Beethoven Piano Sonatas
This is Mari Kodama’s sixth disc in her projected recording of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas. Born in Japan but raised in Germany, she studied with Germaine Mounier, Tatiana Nikolaieva and Alfred Brendel, her invaluable mentor. Kodama is widely experienced and her performances of sonatas she calls “lyrical islands” are graceful, fluent and musically transparent. Everything proceeds in a faultless flow of sound and in this sense her credentials are impeccable. Never bearing down heavily on the music, she always allows Beethoven his own voice. And it is here that one steps in not to criticise such admirable virtues but to wonder whether, even at his most engagingly lyrical, Beethoven is quite as well-mannered as these performances suggest. Kodama shies away from those typical sf nudges commencing at bar 16 in the first movement of Op 78, a moment when Beethoven vitalises his outwardly benign nature. She has little use for extraneous pleading or for those who turn Beethoven’s clearly marked allegretto second movement of Op 14 No 2 into an idiosyncratic limp (Richter, who, clearly missing a slow movement, creates one of his own). Such gestures are not for her, though her gentle unmarked accelerando at the end of Op 49 No 1’s second movement is a welcome feature in playing which just occasionally threatens to become featureless.
A bonus DVD includes a performance of the first two movements of the D major Sonata, Op 10 No 3, some characteristically modest but helpful observations and a tribute to her dream team in the studios. Sound and presentation are ideal.