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Beethoven Piano Sonatas - Pizarro - Atlanta Audio Society

01 July 2004
Atlanta Audio Society

What we can be sure of, from the evidence of our ears, is that Pizarro is one helluva Beethoven pianist. This beautifully engineered SACD release from Linn Records of Glasgow, Scotland shows a mastery of the musical, emotional and intellectual power of Beethoven that we have heard all too seldom since the heyday of the late Claudio Arrau. The generous program (78:48) consists of the Three Famous Sonatas We All Know And Love: Nos. 8 in C Minor, the "Pathetique," 14 in C-sharp minor, the "Moonlight," and 23 in F minor, the "Apassionata," plus No. 17 in D minor, the "Tempest." Along with the three Last Sonatas (which Pizarro has also recorded on Linn CKD 225), these "name" sonatas are the acid test for a great Beethoven interpreter.

Pizarro passes the test with flying colors. The clarity and resonance of his playing are admirable. He rises to heights of great intensity in moments such as the elemental fury of the second section of the opening movement of the "Tempest." That intensity is not missing in the quietest moments - such as the Adagio of the same sonata, in which he does not mistake economy of phrasing for mere simplicity. His strong left hand encompasses the contrapuntal richness of the final movements in the "Pathetique" and the "Moonlight," and his sustained pedaling and fading diminuendos are superbly accomplished.

Pizarro saves his very best for the "Apassionata." Here, he captures the rhythmic dynamism, the harmonic and pianistic innovations that make this sonata the masterwork that it is. In his interpretation, we thrill to the outbursts of fortissimo chords and high tremolos in the opening movement and the propulsive energy of the finale.

Early in the same finale, we have a remarkable moment of suspended animation when, after a furious octave passage, a soft cloud of diminished seventh chords condense into a cluster of dominant sevenths all up and down the keyboard. It is beautifully done here. And we thought we had to wait for the Impressionists for this sort of coloristic effect!

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