Notes and Editorial Reviews
: No. 5 in c; No. 6 in F; No 7 in D; No. 8 in c
Martin Roscoe (pn)
DXL 1161 (76: 00)
Martin Roscoe has had a distinguished career as a performer and teacher, much of it in his native England and much of it spent exploring music’s byways. His recordings have included works by Szymanowski, Nielsen, Beach, Elgar,
Dohnányi, Brüll, Fuchs, Kiehl, and Pärt. But now, as he approaches 60, he has decided to tackle the biggest chunk of mainstream repertoire there is, Beethoven’s complete sonatas.
Naturally he is up against formidable recorded competition. But as he says in an interview for the disc’s booklet, “There’s always room for another viewpoint on the greatest works and after 35 years performing and teaching Beethoven’s sonatas I feel ready to give my own versions. I would say my aim is to try to produce recordings which have some of the freshness and spontaneity of live performances.”
On the basis of this disc, I think the project will be well worth our attention. Throughout, there is an emphasis on clarity, but his sound is never dry and his approach is never academic or cautious. Tempos are generally brisk, pedaling is always judicious, touches are varied and finely nuanced, and dynamics are precisely observed (he follows the very fine 2007 edition by Barry Cooper, published by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music). The recorded sound is warm and natural, and it is close enough to catch the subtlest shadings and the fastest decays of sound. In the outer movements of each sonata there is drive but flexibility, with tempos ever so slightly varied according to the character of the themes. In the slow movements the tempos seem perfectly judged, suited to the flow of the music and not to momentary point-making. The great Largo of No. 7 is especially eloquent, not too slow or pulled apart, as we sometimes hear. Sonata No. 5 reflects all these positive qualities to perfection and is one of the finest accounts I know. There is infectious humor in No. 6, unbridled virtuosity in the first movement of No. 7, and perfect pacing throughout No. 8. I am often reminded of the verve, clarity, and humor of Alfred Brendel’s early recording of these works for Vox.
The sequence of future discs will not be chronological, but it has an inner musical logic. Thus, Volume 3 will consist of Nos. 24, 30, 31, and 32; and the final Volume 9 will contain Nos. 25, 27, and 29. I will be very interested to follow Roscoe’s series and to eventually compare it to other complete versions, including the notable ones by Artur Schnabel, Wilhelm Kempff, Annie Fischer, Richard Goode, and Brendel. The present disc bodes well for such a comparison.
FANFARE: Charles Timbrell
Works on This Recording
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