Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonatas: No. 13, 14.
Davide Cabassi (pn)
CONCERTO 2064 (64:19)
Here’s an interesting disc, contrasting Beethoven’s two sonatas “quasi fantasia” with a set of nine caprices written at about the same period by, of all people, Luigi Cherubini. Being familiar with Cherubini’s operas but not any of his piano music, I was really curious to hear this, and I was not disappointed. Annotator Ettore Napoli wonders in
print what exactly Cherubini meant by this work, whether he thought of it as a series of etudes in the Czerny or possibly Chopin manner, or foresaw the development of interrelated pieces with similar themes but not development. In either case, it’s a fascinating work, and it was not published until the late 1970s. There’s a marvelous moment toward the end when an
theme suddenly comes to a halt, and pauses, before the final
comes rushing down on one’s ears like a torrent. There are hints throughout of Mozart or J. C. Bach, and although I would never claim Cherubini to be Mozart’s equal as a composer (probably not even Bach’s, either), this is certainly a fun and fascinating piece to hear.
Part of the delight in listening to this disc is Davide Cabassi’s playing. He is one of those modern pianists with a fine, clean, propulsive style, giving us the full value of the music if only a few individual touches to remind one that perhaps he is attempting an interpretation. But there is something to say about such consistency. He does not find as much in the first movement of the Beethoven Sonata, op. 27/2, as Geoffrey Dorfman, Artur Schnabel, or John O’Conor, but his playing avoids any tinge of preciousness and is appropriately mysterious. Even truer of this is his performance of op. 27/1, where the constant changes of tempo in the first movement rush one upon the other without any preparation or transition passages. Cabassi takes the first movement of the op. 27/2 at the usual modern clip, which is to say, very close to the score tempo, and same for the second movement (though here, he does introduce moments of rubato). Interestingly, though he takes the last movement of this sonata closer to the published tempo, it is a shade more deliberate in the cleanliness of articulation than many pianists like to play it. In this way, Cabassi succeeds in bringing our attention to the structure of the piece.
Returning to the Cherubini caprice, one hears a similar method of operation in his presentation of the music. Nothing is left to chance or glossed over. Even though this is the only recording of this work currently available (the CD company makes no claim of a premiere, however), Cabassi makes sure that we have a good and lasting impression of it. At times, though it is not quite as original, Cabassi almost makes the music resemble Beethoven’s pre-“Eroica” variations through its engaging combination of catchy rhythms and interesting harmonic changes. This is a wonderful introduction to this splendid pianist. I will be looking forward to other releases by him.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
Capriccio for Piano by Luigi Cherubini
Davide Cabassi (Piano)
Written: 1789; France
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