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POWER AND VIRTUOSITY

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'... a powerful (in every sense) take on these endlessly rewarding works ...'

Kovacevich plays Beethoven -
with DAVID WILKINS

 

When asked about his tastes in music, a certain revolutionary par excellence admitted that he had a hidden fondness for Beethoven's Appassionata piano sonata. In a further confession, however, Lenin admitted that he thought the passion evoked might in some way 'unman' him and distract from the steely-eyed austerity that his political imperative required. I've often pondered the enigma of this response and guess that I'll continue to do so while still trying to square the impossible circle of societal and individual impetus.

Beethoven Piano Sonatas - Stephen Kovacevich (c) 2001 EMI Records Ltd

It's difficult to imagine how a performance of this immensely popular sonata might engage that kind of vast philosophical dichotomy. What it might do, however, is deal with the mix of public grandeur and private poetry. Stephen Kovacevich's personal involvement is audible in more than his sighs and hummings : this is, as it should be, music that matters. Beethoven the 'volcanic' is paramount [listen -- track 1, 5:52-6:45] and, though much sense of the tranquillo is absent, the power and virtuosity -- as in the extraordinary fingerwork of the coda -- of the playing is astonishing.

The Andante con moto is detached and patrician. As a leading Schubertian, you might have expected Kovacevich to find more of the song-like in the music, but there is a determinedly positive but heavy response to the sempre legato that might not please all [listen -- track 2, 2:50-3:45]. The clarity of articulation in the finale is the kind of miracle that we have come to expect from this source -- it takes the breath away as an act of shocking intention rather than bravura display. It's certainly enough to realise what Lenin had in (and tried to put-out-of) mind.

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Copyright © 29 April 2001 David Wilkins, Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK

 

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CD INFORMATION - EMI CDC 5 56965 2

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