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Volume 9 completes Jonathan Biss’s Beethoven sonata cycle. Even in a crowded marketplace, his proficiency, unfaltering taste and command are admirable. What bounding energy he finds in the opening Presto of Op 10/3; what musical rather than showy virtuosity. You may miss something of Kempff’s magical, idiosyncratic chiaroscuro in the dark central Largo, but you also note Biss’s concentration and assurance.

Yet elsewhere a certain severity reigns. This is hardly the sort of playing that invites, for example, Beethoven scholar Marion Scott’s fancy when she speaks of the opening of Op 31/3 as ‘like the evening star tapping on a casement window’. The Scherzo from the same sonata is fiercely rather than wittily propelled. A certain charm and inner light are missing. Biss makes a fearless assault on Op 111’s opening Maestoso but in the Arietta he is more assertive than questioning. There is too little sense of transcendence. These are fine performances, but they will surely go further in time.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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