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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: 23 minutes 23 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 F minor 'Appassionata', Op 57
composer
1804/5; No 23; published 1807, Vienna

Allegro assai  [9'22]
Andante con moto  [5'46]

Other recordings available for download
Artur Pizarro (piano)
Edwin Fischer (piano)
Harold Bauer (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Now we must fast forward to 1804 when Beethoven began work on the real ‘Appassionata’, the Sonata in F minor, Op 57. In the meantime much had happened. He was in the middle of the most fertile period of his life, having brought out three symphonies, including the ‘Eroica’ which set new standards on all fronts. The beginning of this ‘heroic’ stage also included the ‘Waldstein’ Sonata and the Triple Concerto. In his daily life he was coming to terms with his increasing deafness, and two years previously had written his heartbreaking Heiligenstadt Testament in which he confesses the affliction that he tried to hide. He had also fallen in love with the Countess Guicciardi, the first of many women who were unattainable. While his hearing failed, however, his music became bolder, more powerful and more innovative.

The ‘Appassionata’ (the title was added by the publisher Cranz when a version for piano duet was issued in 1838) was Beethoven’s own favourite piano sonata until he wrote his Op 106. In 1803 he had been given an Erard piano which had an extended range of five-and-a-half octaves, and he uses this at the very beginning of the piece, going down to the lowest note available—the bottom F. Nowadays it can seem all too commonplace. Given the energy and force that Beethoven was by then putting into his works, it is not surprising that the instrument was worn out by 1810. Czerny calls this sonata ‘the most perfect execution of a mighty and colossal plan’, and advises the player to observe strict time, except where marked. Tovey, saying that no piano work of Beethoven has suffered more from that vile thing known as pianistic ‘tradition’, also urges us to trust Beethoven and play what he writes. There are numerous places where we are used to hearing dynamics that are simply not there, or tempo changes that are not indicated at all. The extremes of the piano are used to great effect—for example at the recapitulation when the left hand quietly drums out the low repeated C (which must be done without changing fingers to get the best effect). The ‘fate’ motive made famous in his Fifth Symphony is everywhere, contrasting with the second subject which has that wonderful Beethovenian warmth and expansiveness.

Instead of a proper slow movement, Beethoven doesn’t delay the action more than necessary, giving us a set of variations on a drastically simple theme (in fact it is no ‘theme’ at all, but rather a series of chords). The tempo of Andante con moto is another marking that is frequently ignored. Abruptly interrupting this extemporization comes a crashing diminished-seventh chord, announcing one of his greatest examples of keyboard writing, the final Allegro ma non troppo. Ferdinand Ries, a student of Beethoven and one of his biographers, relates how this movement came about. Ries went for a lesson and found Beethoven working something out at the piano, but seeing that it was a nice day they decided to go out for a walk instead. On the mountain slopes Ries suddenly heard a shawm playing a beautiful melody; he called attention to it, but Beethoven couldn’t hear anything. For many hours he was preoccupied with his own thoughts, humming out phrases and singing aloud. When they returned home Beethoven immediately sat down at the piano and played what later became the last movement of the ‘Appassionata’. The most remarkable thing about this movement is how much of the power is held back until the very end when all is unleashed. Czerny imagines ‘the waves of the sea on a stormy night, whilst cries of distress are heard from afar’. Perhaps it is not necessary to be quite so graphic, but the two-note sighing figures do certainly give that impression. Nobody had written anything nearly as powerful for solo piano before that, and it remains to this day a landmark in musical history.

from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2006


Other albums featuring this work
'Beethoven: Piano Sonatas' (CKD244)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas
MP3 £8.00FLAC £10.00ALAC £10.00 CKD244  Download only  
'Edwin Fischer – The First Beethoven Sonata Recordings' (APR5502)
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MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99 APR5502  Download only  
'Harold Bauer – The complete recordings' (APR7302)
Harold Bauer – The complete recordings
MP3 £13.99FLAC £13.99ALAC £13.99 APR7302  3CDs Download only  
'Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1' (SACDA67518)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1
This album is not yet available for download SACDA67518  Super-Audio CD — Deleted  

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