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A new solo recital by Menahem Pressler would be an event for any label, so all credit to BIS for securing this, recorded in February and March 2012 at Potton Hall in Suffolk. Pressler’s credentials as a Beethovenian and Schubertian need no introduction; his 55 years with the Beaux Arts Trio say enough. In Chopin, however, he is less well known – but his is a revelatory interpretation.

In the late Beethoven sonatas Pressler is, of course, up against some stiff competition. His account of Op 110 emphasises the serene, comparable to Lewis (Harmonia Mundi) in radiance and power. This is the product of age, rather than the youth characteristic of his label-mate Kempf or Kim (EMI), though Pressler is less impressive in the finale, parts of which sound awkward. Lewis remains first choice.

His account of Schubert’s final instrumental work is as expansive (perhaps too much) as one would have imagined, an all-embracing blend of the serene and the expressive. To his credit, he plays the exposition repeat, as did Lupu (Decca) but not Lewis. Opinions remain divided on this point; Lewis is persuasive in moulding something a touch more concise, while Pressler revels in the all-embracing weft of the music. After such a Molto moderato, the Andante sostenuto drags a little and the scherzo is more allegretto than Allegro vivace. The finale, by contrast, dances along full of vim. Lupu, overall, remains supreme in this work, but if you want a thoughtful coupling of two of the most sublime sonatas ever penned, then Pressler’s will be hard to beat. BIS’s sound, as expected, is fabulous.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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