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Beethoven unbuttoned?

Volume two of the Metier 'Beethoven Explored' series -
reviewed by

'... nice rhythmic sense and technical assurance.'

Beethoven Explored volume 2. © 2003 Metier Sound & Vision Ltd

My salad days were greatly cheered by Scholes's old Oxford Companion to Music. When bored with reading, I would amuse and refresh myself by glancing at the imaginative composers' portraits by Osvald Batt. Beethoven's apparel in black and white seemed surprisingly clean and his features were suitably forbidding. This was the face of the Grosse Fuge and of the man who charged, with a reluctant Goethe on his arm, through a group of probably inoffensive aristocrats. He now appears on this booklet's front cover in Batt's lurid colouring; and on the back are enlarged eyes, nose and mouth so monstrous I dare not open the CD near bedtime for fear of certain nightmares.

It must be said that some of Batt's vision found its way into the 'Kreutzer' sonata. Beethoven often insists on taking us by the scruff of the neck and giving us a thorough shaking. These aggressive instincts are certainly not disguised in this recording, which is balanced noticeably in favour of the modern grand. I found myself longing for a piano more contemporary with the composer, even if Beethoven himself would have smashed most of its strings [listen -- track 1, 1:31-2:47]. This is indeed an 'exploration' that presents Beethoven unbuttoned, uncompromising, and largely ungovernable; but it is only a partial account.

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Copyright © 14 April 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


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