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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas / Awadagin Pratt


Release Date: 01/23/1996 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 55290   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Awadagin Pratt
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Awadagin Pratt not only has a huge dynamic range but he has an original vision of the music, and the way he probes its innermost recesses is exciting and moving.

Awadagin Pratt is a young American pianist still in his twenties. Here he makes a strong impression in the two early sonatas, marking off musical ideas and sections very decisively. He sounds as if he has worked out his interpretations in every detail, rather than playing spontaneously. Although Beethoven’s Op. 109 is the simplest of his late sonatas, it needs the most mature pianist, one who can fill out its unfussy forms with the generous, unselfconscious feeling that usually comes only with long experience. Pratt is much more arresting in Op. 110, which
Read more gives him the chance to inflect more. He not only has a huge dynamic range but he has an original vision of the music, and the way he probes its innermost recesses is exciting and moving. The slow sections prefacing the two fugues are inspired and, towards the end, a mood of elation takes off as never before.

Performance: 5 (out of 5), Sound: 4 (out of 5) -- Adrian Jack, BBC Music Magazine

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Late Beethoven is not for young players, so we're told; far better to wean yourself on the early works and grow towards those great final utterances. It sounds like common sense, and yet here is the young American pianist Awadagin Pratt recording two early and two late Beethoven sonatas and sounding much more at home in the latter. There are delightful things in both Op. 14 No. 1 and Op. 10 No. 3, particularly the compelling pianissimos in the Largo e mesto of the latter. But there's also the sense—from time to time—that a phrase or a significant detail is passed over perfunctorily. The Allegretto of Op. 14 No. 1 has poise and a very beguiling sound, but the central trio section is curiously reserved — however one interprets this passage, surely contrast is the essence here?

Then come Opp. 109 and 110, however, and from the openings of both it's clear that Pratt has something individual and valuable to tell us. Again one can quarrel with details. The variation theme of Op. 109's finale seems a touch too easygoing at first: flowing, but hardly Moho cantabile ed espressivo, as Beethoven marks it. But Pratt has a powerful grasp of the movement as a whole, a steady accumulation of intensity towards the climactic Sixth Variation; at the same time there's a sense that each variation brings another view — another psychological perspective — on a theme which at first seemed deceptively simple. Several times I thought about stopping and replaying a variation, and yet the compulsion to find out 'what happens next' was stronger.

There's a similar sense in Op. 110—namely that the vision triumphs over the details. In the second fugue of the finale, Pratt maintains his contemplative pianissimo longer than Beethoven demands (though at least he doesn't pre-empt the crescendo, as some other pianists do), but it's precisely that absorbing calm that makes his view of late Beethoven so plausible and individual — in the light of these recordings The New York Times's descriptive tag, "a hot young pianist with a big sound", seems wide of the mark by miles. Pratt's interpretation of the Beethovenian Innigster Empfindung ("inner feeling") is certainly worlds away from that of Emil Gilels, who combined Opp. 109 and 110 in his last recording. Gilels's late Beethoven is a sustained revelation of intense personal feeling, though with extraordinary dignity, which is compelling despite the odd blip in the recording or lapse in the playing — as when the pedal smudges the minor/major twist in the first bar of the finale. Compared bar for bar, or even passage for passage, Pratt might sometimes seem bland; make similar comparisons with Alfred Brendel's 1970s recordings and he appears to lag behind in intellectual penetration. And yet it's the grasp of the whole — of each sonata as an expressive musical organism — that matters above all, and in this Pratt shows himself to be a Beethovenian of stature and originality. Good too that EMI have found a recording style to match the playing — intimate rather than brashly immediate, and warm in tone. All round, and despite reservations about aspects of the early sonatas, this is an impressive achievement.

-- Gramophone [5/1996]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Piano no 9 in E major, Op. 14 no 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Awadagin Pratt (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1798; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/1994 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 12 Minutes 53 Secs. 
2.
Sonata for Piano no 7 in D major, Op. 10 no 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Awadagin Pratt (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797-1798; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/1994 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 21 Minutes 26 Secs. 
3.
Sonata for Piano no 30 in E major, Op. 109 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Awadagin Pratt (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1820; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/1994 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 18 Minutes 34 Secs. 
4.
Sonata for Piano no 31 in A flat major, Op. 110 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Awadagin Pratt (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/1994 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 20 Minutes 14 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Sonata No. 9 In E Major, Op. 14, No. 1: I. Allegro
Sonata No. 9 In E Major, Op. 14, No. 1: II. Allegretto
Sonata No. 9 In E Major, Op. 14, No. 1: III. Rondo (Allegro Comodo)
Piano Sonata No. 7 In D Major, Op. 10 No. 3: I. Presto
Piano Sonata No. 7 In D Major, Op. 10 No. 3: II. Largo E Mesto
Piano Sonata No. 7 In D Major, Op. 10 No. 3: III. Menuetto E Trio
Piano Sonata No. 7 In D Major, Op. 10 No. 3: IV. Rondo (Allegro)
Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major Op. 109: I. Vivace, ma non troppo - Adagio espressivo
Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major Op. 109: II. Prestissimo
Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major Op. 109: III. Tema (Andante molto cantabile ed espressivo ) - Variazioni I-VI
Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major Op. 110: I. Moderato cantabile molto espressivo
Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major Op. 110: II. Allegro molto
Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major Op. 110: III. Adagio ma non troppo - Fuga (Allegro ma non troppo) - L'istesso tempo di Arioso - L'istesso tempo di Fuga - Meno allegro

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Would Like to Hear More July 14, 2013 By P. Nauman (Reno, NV) See All My Reviews "At times gentle, at times aggressive, but always thought out. You sense that Pratt is always approaching what's around the corner of every piece with care and planning. No missing areas of the score and in complete control. I would like to hear more from him." Report Abuse
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