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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas No 30, 31, 32 / Mari Kodama

Release Date: 03/27/2012 
Label:  Pentatone   Catalog #: 5186389   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mari Kodama
Number of Discs: 1 
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SuperAudio CD:  $19.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas: Nos. 30–32 Mari Kodama (pn) PENTATONE 5186389 (63:21)

I haven’t been following Mari Kodama’s Beethoven piano sonata cycle—in fact, this is the first disc in the series I’ve heard—but for those who have, this is her seventh installment; all previous ones Read more have been peer reviewed in past issues. I note that colleague Lynn René Bayley’s review of this latest addition to Kodama’s now over two-thirds completed cycle is scheduled to appear in Fanfare 35:6, but since that issue hasn’t been published yet as I write this, I can’t know what Bayley had to say. Not that it matters, of course, since we contributors work independently of each other and often reach quite different conclusions.

For those who have taken note of Kodama’s Beethoven sonata survey, FYI, all but nine of the sonatas have been released. Still to appear are Nos. 11–13, 15, 20, 22, and 27–29. Having never heard Kodama in anything before, I approached her Beethoven as a tabula rasa and I must admit to being very favorably impressed. There’s clarity to her voicing and a lyrical spontaneity to her readings, especially in the opening movements of the E-Major and A?-Major sonatas (Nos. 30 and 31) that catch just the right tone of Beethoven’s poeticized utopian vision.

As regular readers will know, the concluding “Gesangvoll” movement of the E-Major Sonata holds special resonance for me, and it’s usually the touchstone by which I embrace or reject a performance. Kodama does not disappoint. Her broad, stately, quiet, and deeply contemplative statement of the opening theme communicates, as it should, a sense of reverential mystery. Some listeners may perceive Kodama’s tempo as being a bit slow, but it’s more of a perception than reality. She takes 13:12 for the movement compared to Craig Sheppard’s 12:50 and Maurizio Pollini’s 12:37, not that big a difference in a movement of this length. If you want to know what slow really is, try Andrew Rangell at 15:22. I think the perception of Kodama’s capaciousness is more the result of her approach to phrasing than it is to underlying tempo. She has a way of ever-so-slightly hesitating on the brink of cadential resolutions that, for me, gives the music its special otherworldly quality.

When it comes to the Sturm und Drang of the C-Minor Sonata’s first movement, Kodama’s fingers prove to be as nimble as anyone else’s, but I’m not sure she invests the music with the same degree of vehemence and venomous bite as do some others, for example Freddy Kempf, who attacks the Allegro at a faster tempo and with tremendous ferocity in his BIS recording. What worked superbly well for Kodama in the “Gesangvoll” movement of the Sonata No. 30 doesn’t necessarily work to her advantage in the Sonata No. 32. Some of her phrasing choices strike me as slightly distorting of Beethoven’s rhythmic patterns and disrupting to the headlong rush. It’s an interpretive issue, not a technical one.

Overall, I’d rate Kodama’s Beethoven very highly, at least as much as I’ve heard of it, which, so far, is just this one disc. As for the recording, PentaTone’s team of Dutch engineers has done a bang-up job of capturing Kodama’s Steinway D-274 in ringing tone and solid sound. All modern piano recordings should sound this good. If you’ve been collecting Kodama’s Beethoven cycle, there’s no reason to stop now. If you haven’t been collecting it, the only reason I can think of to not start with this latest release is that if you’re like me you prefer to begin at the beginning. But then that could be your cue to go out and acquire all seven discs released so far.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano no 32 in C minor, Op. 111 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mari Kodama (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria 
Sonata for Piano no 31 in A flat major, Op. 110 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mari Kodama (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria 
Sonata for Piano no 30 in E major, Op. 109 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Mari Kodama (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1820; Vienna, Austria 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Excellent CD October 11, 2014 By William L. (Lake Charles, LA) See All My Reviews "This is an excellent CD." Report Abuse
 Excellent August 20, 2012 By Richard H. (Glendale, AZ) See All My Reviews "The Beethoven sonatas are very unforgiving works. You either do a great job or you do a crappy job. Mari Kodama is an excellent pianist and has that ability to capture the essence of Beethoven's light passages as well as his driving passion. I am collecting the entire Beethoven series by Kodama and cannot find any fault with the performances so far." Report Abuse
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