Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonatas: No. 16 in G; No. 17 in d,
No. 18 in E?
Gerhard Oppitz (pn)
HÄNSSLER 98.205 (69:51)
This disc is Volume 5 of Gerhard Oppitz’s complete traversal of the Beethoven piano sonatas. There have been many such traversals in the past by well-known pianists such as Schnabel, Arrau, Brendel, Barenboim, and Goode, and by lesser-known pianists as well—and there will be more to come. I would call the Beethoven sonatas
infinite in each of their possibilities. A pianist must have something new and worthwhile to say if he or she is to make a credible contribution to this infinitude, and Gerhard Oppitz is such a pianist based on this disc. The sound quality is very good, except for its “concert-hall” reverberation—good in small doses but a bit irritating when listening to the entire disc in one sitting. A sound-system in a living room cannot be made the equivalent of a concert hall. The most appealing aspect of Oppitz’s playing is his ability to reveal the complexity of Beethoven’s writing by his clarity of presentation of the various voices. Oppitz’s virtuoso playing is not a distraction here, but rather enables the listener to hear Beethoven’s detailed structure even during rapid passagework. But on this disc, Oppitz often comes on too loud and strong for some of the subtleties in these sonatas, and he uses the sustaining pedal too freely. All exposition repeats are observed.
The most successful of these three performances is that of the G-Major Sonata. Alfred Brendel regards this sonata as a parody on Italian opera. Whether it is such (and perhaps specifically a parody of Rossini, for whom Beethoven had little regard as a composer) is conjecture, but this music does have great humor, and Oppitz reveals this in his playing. As an aside: if it is a parody of Rossini’s operas, it backfires because the beautiful music in this sonata makes it more of a tribute. The ensuing D-Minor Sonata is not as successful because the quiet and poetic moments of the opening movement of the B? Adagio are not sufficiently compatible with Oppitz’s strong presentation. The third of these sonatas also suffers somewhat from Oppitz’s style, especially in the
In summary, Oppitz is not the perfect performer for any one of these three sonatas, but then who is? No one, of course, but when compared to other great performers on disc, Oppitz holds his own. My favorites are Rudolf Serkin (No. 16), Alfred Brendel, Richard Goode, and Claudio Arrau—and of course Artur Schnabel. Oppitz’s contribution, however, is valuable and worth having.
I recommend this disc if only to hear the details and complexity of Beethoven’s writing with more clarity in many places than in competing discs. This experience provides the student or serious listener (I don’t distinguish between them) with a better understanding of the infinitude of this great music.
FANFARE: Burton Rothleder
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Piano no 16 in G major, Op. 31 no 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Gerhard Oppitz (Piano)
Written: 1802; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 06/2005
Venue: Reitstadel, Neumarkt, Germany
Length: 23 Minutes 22 Secs.
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