In her booklet note Angela Hewitt identifies Liszt's lifelong absorption in music by Beethoven and Bach and her approach to the B minor Sonata reveals a work much closer in its virtuoso way, to Beethoven than to vintage Liszt barnstormers like the Transcendental Studies. Hewitt allows its huge single-movement span to unfold with a sense of space and a purposeful clarity—qualities akin to the manner of Beethoven's late sonatas. There's much upside in individual passages too. The fugato leading to the restatement of the Sonata's main Allegro material (after the slow central section) is too often used by pianists as an excuse to show how fast they can play; Hewitt, a hugely experienced Bach-performer, delivers its part-writing at an unexaggerated pace, and with a precisely articulated vividness that works superbly.
If she doesn't quite conjure musical poetry with the poise that the Sonata's most haunting moments need, this is nonetheless an interpretation whose strengths outweigh any such blind spots—as is also the case with Hewitt's way with the Petrarch Sonnets, at once passionate and unaffected. The limitations of her approach are more evident in the Dante Sonata: her musical armoury doesn’t include the kind of virtuoso keyboard devilry on which much of the music insists.