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Hyperion Records

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Pietrasanta C02.15 by Caio Fonseca (b1959)
Reproduced by kind permission of the artist / www.caiofonseca.com
Track(s) taken from CDA67518
Recording details: September 2005
Das Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel, Dobbiaco, Italy
Produced by Ludger Böckenhoff
Engineered by Ludger Böckenhoff
Release date: October 2006
Total duration: 28 minutes 34 seconds

'Angela Hewitt's first instalment in a projected Beethoven sonata cycle offers intelligent, stylish and often illuminating interpretations … fusing poetry and passion, Hewitt lets her long hair down and her fingers run wild' (Gramophone)

'Every bit as intellectually lucid, technically secure and focussed, as her Bach … this exhilarating clarity of thought is matched by her clean incisive sound (well caught by the recording), and helps to contribute to the striking sense of purpose in these relatively early and still essentially classical works' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Angela Hewitt brings her trademark intelligence and poise to these fine recordings … in [the Appassionata] she shows a firm grasp of the work's majestic architecture, realising each dramatic climax while steadily sustaining its momentum. But it is in the slow movements of the other two sonatas, especially the D major, that Hewitt is at her most affecting, her depth of feeling equal to the 'great expression' demanded by the composer' (The Observer)

'As this impressive new disc shows, it is a mistake to try to pigeon-hole Angela Hewitt' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Clarity, elegance, intelligence, a belief in letting the composer speak: the winner of the Gramophone Artist of the Year award parades her qualities in the first of a new Beethoven series that balances the overfamiliar Appassionata with the connoisseur’s Op 10 No 3 and neglected Op 7. There’s not a dead note anywhere. The largos find her piercing the depths; she’s equally impressive at quicksilver turns and tumbling cascades' (The Times)

'There's red-hot fire in Hewitt's belly as she tackles these three Beethoven masterpieces. The two earlier sonatas … glitter with adroit wit. The 'Appassionata' is startlingly explosive—as it should be' (Classic FM Magazine)

'A very promising start to another Beethoven cycle … if Hewitt continues on this trajectory, her Beethoven sonatas should be as enriching as her Bach has proved to be' (Fanfare, USA)

'Hewitt meets Beethoven head on. It will not do to call her a woman pianist. She is a pianist's pianist, period, pure and simple, capable of holding her own with any number of brilliant men who have recorded this music. She has formidable finger strength. Her pianissimos have elegance and discretion, but her fortisssimos and sforzandos are clarion calls to rouse lovers of romanticism. Her response, say, to those familiar knuckle-crunching demands of the Appassionata's last movement is gasp-inducing, yet she never blurs a note or lets a chord get crowded or ugly' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'She throws herself into it body and soul, giving the disc the frisson of a concert performance (without so much as a smudged note), the thrill of a first hearing' (International Piano)

'After a magnificent series of Bach recordings, star pianist Angela Hewitt now turns her attention to Beethoven's piano sonatas and if future releases are anything to go by this first disc, we are in for one of the most rewarding cycles of modern times. Her choice is well judged with Op 10 No 3 and the F minor Appassionata paired with the fiery Op 7, a lovely cocktail if there ever was one' (Classical.net)

'There's nothing in the packaging or labelling of this, her first Beethoven CD, that promises recordings of all the sonatas, but don't be too surprised if that's what we eventually get. The three here are so good that Hewitt's countless fans are unlikely to sit still for anything less than a complete cycle … once again she uses the superb sound of her instrument to create music of the greatest beauty' (Ottowa Citizen, Canada)

Piano Sonata in E flat major 'Grande Sonate', Op 7
composer
1796/7; No 4; published 1797

Allegro  [4'49]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
If any proof was needed to show that early Beethoven is not just imitation Haydn or Mozart, then surely the Sonata in E flat major, Op 7 would be the best example. It was published in 1797 with the title ‘Grande Sonate’ which indeed it is, being the longest of his sonatas until the ‘Hammerklavier’, Op 106. Czerny suggested that this sonata, rather than Op 57, should have been called ‘Appassionata’. The key to the opening movement, marked Allegro molto e con brio, is to find a tempo that suits everything and at which you can play the difficult bravura passages. Too fast an opening will give you big problems later on. It is a wild piece, with almost jazzy syncopations and stabbing sforzandos, but is constructed with meticulous care. The colour change to C major for the Largo, con gran espressione startles us but immediately calls our attention to expect something different and exceptional. This noble movement would have been a wonderful vehicle for Beethoven to show off his cantabile playing and generous spirit. The expression opens up when the pizzicato bass is added—a wonderful effect. When the theme appears high up in the keyboard in B flat major, there is a sublime, peaceful radiance that is broken after only a few bars but which can be savoured nevertheless. As in the finale of Op 10 No 3, the silences brought on by the rests must be full of expression and not sound ‘empty’.

The Allegro third movement returns us to playful mood in a less sophisticated manner than Op 10 No 3 but is full of humour and charm. Its middle section, in E flat minor, is made up of rumbling triplets that contrast totally with what has come before. The colour of this passage would probably have sounded very different on Beethoven’s piano than on most modern instruments, and I think we need to keep that in mind when playing it. The fourth pedal on my Fazioli piano which I used for this recording works wonders here, bringing the hammers closer to the strings while at the same time lowering the keys so that the action is much shallower, enabling a swift, clear, and yet quiet execution.

As Tovey has suggested, if the first movement of this sonata looks forward to a new style of writing, the finale, Poco allegretto e grazioso, is one of the last examples of his early style. The Rondo melody is a long, meandering one which lends itself easily to ornamentation. Its charm is broken, however, by the middle section in C minor, which suddenly takes off using what was an accompanying figure to propel it forward (Czerny says this section can be taken a bit faster than the rest). When the Rondo theme returns it is as if nothing has happened, and the movement ends in the most unassuming way. Perhaps if it ended loudly this piece would be performed more often. Beethoven dedicated this sonata to one of his piano students, the Countess Babette von Keglevics, who lived not far away at the time; Beethoven often turned up at her house for lessons still wearing his slippers, dressing gown, and a peaked nightcap.

from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2006

Other albums featuring this work
'Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1' (SACDA67518)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1
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