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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Bagatelles / Stephen Kovacevich

Release Date: 08/05/2003 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 57520   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Stephen Kovacevich
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

An immensely daring performance of the Hammerklavier and one of the best of all Les adieux recordings – this is the crowning achievement of Kovacevich's EMI Beethoven cycle.

It’s remarkable that so many fine recordings of the Hammerklavier exist, since the work – Beethoven’s single most titanic creation – fits perhaps more closely than any other Artur Schnabel’s definition of a certain type of musical masterpiece as being ‘better than it can be performed’. Kovacevich’s should certainly be added to the Op. 106 shortlist: in my view it’s the crowning achievement of his EMI Beethoven sonata cycle, displaying all his peculiar greatness as a Beethoven player.

This is an immensely daring performance – the
Read more imperious con moto opening statements announce no less – with a risk-taking urgency of motivic articulation and rhythmic attack that betokens a readiness to go to the limits, the pianist’s own and the music’s equally. But paradoxically it’s not a driven performance: moments of ‘breathing’ – wonderfully simple cantabile utterances in the scherzo and Adagio – point to total Beethovenian empathy, a complete command of all four movements as an evolving musical drama. The spacious recording threatens to become overloaded only at peak moments of the finale’s fugal cut-and-thrust.

The disc also offers one of the best of all Les adieux recordings, and an unbeatable set of the Op. 119 Bagatelles. Comparisons with the pianist’s excellent Bagatelle recordings a quarter-century earlier (Philips) underlines the mature Kovacevich’s infinitely deepened artistry: the knack of mining all the quirky humour and tenderness in these self-confessed trifles is here unsurpassed. My benchmarks for the sonatas notwithstanding – Solomon for Op. 106, Perahia, currently difficult to track down, for Op. 81a (and on this level of execution such recommendations count as personal preferences, not inscribed-in-stone judgements) – this is one of the most completely rewarding Beethoven issues of recent times.

-- BBC Music Magazine
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano no 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 "Hammerklavier" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Stephen Kovacevich (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1817-1818; Vienna, Austria 
Sonata for Piano no 26 in E flat major, Op. 81a "Les Adieux" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Stephen Kovacevich (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809-1810; Vienna, Austria 
Bagatelles (11) for Piano, Op. 119 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Stephen Kovacevich (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1820-1822; Vienna, Austria 

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