BEETHOVEN The complete piano sonatas Vol 7 (Roscoe)
Martin Roscoe began his traversal of the Beethoven Piano Sonatas in 2010, billed as the first complete recording of the Barry Cooper Edition. This volume, the seventh of a projected nine, contains the three sonatas of 1802 that, despite their disparate character, are roughly contemporaneous with the Heiligenstadt Testament, prefaced by the third of the three sonatas composed by Beethoven at the age of 12.
And a charming overture the D major Sonata, WoO47 No 3, turns out to be in preparation for weightier matters. Using a noticeably lighter touch appropriate to the less robust pianos available in Bonn during the early 1780s, Roscoe takes great pains to exhibit the fecund imagination of the young composer. Though not yet harnessed to the harmonic thinking of the mature master, the variety and resourcefulness of the figurations are fascinating.
In the outer movements of the G major Sonata, Op 31 No 1, Roscoe doesn’t let a single joke slip past, even as he delivers them with subtlety rather than with thigh-slapping guffaws. He floats a flawless cantabile above the sly accompaniment of immense finesse in the Adagio grazioso in one of the disc’s many highlights.
Roscoe charts a steady course through the serious and occasionally threatening terrain of the Tempest Sonata, Op 31 No 2. Some of Beethoven’s more enigmatic instructions are scrupulously observed, including the pedal indication sustained throughout the extended recitative of the first movement, and the muffled drum tattoos undergirding the Adagio. The moto perpetuo of the finale – lean, fraught and sparsely pedalled – is alarmingly effective.
The great E flat Sonata, Op 31 No 3, is appropriately kept on the early side of that great point-of-no-return, heralded by the Waldstein and Eroica, ushering in Beethoven’s ‘heroic’ second period. Textures are translucent throughout and a good bit of charm, in lieu of insistence, sells the message. Despite the fact that the Scherzo is nothing short of hilarious, it can’t upstage the madcap romp of the Rondo.
These are original readings of great style, wit and imagination, each individual sonata emerging with rare emotional and intellectual cohesion. I think you’ll enjoy them.