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This is the first volume of a projected Beethoven sonata cycle by the American pianist Jonathan Biss, who has already recorded some Beethoven for EMI, to critical acclaim. Here, he confirms suspicions of a keen and roving intellect. Biss opts for four formally contrasting sonatas, from the dynamic, contrast-laden C minor (where the slow movement is treated as a major statement, as his notes imply) to the carefully considered reading of the technically tricky Op 22. Less successful, perhaps, is the ‘Funeral March’ sonata, where the first movement sounds rather clumsy (the remaining movements, particularly the Scherzo, are far finer). The famous ‘Les Adieux’ is again rather mixed: the Adagio opening is appropriately desolate, but the Allegro is muted. The vital longing of the central panel is largely missing. But the finale is truly worthy; exuberant and blessed with magnificent fingerwork.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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