Beethoven’s piano sonatas
I haven’t written about Beethoven’s piano sonatas yet on this blog, except for mentioning Igor Levit’s beautiful rendition of the late piano sonatas here.
Why? No idea. It is such a massive body of work, 32 sonatas, no really weak stuff in there, the late sonatas being particularly challenging. How do you attack such a mountain, or more precisely mountain range?
Rémi Geniet, a young French pianist, must have asked himself the same question. His answer is an album that covers 4 sonatas from the very early op. 2 to the very late op. 110.
Who is Rémi Geniet? A young (born 1992) French pianist, who released a beautiful Bach album two years ago that was highly praised. He also won several competitions including the Horowitz International Competition in Kiew.
Geniet Plays Beethoven Sonatas
From Bach to Beethoven. A small step? Well not really, actually anything but. But Geniet manages this challenge beautifully.
You get a mix from Beerhovens sonata cycle, as mentioned above from the very early sonata no. 2 to the penultimate sonata no. 31.
The really famous sonata here is the “Moonshine“, no. 14, probably the piano piece that even non classical listeners will have heard at some point. Attacking such an earworm is obviously tricky, we all have some form of reference in our head. And what references, from Schnabel, to Arrau, to Brendel, or more recently Paul Lewis or Ronald Brautigam.
How does he compare against such great names of the piano? Well, actually, quite well.
Take the first movement. This, if done badly, can drown in kitsch. No kitsch here, you get simplicty, very clean playing , no “fuzz”. But actually, this makes the entire experience nevertheless extremely intense.
He takes extremely technically challengingthird movement (Presto agitato) breathtakingly fast, but with extreme precision. Again, this is truly impressive.
All this really comes without neglecting musical substance. Take for example the sonata no. 31. Beethoven’s late sonatas, like his late string quartets, are works of extreme intellectual substance. You simply cannot gloss over them. Pianists typically only tackle them later in the career. But here, similar to Levit mentioned above, Geniet just goes for it, and very successfully.
Overall rating: 4 stars (at certain moments of playing I’d give a 5 star, but there is so much competition out there in the Beethoven space, that it is hard to consistently outperform all the piano legends).