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Hyperion Records

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Pietrasanta P02.12 (2002) by Caio Fonseca (b1959)
Reproduced by kind permission of the artist / www.caiofonseca.com
Track(s) taken from CDA67605
Recording details: December 2006
Das Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel, Dobbiaco, Italy
Produced by Ludger Böckenhoff
Engineered by Ludger Böckenhoff
Release date: May 2007
Total duration: 21 minutes 36 seconds

'The Pastoral sonata leads off Angela Hewitt's second Beethoven sonata cycle instalment, and she taps into the music's overall geniality while also paying heed to its darker corners … I love Hewitt's conversational give and take between the droning left-hand ostinato and the main theme at the Rondo finale's outset … in addition to Hyperion's superb sound, Hewitt, as usual, provides her own penetrating, vividly articulate annotations' (Gramophone)

'Hewitt's fluent pianism … there's no shortage of imaginative touches in Hewitt's performances of the Pastoral sonata' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Quietly dazzling … in the Scherzo [Pastoral] the B minor trio is also marvellous—fleet, shadowy, all taken in a single breath … next, the 'Pathétique', which suits Hewitt very well. In the first movement, I particularly like the way in which she projects the Sturm-und-drang quality of the main Allegro di molto e con brio without turning it into the 'Appassionata' … [Op 2 No 3] Hewitt sounds completely happy playing it, and she finds just the right balance between its extrovert bravura and its lyricism' (International Record Review)

'Hewitt punches out the dramatic opening chords of Beethoven’s Pathétique sonata with stinging vehemence, but otherwise plays the three sonatas here with a light touch. She often lingers deliciously over the Pathétique’s rich dissonances, while the adagio cantabile sings under her featherweight fingers and the rondo surges with spritely abandon at each return of the theme' (The Times)

'Throughout, Hewitt maintains her trademark clean tone. Colours are beautifully controlled, forms coherently shaped' (The Sunday Times)

'Angela Hewitt is on characteristic top form in three of Beethoven's iconic sonatas … Hewitt's intelligent planning gives it [Pathétique] a hardcore makeover. The extremes of dynamic range are deftly realised, and she's fearless at articulating with a brittle touch where necessary' (Classic FM Magazine)

'In this, the second installment in her Beethoven sonata survey, Angela Hewitt goes from strength to strength. Still early in the game, it already shows promise of being one of the very best … I am finding Hewitt to be the most consistently well played and to have the most interesting things to say about these well-explored works, often in unexpected places and in Beethoven's most unassuming moments' (Fanfare, USA)

'Hewitt is also someone to be reckoned with … these remain important and excellent readings, and I look forward to hearing more form her, in a set definitely worth collecting, if for no other reason than the absolutely best-ever to-die-for piano sound' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'An uncluttered, clear-focused, Perahia-like poetic overview whose intellectual acumen is almost Kempf-like in its clarity. By keeping the opening movement [Pathétique] on a firm rein, the finale, for once, doesn't emerge as a temporal and expressive anti-climax, but appears to grow quite naturally out of what had gone before … [Pastoral] again Hewitt has her finger on the pulse of this elusive work, easing us into the opening movement with a beguiling warmth that radiates exactly the right degree of gentle reverie … such expressive and structural clarity' (International Piano)

'Recordings of Beethoven sonatas are hardly rare, but performances of such subtletly and care definitely are … what distinguishes Hewitt's playing is precisely her careful use of dynamic, excellent fingering technique and a focus on key … great music, beautifully played: a definite best buy' (Scotland on Sunday)

'Angela Hewitt continues her cycle of Beethoven's sonatas with a suitably sombre reading of the Pathétique Op 13, and wonderfully shaped Pastoral Op 28. The early Op 2 no 3 brims with youthful vigour' (The Northern Echo)

'Elsewhere in this issue I complain about Lang Lang's ego-driven showmanship. Angela Hewitt is his polar opposite: every note she plays honors the composer. Though I sense her technique is every bit as comprehensive as Lang Lang's, her self-effacing artistry puts the focus where it truly belongs, on the infinite variety and depth of Beethoven's genius. I'm happy to add that the sound of Hewitt's 1981 Fazioli concert grand registers both the intimacy and grandeur of her interpretations with a deeply satisfying realism. This is, not surprisingly, the second installment of a projected cycle. Currently other gifted pianists are in the process of recording the complete sonatas—Ronald Brautigam, Paul Lewis and Gerhard Oppitz, to name just three. If you're in the market for a completed cycle, it's always an embarrassment of riches, and there's an interpretive approach to suit any taste. But I suspect that in the end Hewitt's subtle, exacting, and expressive performances will stand comparison with any. Here is Beethoven for all seasons' (Enjoythemusic.com)

Piano Sonata in C minor 'Pathétique', Op 13
composer
1799; No 8; Grande sonate pathétique

Adagio cantabile  [5'13]
Rondo: Allegro  [5'02]

Other recordings available for download
Artur Pizarro (piano)
Steven Osborne (piano)
Edwin Fischer (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Beethoven’s C minor Sonata Op 13 appeared in 1799, with a title-page proclaiming a ‘Grande sonate pathétique’. The name is unlikely to have originated with Beethoven (his autograph score has not come down to us), but he may at least have approved it. This was the first of his piano sonatas to begin with a slow introduction, and the sombre Grave, with its musical discourse dramatically punctuated by ‘stabbing’ full-blooded chords, is entirely built around the rise and fall of its opening phrase. (Is it coincidental that the phrase was echoed nearly a hundred years later by Tchaikovsky, in the first movement of his ‘Pathétique’ Symphony?)

The notion of bringing back the Grave’s material at its original slow tempo at crucial points during the course of the Allegro was something new to Beethoven’s style, and it heralds the similarly integrated use of a slow introduction in the ‘Les Adieux’ Sonata Op 81a, and in some of the late string quartets. But the ‘Pathétique’ unifies its contrasting strands to an unusual degree, and the start of the movement’s central development section presents the introduction’s initial phrase transformed into the rhythm and tempo of the Allegro.

The Allegro begins with a staccato theme that spirals upwards, above the sound of a drum roll deep in the bass. In order to maintain the tension during his contrasting second theme, Beethoven has it given out not in the major, as would have been the norm, but in the minor; and the eventual turn to the major coincides with the arrival of a restless ‘rocking’ figuration, which far from alleviating the music’s turbulent atmosphere, serves only to heighten it. With the development section, and its abbreviated reprise of the slow introduction, Beethoven returns to the minor and does not depart from it again. The music’s continual agitation is halted only by the final appearance of the introduction, now shorn of its assertive initial chord, and sounding like an exhausted echo of its former self.

The slow movement forms a serene interlude in the key of A flat major. The sonority of its opening bars, with their broad melody unfolding over a gently rocking inner voice, is one that was much admired by later composers, and the slow movement of Schubert’s late C minor Sonata D958, whose reprise has a similar keyboard texture, provides one instance of a piece that was surely modelled on Beethoven’s example. Schubert also follows Beethoven in absorbing the rhythm of the middle section’s inner voice into the accompaniment when the main theme returns.

The slow movement’s key exerts an influence on the rondo finale, whose extended central episode, almost like a miniature set of variations in itself, is in A flat. Sketches for the finale appear among Beethoven’s ideas for his string trios Op 9, and since those preliminary drafts are clearly conceived with the violin in mind, it is possible that the sonata’s rondo theme was originally destined for the last of the trios, also in C minor. As so often with Beethoven, these initial thoughts show him trying to hit on a suitably dramatic way of bringing the piece to a close. That close is effected both in the sketches and in the sonata itself by means of a gentle fragment of the rondo theme, followed by a peremptory final cadence.

from notes by Misha Donat © 2010


Other albums featuring this work
'Beethoven: Piano Sonatas' (CDA67662)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas
'Beethoven: Piano Sonatas' (CKD244)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas
MP3 £8.00FLAC £10.00ALAC £10.00 CKD244  Download only  
'Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2' (SACDA67605)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2
Buy by post £10.50 This album is not yet available for download SACDA67605  Super-Audio CD  
'Edwin Fischer – The First Beethoven Sonata Recordings' (APR5502)
Edwin Fischer – The First Beethoven Sonata Recordings
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99 APR5502  Download only  

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