Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
The Beethoven Cycle,
Sonata in D,
op. 28, “Pastoral”; 6 Variations on an Original Theme, op. 34; Variations in E?, op. 35, “Eroica”
Michael Korstick (pn)
OEHMS OC 619 (66:05)
Michael Korstick is a German pianist whose teachers include Sascha Gorodnitzky at the Juilliard School, Jeaneane Dowis, Hans Leygraf, and Tatiana Nikolaieva—an impressively eclectic group, each of whom contributed to some aspect of his development. He has a finely burnished keyboard technique as well as musical intelligence, and on this CD, proves himself a thoughtful interpreter of Beethoven, following the composer’s indications with fidelity.
This pianist’s previous Beethoven issues (two CDs of sonatas only) were received unenthusiastically in
by Peter Burwasser, who, while praising Korstick’s muscularity, found a lack of elegance and grace in his playing. There is some truth in this assessment—Korstick is not an especially elegant pianist—but there is a strong and forthright character to his playing, which suits Beethoven’s early works very well, and he responds sympathetically to those moments of lyricism that occur in these works.
Korstick opens the quirkily original op. 34 with a mock-serious rendition of the
theme, which contrasts beautifully with the mock-humorous nature of the variations (with each variation in a different key from that of the theme). These are imbued with a sense of fun, and an interpretation that plays up their individuality.
The demanding “Eroica” Variations receive a strong performance; the presentation of the theme, in its skeletal parts, is simple and direct, and the variations mount in excitement as they progress. The high point of the set is Variation 15, the great and profoundly expressive Largo, which Korstick plays with careful attention to the dynamic nuances. The fugue emerges from this variation with brilliance and dazzling technical finesse, a true grand finale. Passagework is crystal clear, as Korstick avoids overuse of the sustaining pedal.
The only disappointment in this program is Korstick’s reading of the op. 28 Sonata. In each of the first two movements the tempo is too slow; in the first case, perhaps the pianist was influenced by the “Pastorale” name attached by the publisher to the sonata. In any case, his pace for the first movement is too leisurely and inflexible, especially when compared with the pliant readings of Artur Schnabel and Annie Fischer (whose timing for the movement is three minutes shorter than that of Korstick). Similarly, the second movement plods along, metronomically and predictably. Korstick finds the right tempo for the third movement, which whizzes by in an appropriately animated tempo, and the finale, with its lopsided accompaniment, captures the whimsical Beethoven well.
The sound of the piano is very rich—especially the resonance of its bass—and the recording is altogether satisfactory.
FANFARE: Susan Kagan
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