CD Reviews (The Straits Times, November 2012)

BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas Vol.1
Chandos 10720 (3CDs) / *****

There is no dispute that Beethoven in his 32 piano sonatas completely transformed and revolutionised the genre. This first volume of the sonatas from Frenchman Jean-Efflam Bavouzet presents Beethoven’s first ten (Op.2 through 14), which built upon models seemingly perfected by Mozart and Haydn. He expanded the form’s scope and length. The first three sonatas Op.2 (published in 1796) all have four movements instead of the usual three. In the symphonically conceived E flat major Sonata Op.7 (1797), he had written the longest sonata of the time. Its 30 minutes would only be surpassed by the mighty Hammerklavier some 20 years later. The C minor Pathetique Sonata (Op.13, 1799) was also prefaced by a slow introduction marked Grave. All these point to his great symphonies to come.

The full range of Beethoven’s emotions is also explored. The F major Sonata (Op.10 No.2) is as light-hearted as he could possibly get, and has there been any music sadder than the Largo e mestoslow movement than in next sonata, in D major (Op.10 No.3)? Bavouzet’s performances come to ideal performances on the modern piano. They do not stint on outward passion sparked by an inner turmoil, yet balanced by a delicateness and beauty of sound. As a bonus, two alternative finales of the Op.10 No.1 C minor Sonata, one discarded and another reworked without development, have been included for completeness sake. This is an auspicious beginning to possibly another great cycle to come.

Swedish Wind Ensemble / CHRISTIAN LINDBERG
BIS CD-1958 / ****1/2

The rather provocative title of this disc of wind music comes from a 2007 work by Swedish virtuoso trombonist and conductor Christian Lindberg which was cobbled together from themes and fragments discarded from an earlier piece. This musical recycling in Brain Rubbish throws up a profusion of seemingly unrelated ideas which build up to an exuberant final climax. Lindberg’s Suite from Galamanta is inspired by characters of comedy theatre, colourfully characterised by virtuosic wind and brass solos, and creative play of dissonances.

Rather more accessible are Adam Gorb’s Yiddish Dances, dedicated to veteran wind maestro (and regular visitor to Singapore) Timothy Reynish, which delights in the slides and slurs of the Jewish Klezmer tradition. Spaniard Bernardo Adam Ferrero’s Homage to Joaquin Sorolla presents four evocative symphonic paintings based on the Valencia natives oils of local scenes. The most familiar number is Gershwin’s An American in Paris, in Mari van Gils’s arrangement, which replete with taxi horns and trumpet blues yields little to the original. The Swedish Wind Ensemble, which began in 1906 as a band of Stockholm bus and rail workers, put up highly spirited performances that are well worth several listens.