Notes and Editorial Reviews
To some pianists, Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata is a monster to tame. Rudolf Serkin treats it as a mighty pillar to surmount. His performance grips you by its extraordinary kinetic drive and linear clarity, especially in the outer movements. The final fugue's trills, for instance, rarely have resounded with such uniform precision. All of these virtues more than compensate for tempos below Beethoven's optimistically brisk metronome markings (Rudolf's son Peter's lighter, jazzier account--unfortunately out of print--sometimes exceeds them!). The Scherzo alternates between offhanded brusqueness and veiled mystery, while the superbly controlled Adagio Sostenuto may strike some listeners as relatively severe and unyieldingly brisk next to the
searching inflections of Schnabel, Arrau, or Solomon.
Teutonic rigor governs much of Serkin's scrupulous workmanship throughout his 1971 traversal of Op. 110. For all its undeniable integrity, I miss the greater lyric breadth and pliable phrasing characterizing Serkin's posthumously-issued 1960 recording, together with its warmer sound. Op. 106 sounds marginally fuller than in Sony's earlier Essential Classics incarnation, to the point where you can detect tiny ambient changes between the 1969 and 1970 sessions from which the recording stems. However, this does not detract from Serkin's monumental authority in one of the greatest Hammerklaviers ever committed to disc.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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