Notes and Editorial Reviews
Unlike other Beethoven piano sonata cycles on the market, the present release is truly complete in that it includes the rarely performed early C major sonata and F major sonatina without opus numbers, the three "Elector" sonatas Wo47, the Andante favori in F (originally intended as the Op. 53 "Waldstein" sonata's slow movement), and the D major Op. 6 sonata for piano duet. More importantly, the Romanian-born/American-raised pianist Peter Takács, who teaches at Oberlin, has lived with, thought about, and performed this repertoire over the course of his long professional life, and his interpretations abound with intelligent virtuosity and insight.
Takács is not a colorist on the level of Arrau
or Kempff, yet his keen attention to voice leading and responsiveness to Beethoven's frequent, sudden dynamic shifts lend textural interest to the performances, as well as reveal the pianist's deep-rooted affinity for the composer's essentially linear style. These qualities especially come home to roost in the three Op. 2 sonatas, which split the difference between Murray Perahia's classical poise and the comparably brasher Pollini and Kovacevich editions.
Flexible lyricism and infectious brio enliven the Op. 7 and Op. 22 sonatas' outer movements, along with the finales to both Op. 14 sonatas and Op. 26. Takács also spins out detached, woodwind-like passages with marvelous character and humor, such as in the Op. 10 No. 2 finale, Op. 28's Andante, and Op. 31 No. 3's Scherzo, while movements based on variation form (Op. 26's opening, the "Appassionata" Andante con moto, the Op. 109 and Op. 111 finales) benefit from assiduously unified tempo relationships. And like Glenn Gould, Takács imbues some of Beethoven's thornier left-hand sequences with remarkable melodic clarity, albeit in a less iconoclastic fashion. Examples of this include the "Les Adieux" sonata's spiraling runs, Op. 27 No. 1's finale, and Op. 110's first movement.
Takács' inspiration particularly takes wing in shorter works. I love the pianist's slightly dry yet spirited energy in Op. 54's moto perpetuo finale, his fluid, almost conversational demeanor in Op. 78's first movement and both Op. 90 movements, plus his disarming, seemingly off-handed way with simpler fare such as the two Op. 49 sonatas and Op. 79.
Oddly enough, I find Takács treading a little too carefully in some of the so-called "name" sonatas: he holds back in the "Moonlight" finale, is too dynamically constricted in the "Waldstein", and gradually slows down as the "Hammerklavier" sonata's all-but-impossible fugue progresses. Furthermore, Takács' rhythmic distensions in the Op. 101 Scherzo dissipate the march rhythm's cumulative momentum. Still, Takács' overall high level of achievement warrants admiration, together with excellent surround-sound engineering that does the pianist's Bösendorfer Imperial Grand full justice.
Cambria's packaging is first class all the way, with all 11 SACDs housed in a sturdy, easy-to-access booklet, a 144-page book featuring Takács' extended, informative essay "The Mind of Beethoven", accompanied by score samples and visual illustrations, plus a fold-out Beethoven timeline organized by biography, music, literature, science, and history. Such production values and artistic integrity are rare in an era where major labels habitually cut corners. Well worth considering.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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