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Beethoven Piano Sonatas 22-26
Volume VI - opp. 54, 57, 78, 79 and 81a

András Schiff piano

ECM New Series 1947

A delectable release in this important series, recorded live in Zurich, the Appasionata is the centre piece of this programme, surrounded with some of the 'smaller' sonatas.

In an extensive interview András Schiff discusses his belief that the challenge of performing the cycle demands 'chronological awareness', more intense expressiveness stemming from knowledge of later works, particularly those in the same keys. The sequence as a whole makes for absorbing listening. One should take a break after the Appassionata, as would have been the case in Zurich's Tonhalle.

His playing is nothing if not thoughtful and carefully considered to the last detail. Schiff's fluency and total assimilation of his core repertoire is to be seen in the valuable master classes and lecture on DVD, recently reviewed.

The presentation tries to cram too much into a jewel case. The cover illustrations for the series are inscrutable, not infrequently so with ECM. I prefer to offer readers above a glimpse into Beethoven's sketches, here a page of the Les Adieux Op 81a, as a reminder of what a pianist scholar like Schiff is up against in working from the original sources.

The bilingual texts are regrettably given in small, grey on white print, on ten dense pages for each language. If you go to ECM's listing, you will have the option to adjust print size to your eyesight; it would be good that they might follow the example of some other labels and put the printed material in the booklet on their website too?

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also on Musical Pointers Vol 2 of this series, and on DVD his lecture at the Royal Academy in London.