Notes and Editorial Reviews
"One day I expect Leon McCawley to join the ranks of the acclaimed few we go to hear in complete cycles of the Beethoven sonatas. He is one of the best young classical pianists around‚ and as a longterm prospect (as such players habitually are) it would be nice to think that someone in the recording industry will contract him for sustained support‚ as used to happen in the old days (so‚ probably‚ fat chance). Sample this nicely planned Beethoven recital anywhere for its interesting quality. The 32 Variations in C minor (track 1) are explored with relish and pinpoint characterisation and projected with a longterm thinking that is constantly suggesting worlds beyond the patternmaking of each variation; how welcome to hear
the piece done as important Beethoven‚ for a change‚ and not just a fingerwarmer. Similarly‚ the two sonatas are presented with exact detailing and weighting of every strand and also a thrust that gets the phrases across barlines and sees each movement whole. The pace is often hot‚ in the homecoming finale of Les adieux especially‚ but the allure is musical and comes from Beethoven‚ not from a player’s agitation of the surface. You notice at many points how freshness‚ plasticity of line and sureness of timing derive from McCawley’s understanding; his technique and finish‚ too‚ seem to arise from the same source‚ as if unbidden and simply required by the matters in hand. I would say the slow movement of the Pathétique is a little quick for adagio; I’d have preferred a graver songfulness. Some of the variations in the experimental set Op 34 – each one in a different key‚ dropping down by a third until F major returns for an extended coda – also seem to me too fast‚ and perhaps as a whole they should sound more improvisatory. McCawley treats the Andante favori‚ conceived originally as the slow movement of the Waldstein Sonata‚ quite lightly and straightforwardly but with a play of dynamics – again‚ noticeably – that is not imposed on it but is an essential part of its vitality...And Leon McCawley’s exceptional playing‚ which I recommend‚ in its very good sound; the recording was done at St George’s Brandon Hill in Bristol."
- The GRAMOPHONE
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