Notes and Editorial Reviews
At first hearing you might unfairly label Peter Serkin's soft-spoken yet provocative discourse throughout most of Beethoven's Op. 57 sonata to be the "Dispassionata". For instance, he downplays the outer movements' surface bravura by stressing the linear implications beneath Beethoven's motoric arpeggiated sequences and virtuosic runs. Serkin's slower-than-usual basic tempo for the finale allows him to dive into the fiery coda at nearly twice the speed. The slow movement's barlines virtually disappear by way of the pianist's freshly minted voicings and pliable phrasing. If the music's heroic qualities and dramatic momentum seem a bit compromised as a result, we cannot deny the concentrated intensity and inquiring intelligence
behind Serkin's unusual conception.
The two Op. 27 sonatas "quasi una fantasia" generate less controversy. Serkin shapes and clarifies the E-flat sonata's thorny polyphonic thickets by fusing power and finesse, and revels in the opening movements' mercurial fancies. The "Moonlight" sonata's Adagio is hypnotically slow and steady, although the pianist sometimes works too hard distinguishing the famous right hand tune from its underlying triplet accompaniment. Serkin's balances between hands in the Allegretto suggest a sensitive chamber group rather than a piano soloist. He serves up a fiery yet controlled finale that scampers with crisp fingerwork and darting accents that sting rather than explode. RCA's warm, focused engineering does full justice to Serkin's ample tonal resources. Harris Goldsmith provides illuminating annotations that are models of their kind. Leave your received opinions at the door, and check out this absorbing release. [7/18/2000]
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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