Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 14 (Moonlight) & 29 (Hammerklavier)—Murray Perahia


Legendary American pianist Murray Perahia continues his Indian Summer of recordings on the prestigious yellow label. Other DG house star pianists in their twilight recording years have not been so successful. Perahia's first release was a marvellous musical achievement. This new Beethoven recording is also very fine, but here, the competition is fierce. 

Perahia has recorded the Beethoven Sonatas before on Sony (or Columbia before Sony). They were always mainstream views of Beethoven's towering works; very well played and recorded. Though they did little to supplant Stephen Kovacevich, Schnabel, Gilels and several other Beethoven luminaries and their giant, universe striding interpretations. Want in on ALL the secrets, better get Artur Schnabel.

What you'll get with Perahia is perfect classical structure—no messing about. His touch, as always is divine, producing a very beautiful sound. The Moonlight begins in a straightforward manner. Ethereal magic is not Perahia's mantra. He's going for the aforementioned classical structure. It has the same feel as his previous Beethoven recordings. Technique, of course, is crystalline. Perfect takes. And the hell-bent-for-leather finale is fantastic with lots of drama and visceral excitement. 

The Hammerklavier takes off at a good clip—no buggering about like Sokolov's recent live DG but without the stunning power of young Igor Levit on Sony. Nevertheless, it can be an easy recommendation, if not on the same inspirational level as the other Beethoven specialists I mentioned. Here, you'll get an absolute vision—structure, tempo, and perfect notes. Now, you know that isn't happening on Schnabel's Hammerklavier, with its fistfuls of wrong notes. But something happens to you when listening intently to Schnabel. It's that universe, again. 

Perahia sticks to Beethoven's dynamics like a slim fit Italian shirt on a Canali model—no sfz or fp escapes his fingers (and you'll hear the difference between the often confused markings). Adherence to the wide dynamics adds to the musical drama. For total concentration, listen to the opening of the difficult Hammerklavier finale. Mesmerizing. 

So, not quite as profound as Perahia's opening late inning DG release, but still very good. The recording is superb. Huge power when called upon, and ultimately delicacy, which is needed when recording an artist like Perahia. Highly recommended. 

Int. Release 09 Feb. 2018

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