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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Vol 5 / Garrick Ohlsson

Release Date: 03/04/2008 
Label:  Bridge   Catalog #: 9250  
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Garrick Ohlsson
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas: No. 8 in c, “Pathétique”; No. 14 in c?, “Moonlight”; No. 21 in C, “Waldstein” Garrick Ohlsson (pn) BRIDGE 9250 (63:21)

Volume 5 of Garrick Ohlsson’s traversal of the 32 Beethoven sonatas consists of three “named” sonatas, all warhorses. Although this seems more like a marketing gimmick than an artistic decision, a pianist as Read more distinctive and innovative as Ohlsson should be trusted to be more concerned with music than with sales. And indeed, such is the case here.

Ohlsson’s slow-movement tempos on this disc are often somewhat slower than those of Schnabel, Serkin, Pollini, or Brendel, for comparison. For example, in the opening Grave of the op. 13 (“Pathétique”), the motifs of a quarter note chord tied to a dotted 16th are held seemingly too long, but at the fourth-measure release it all begins to make sense, and then at the 11th-measure Allegro full release the effect of the Grave is fully felt—in retrospect, hence, with a surprising punch, more powerfully. As another example of Ohlsson’s surprising punch, the opening Adagio sostenuto of op. 27/2 (“Moonlight”) seems to be underplayed by being very pianissimo , until the fifth measure where the upper voice rings out, yet proclaims its own pianissimo . The result is a distinctively beautiful effect that enhances the musical line.

The faster, louder passages that frequent these three sonatas sometimes sound unduly harsh under Ohlsson’s fingers, but they are always well articulated. Every note is heard, but every phrase is also discernable, and every integral set of phrases is decipherable. The overall concept of each sonata is never sacrificed. Ohlsson has an extraordinary musical intelligence, and it shows here.

Ohlsson shows his best in the “Waldstein.” Here, tempos, dynamics, passagework, and articulation are assimilated to make this one of the truly great accounts of this sonata. Ohlsson studied with Claudio Arrau, and Arrau’s approach to the “Waldstein” is reflected in many ways by Ohlsson, but never suggests mere copying. My principal complaint concerns the opening of the final movement, where Beethoven calls for the sustaining pedal to be held for seven measures, and later for 10 measures, for a blurred sound. Here, Ohlsson fails to produce the desired effect, perhaps by pedal releases or perhaps some other way. This amounts to a quibble on my part, because the rest of the playing is so excellent.

Need I say more? This is a CD to have if you’re attuned to Beethoven sonatas.

FANFARE: Burton Rothleder
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano no 8 in C minor, Op. 13 "Pathétique" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Garrick Ohlsson (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797-1798; Vienna, Austria 
Sonata for Piano no 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 no 2 "Moonlight" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Garrick Ohlsson (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801; Vienna, Austria 
Sonata for Piano no 21 in C major, Op. 53 "Waldstein" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Garrick Ohlsson (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1803-1804; Vienna, Austria 

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