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Beethoven: Sonatas Op. 109, 110 & 111 / Antti Siirala

Siirala / Beethoven
Release Date: 06/12/2012 
Label:  Cavi Music   Catalog #: 8553227   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Antti Siirala
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas: Nos. 30–32 Antti Siirala (pn) BR 8553227 (65:35)

Pianist Antti Siirala, now in his early to mid-30s, has been in the public eye for more than a decade. Having won the first prize at the 10th Vienna Beethoven Competition—the youngest contestant and winner of a special award for his performance of the “Hammerklavier” Sonata—he went on to win several more competitions: first prizes in the 2000 London International Piano Competition, the Dublin International Piano Competition, and (finally!) the Leeds Read more International Piano Competition in 2003. From 2005 to 2007 he stood in for many indisposed players—Emanuel Ax, Hélène Grimaud, Ivo Pogorelich, Mikhail Pletnev, and Yefim Bronfman—gaining rave reviews along the way. After listening to this recording of the last three Beethoven piano sonatas I can well understand his success: Not only is he a fierce technician, he is moreover a thoughtful musician.

Just the opening bars of op. 109 were enough to stop me in my tracks; I knew at that moment that this would be a special performance. I was not disappointed. The calm pathos of the improvisatory opening was soon contrasted with the more concentrated energy of the Adagio espressivo —it sounded as if the opening’s importance was only just realized at that very moment. The final movement sealed the deal for me, though: It was beautifully shaped, not only melodically, with the various changes in color or the supple phrasing, but overall by the buildup that occurred slowly from the beginning of the movement to its conclusion.

Op. 110 is less successful in my eyes. The playing is still beautiful, but the shaping of the individual sections is lacking a bit. The first movement’s opening holds all the promise—once again the little hymn that begins the piece is masterfully achieved—but by the time the pianist reaches the A?-arpeggiations that cascade up and down the keyboard (at 0:38) there is less a sense of movement to somewhere else than an empty sense of filling the space. The notes sound a bit too easy and quasi-etude-like. The second movement, however, is far more successful. The mysterious opening once again pulls one in, while the sudden and crashing sforzandos startle even the most familiar listeners. The odd middle section is one of the highlights of the entire recital: It is quirky, it is rhythmic, it is the perfect contrast to the outer sections, and it sounds easy as pie in Siirala’s hands. The last movement, though, is the meat of this sonata. Not only is the recitative ominous in this performance, not only is the arioso tender and moving, not only is the fugue powerful and decisive, but once again all of these aspects in combination with Siirala’s ability to control the overall arching shape of a long movement is what surely makes this performance as special as it is. I have my quibbles, but they are small ones (the ending, which sounds not quite climactic enough for me, just loud, for example).

The op. 111 Sonata is equally well played. The opening bars really do betray their associations to the French overture style, as the pianist chooses just the right tempo—neither too fast nor too slow—for the effect to be felt. The Arietta is where the magic happens, though. Siirala shows himself to be a mature artist here—not only intellectually but emotionally as well. Just listen to the way he shapes the minimal amount of material (mostly just trills!) from 12:00 to 13:00. The molto diminuendo and eventual cadence at 12:42 is heart-wrenching! Whether you know Beethoven intimately or haven’t heard these works at all, go out and grab this disc. In my eyes what makes Beethoven so very great is that there is always something new to hear in his music, no matter how many times you’ve heard or played these works. Siirala has certainly opened my ears to a few more of those unknown details. Perhaps he can do the same for you.

FANFARE: Scott Noriega Read less

Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano no 30 in E major, Op. 109 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Antti Siirala (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1820; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Neumarkt (Oberpfalz), Historischer Reits 
Length: 18 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Sonata for Piano no 31 in A flat major, Op. 110 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Antti Siirala (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Neumarkt (Oberpfalz), Historischer Reits 
Length: 8 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Sonata for Piano no 32 in C minor, Op. 111 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Antti Siirala (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Neumarkt (Oberpfalz), Historischer Reits 
Length: 26 Minutes 54 Secs. 

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