BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas Nos. 5-8 Pollini


Piano Sonatas
Nos. 5-7 op. 10 Nos. 1-3
No. 8 op. 13 »Pathétique«
Maurizio Pollini
Int. Release 01 Jun. 2004
0289 474 8102 7
CD DDD 0289 474 8102 7 GH

Track List

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Piano Sonata No. 5 In C Minor, Op. 10, No. 1


Piano Sonata No. 6 In F Major, Op. 10, No. 2




Piano Sonata No. 7 in D Major, Op.10, No.3


Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 "Pathétique"

Maurizio Pollini

Total Playing Time 1:09:22

The adulation is well deserved. Now in his mid-60s, Pollini has coupled his fearsome
technical facility with a breadth of taste and intellectual curiosity about music that has
made his four-decade career unique.

. . . a stunning CD . . .

. . . you'll hear things you've never heard before, played with a conviction that carries you along. The sound is detailed . . . All in all . . . well worth consideration for its virtues.

. . . his care with rhythmic details and with ensuring that every texture is crystal clear pays dividends . . . the class and intellectual clarity of the playing are never in doubt.

Now in his early sixties, Maurizio Pollini has lost none of the clarity and precision of his youth. The great pianist is more emotionally engaged with these early Beethoven sonatas than is usually associated with his playing . . . Pollini is at his lyrical best in the slow movement of the "Pathétique": he also fully captures the fantasy and vivid contrasts of the Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor without making one ugly sound.

The mastery of the pianism itself is never in doubt . . .

. . . there is deliciously youthful quality about his playing of early Beethoven in this enchanting disc. His touch is light and sparkling, the energy mercurial rather than elemental, but every moment is compelling . . .

If you want to hear the notes realised to perfection, this is the version to go for. And it will remain so for centuries to come.

Rich, sonorous and equalized . . . The "Pathétique" in C minor is the stunning centerpiece of this recording. Its gorgeous, noble first movement and the sweetly singing "andante cantabile" are as tragic, sensuous and expressive as any piano music ever penned, and Pollini gives a heart-stopping performance. In a single word: yum.

Immaculate technique . . . The simple fact is that rival pianists could only unearth less in the pieces, or sentimentalize them. Everything Pollini brings out in them seems that essential. The "Pathetique" emerges in a nearly ideal interpretation.

His technical command seems limitless, comparable to the uncanny pianism of his one-time teacher, Michelangeli. This is far more than merely playing all of the notes with precision. Pollini makes the piano a living, breathing instrument, with pulse, color, and soaring singing lines. Now in his early sixties, he makes these qualities come through as strongly as ever . . . This music unfolds with exceptional grace and wisdom. In terms of performance and DG's sterling production values, this is a wonderful CD. Because it is music that has been copiously recorded by so many great artists, and because Pollini is one of the most acclaimed pianists alive, I hold this recording to the hightest possible standards.

Virtuos agil, variantenreich im Tempo, vielschichtig im Spannungsaufbau.

Apollinisch klar, brillant, konturenreich und voll Drive fällt Pollinis Auseinandersetzung mit frühen Beethoven-Meisterwerken aus.

Bei dieser CD überfällt den Beethoven-Freund freudige Erregung . . . durchgehend dramatisch gespannt, sehnig, jugendlich. Da der Klavierklang mit leichtem Konzertsaalflair gut eingefangen ist, darf man sich wonnig in den Sessel fallen lassen.

Die in Münchens Herkulessaal eingespielten Sonaten dokumentieren perfektes Klavierspiel. Aus profundem Stilverständnis wächst Maurizio Pollinis Interpretation, die untrügliches Formgefühl auszeichnet.

glänzend wie eh und je . . .

. . . on admire . . . sa puissance, sa présence dramatique, sa vie contagieuse.

Mago del piano y también excelente director . . .

... aquí está todo el apasionamiento y la poesía del gran Pollini, el Pollini maduro que hará un par de años nos regaló a todos unas inolvidables Variaciones Diabelli. ... este compacto en sí mismo es una valiosísima aportación a la discografía de Beethoven; o lo que es lo mismo, una referencia, y no sólo de la Patética (una de las versiones más hermosas e intensas que puedan escucharse) sino también de las otras tres.

. . . una Sexta ligera y virtuosa, rozando la intrascendencia, una Séptima muy interesante, con un impresionante largo y una interpretación contrastada y sutil . . .
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas opp.10 & 13

The maturity displayed by his opp. 10 and 13, written between 1796 and 1798, confirms the piano sonata's favoured position in Beethoven's compositional explorations, as well as the difficulty of establishing a clear stylistic distinction between his first and second periods. Even when the material he uses here is less original than in his later works, the essential characteristics of Beethoven's musical personality are already unmistakable. The “Pathétique" is generally considered as marking a turning-point (though one that is less evident in works composed at the same time in other genres); but the importance of the three op. 10 sonatas, chronologically very close to op. 13, should not be underestimated. They are more concise than the three sonatas op. 2 and are far more individual and unconventional.

The first of the three op. 10 sonatas (published in 1798) is in C minor, and in its concision and sense of conflict it anticipates the significance of that key in some of Beethoven's most famous masterpieces. Beginning with a dotted figure of intense energy, the first thematic group as a whole contains elements that relate to all the material of the opening movement. Its vigour and stormy vehemence seem to give way to something more gracious in the second theme, but this is gradually charged with tension by a crescendo that culminates in an energetic return of the opening dotted rhythm, before the exposition comes to a quiet close. The sense of tension in the development is terse and well-defined, while the recapitulation is significantly varied, particularly in the second theme and its crescendo passage.

The lyrical nobility of the second movement creates a marked contrast: the movement is in two sections separated by a single bar. The third movement is tense and restless, with a great variety of light and shade. The anxious, rising first theme is followed by a range of contrasting ideas in the course of a densely packed, succinct exposition. The development consists of only a few bars (during which the famous rhythm that will open the Fifth Symphony emerges) and the recapitulation is extended into a coda which, towards the end, slows the second theme down to an Adagio before rushing nervously to a close.

The second sonata, in F major, counters the taut concentration of the C minor work with a spirit of inventiveness and a quite different order of freedom and variety. Instead of concision and fierce contrasts, the first movement reveals a poetic world full of surprises, of unexpected jolts, and an exposition overflowing with charming ideas. The development (based principally on contrapuntal inventions on the motif that ends the exposition) is restrained, and closes with an inspired false recapitulation in D major.

In the place of a slow movement we find an Allegretto in F minor in three-part form, with a central section that shares in the nocturnal mood of the movement as a whole, and with a varied reprise. It is neither a minuet nor a scherzo, and its mysterious, unresolved mood of poetic melancholy anticipates pieces by Schubert or even Brahms that equally resist classification. In Beethoven it is absolutely unique, not directly related to anything else.

The fugato writing in the Presto unleashes exceptional vitality and energy. The movement is unconventional in form: it cannot be called either a fugue or a rondo, but is perhaps a sonata form in which the second theme is derived from the first, with an extensive development and a recapitulation that significantly expands and transforms the exposition.

The opus 10 set closes with the longest sonata, and the one with the most marked contrasts. Immediately striking is the unprecedented idea of opening with a Presto. This first movement combines the greatest variety with a tendency to unity of motivic material (as the German musicologist Carl Dahlhaus observed), and the overall mood is bright and positive. The first theme, which has a marked energy and brilliance, reappears after the second theme (which derives to a large extent from the first), freshly elaborated, again after the slow, reflective idea that brings the exposition to a close, and, of course, in the concise, resolute development. Before arriving in the A major of the second theme, at the point where we expect the modulatory bridge passage, a new, more cantabile idea in B minor emerges - yet another indication of the freedom and confidence with which Beethoven is now using sonata form.

The slow movement, the first by Beethoven in a minor key, creates a radical contrast. Deeply introspective and of extraordinary profundity and intensity, it is a tragic, visionary meditation that seems distantly to anticipate the concentrated power of certain pieces from Beethoven's final period. Beethoven spoke to his secretary Schindler about describing the “state of mind of a melancholy man", and this Largo e mesto seems to evoke aspects of that state, from sadness to the depths of despair. Its design is similar to sonata form, with a first theme that takes shape slowly, almost painfully, and a second theme in a higher register that, while deriving from the material of the first, introduces a different quality. The central section, which only in certain aspects corresponds to a development, begins in F major, and seems to mark a turning-point, a brief, temporary lightening of the mood, but then introduces gestures of great dramatic intensity and desolation. A shortened, varied reprise is followed by an extensive coda which reaches a new peak of intensity before the pianissimo close.

The contrast provided by the airy grace and transparent brevity of the following Menuetto only serves to emphasize the distinctiveness of the Largo e mesto. The brighter mood is to some extent maintained in the rather enigmatic and fleeting character of the whimsical, nervy final Rondo, whose theme, based on a three-note cell, sounds almost improvisatory and insecure. The way the theme is continually treated to unexpected variations, the sudden silences and the open ending, which seems to dissolve into nothing, are only some of the surprising features of this inspired movement. Following the marked contrast between the luminous first movement and the tragic second, the Rondo seems to pose a question without finding a definitive answer. The open ending leaves the matter unresolved.

Composed probably in the same period as op. 10/3 (1797-98), the C minor sonata op. 13 was published in 1799 under the title “Grande Sonate Pathétique". At the end of the 18th century the concept of the “pathetic" was defined by interior conflicts quite different from those associated decades later with Liszt and Tchaikovsky. Schiller's essay Über das Pathetische (1793) describes tragic pathos as the representation of suffering and moral resistance to it as a heroic ethical imperative: it is in this sense that Beethoven's title should be understood, especially with reference to the violent conflicts in the first movement. The opening theme of the Allegro di molto e con brio seems to spring into life in reaction to the Grave, where a burden of sorrow is set against an upward yearning. The Grave serves not only as a slow introduction: it returns in abbreviated form at the beginning of the development and again just before the end of the movement. In the Allegro, the dialectic relationship between the first theme's uncontrolled energy and the “bittendes Prinzip" (imploring principle) of the anxious, lyrical second, in E flat minor, would suffice to demonstrate why the “Pathétique" was recognized as a decisive step in Beethoven's compositional explorations. The fairly extended exposition, which closes with the reaffirmation of the first theme in E flat major, is matched by a development of extraordinary density and concision. Here, among other things, motifs from the first theme of the introduction are combined, revealing another aspect of the complex relationship between the Grave and the Allegro.

In clear contrast, the Adagio cantabile opens up a world of gracious melodic beauty, so finished that the principal idea is repeated as many as five times (interwoven with two intermediate sections), becoming an object of rapt contemplation. In the Rondo, the clear relationship between the start of the main theme and the first movement's second theme is another important indication of Beethoven's search for unity in the op. 13 sonata. The Rondo theme also has other affinities with the motivic material of the two preceding movements, and its sad, restless character is related in part to the expressive mood of the first. There are, of course, moments when the tension lifts, and the episodes contain echoes of the second movement; but at the end the final appearance of the principal theme leads to an abruptly dramatic closing gesture.

Paolo Petazzi
(Translation: Kenneth Chalmers)