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This concluding volume of Rudolf Buchbinder’s three-volume survey of Beethoven’s complete sonatas includes a fascinating 36-minute interview revealing Buchbiner’s encyclopaedic knowledge.

The performances themselves enthral and illuminate in equal measure, with the smaller sonatas getting just as much attention as the larger works: Op14 No 1 emerges fresh as a daisy, while Op 79 has great energy. Buchbinder reminds us that the Pastoral, is a gem, its slow movement exuding tremendous depth, while the pedalling for the drone in the finale is perfectly judged. There is such a wealth of knowledge behind Buchbinder’s Op 90. His Appassionata, meanwhile, is fiery: this is a huge performance, with a magical central point that looks forward to Beethoven’s late period.

In the second disc, Buchbinder’s Op 22 sparkles and the Waldstein is full of energy. Only the slow movement of the Pathétique deserves criticism: not quite an oasis of peace. It is the final three sonatas, conceived as a trilogy, that caps the series luminously. Here, Buchbinder’s humanity shines through, the perfect complement, perhaps, to Pollini’s objectivity, and his splendid tone is beautifully caught. Of the three, and despite a spellbinding second movement to Op 109, it is Op 110 that truly shines, its fugal writing emerging with Bach-like clarity married to supreme intensity. The intrusion of the applause after the final sounds of Op 111 is surprising; nevertheless, this is masterly Beethoven.

The camerawork is tastefully done, reacting to the musical surface well; only an ‘undercam’ occasionally detracts.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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