Gramophone

Sun 30 Sep 2007

Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas Vol 2 / Lewis

Faced with such excellence a mere critic can only abandon paper and pencil and listen to this heroic but deeply moving young artist with awe and amazement. Release Date: 01/16/2007
Label: Harmonia Mundi Catalog: 901903
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer: Paul Lewis
Number of Discs: 3
Recorded in: Stereo
Length: 3 Hours

Mastery and eloquence: this is shaping up to be a great Beethoven cycle
Paul Lewis’s three-disc second volume of his Beethoven sonata cycle is of such eloquence and mastery (the one inseparable from the other) that it deserves a book rather than a review.

Throughout all 10 sonatas his unswerving authority thinly veils his profound immersion in the very wellspring of Beethoven’s creative genius. Even the composer’s relatively carefree or lightweight gestures (the finales of Opp 14 No 2, 78 and 79) are invested with a drama and significance that illuminate them in a novel but wholly natural light. Here is one of those rare pianists who can charge even a single note or momentary pause with drama and significance and convince you, for example, that his lyrical, often darkly introspective way with Beethoven’s pulsing con brio brilliance in the Waldstein Sonata is a viable, indeed, memorable alternative to convention.

So, too, is his way with the Hammerklavier, that most daunting of masterpieces, where he tells us that even when the composer is at his most elemental he remains deeply human and vulnerable. Not for him Schnabel’s headlong attempt to obey Beethoven’s wild first-movement metronome mark; nor does he view the vast spans of the Adagio as “like the icy heart of some remote mountain lake” (JWN Sullivan) but rather a place of ineffable sadness. And here as elsewhere he is able to relish every detail of the composer’s ever-expanding argument while maintaining a flawless sense of line and continuity.

Faced with such excellence a mere critic can only abandon paper and pencil and listen to this heroic but deeply moving young artist with awe and amazement. These are early days but Paul Lewis’s superbly recorded and presented Beethoven may well turn out to be the most musicianly and ultimately satisfying of all recorded Beethoven piano sonata cycles.
Bryce Morrison