommonly curt, where the highly profiled left-hand accompaniment suggests a plausible Glenn Gould rendition (Gould's incomplete recording of the sonata remains unreleased). Yet unlike Gould's rabble-rousing Op. 78, the heavier-gaited, slightly square traversal here falls short of Wehr's best work.

Linear clarity and rigorous tempo relationships cast an intellectual hue on Op. 26's opening variation movement, in contrast to Ronald Brautigam's antipodal, more improvisatory approach. The Funeral March makes a fleeter, less grim impression than you'd expect, while Wehr's steady sobriety and carefully differentiated articulation impart a kind of symphonic gravitas to the Allegro finale that we rarely encounter. Both Op. 27 sonatas stand out for the pianist's controlled freedom in the opening movements.

If Op. 79 isn't quite so angular and playful on the level of Artur Schnabel or Richard Goode, Wehr's attention to detail and inner sense of the music proves more satisfying than, say, Paul Lewis' tensionless, prettified playing. The Yamaha CF111S grand's glassy high registers may not be to everyone's taste, yet it's clearly an imposing, gorgeously regulated instrument. How will Wehr fare in the great middle-period sonatas? Stay tuned for Volume 3; I know I will.

--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com

I like my Beethoven piano sonatas fresh and cool, and David Allen Wehr is fully in that mold. Although the name may not be familiar to you, Mr. Wehr is a stupendous pianist. His technique, aside from his interpretive style, is only comparable to Murray Perahia. One can forget the music and simply listen to the incredible beauty and precision of the notes he plays; it’s enough to make a piano teacher sob from pure joy. One ought to note that these Beethoven sonatas were recorded in a remarkably few hours in the studio; Mr. Wehr really sounds that good, he doesn’t need fifty takes and 100 hours of editing to come out on top. Wehr is the pianist Glenn Gould should have been, the pianist he thought he was.

The sound on this recording — 96kHz digital recording with Sony Super Bit Map mastering — is a thin hair away from an SACD in clarity and definition. Added to the magical skill of E. Alan Silver, one of the truly legendary great recording producers of our time, this is a recording to cherish purely for the sound. You will never come a lot closer to actually sitting next to a piano. Connoisseur Society recordings have been setting a critical standard for many decades, and it is exciting to see new recordings from them with all of the traditional quality, but also using the latest advances.

The early sonatas Mr. Wehr plays with a classical directness and transparency. While no pianist is or ever will be directly comparable to Wilhelm Kempff — and the tragedy for us is that Kempff needed an audience to really play to his limit, that is, his studio recordings never quite measured up — Wehr has certain qualities of technique and style in common with the great German master. Of course Kempff was a profoundly mystical man and had the genius of conveying that sense to us. Wehr does not convey mysticism, but solid musicianship, drama, and poetry. It is certainly telling that the only other recording by Wehr in my collection is the music of the “American Ravel,” impressionist Charles Tomlinson Griffes. He brings the same precision, grace and clarity to his Beethoven, something Beethoven surely needs and doesn’t often get.

This selection, this bite out of the middle of the Beethoven sonata opus, is a good sampling. We can assume - yes, that’s dangerous, but stay with me - that the earlier sonatas will be played, as these early sonatas are, in full view of the fact that Beethoven made his public reputation playing Bach’s Wohltemperierte Klavier in a world where Haydn and Mozart were the standards to be met. It is reasonable to expect, as we find here, that every note matters, every note should be heard, and that the movement of the several voices should be clear and to the fore.

The performance of the Moonlight Sonata is particularly excellent, so if you’re seeking a gift for a friend who loves the Moonlight and might enjoy having his or her horizons broadened, this set is an excellent choice. Lest I have given you the impression that these are namby-pamby performances, let me put that aside. Played in Vienna for an audience that knew the keyboard works of Haydn and Mozart, they would be perceived as rude and shockingly barbaric, as were Beethoven’s own performances.

-- Paul Shoemaker, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Sonata for Piano no 8 in C minor, Op. 13 "Pathétique" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  David Allen Wehr (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797-1798; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 18 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Notes: Music Hall, Tarrytown, New York (2003) 
2. Sonata for Piano no 9 in E major, Op. 14 no 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  David Allen Wehr (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1798; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 12 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Notes: Music Hall, Tarrytown, New York (2003) 
3. Sonata for Piano no 10 in G major, Op. 14 no 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  David Allen Wehr (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1799; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 14 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Notes: Music Hall, Tarrytown, New York (2003) 
4. Sonata for Piano no 11 in B flat major, Op. 22 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  David Allen Wehr (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 22 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Notes: Music Hall, Tarrytown, New York (2003) 
5. Sonata for Piano no 12 in A flat major, Op. 26 "Funeral March" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  David Allen Wehr (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800-1801; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 18 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Notes: Music Hall, Tarrytown, New York (2003) 
6. Sonata for Piano no 13 in E flat major, Op. 27 no 1 "Quasi una fantasia" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  David Allen Wehr (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800-1801; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 15 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Notes: Music Hall, Tarrytown, New York (2003) 
7. Sonata for Piano no 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 no 2 "Moonlight" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  David Allen Wehr (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 14 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Notes: Music Hall, Tarrytown, New York (2003) 
8. Sonata for Piano no 15 in D major, Op. 28 "Pastoral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  David Allen Wehr (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 22 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Notes: Music Hall, Tarrytown, New York (2003) 
9. Sonata for Piano no 24 in F sharp major, Op. 78 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  David Allen Wehr (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 10 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Notes: Music Hall, Tarrytown, New York (2003) 
10. Sonata for Piano no 25 in G major, Op. 79 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  David Allen Wehr (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 9 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Notes: Music Hall, Tarrytown, New York (2003) 

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