LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN - A Beethoven Odyssey Vol. 5

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LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN - A Beethoven Odyssey Vol. 5 - Piano Sonatas 5, 6, 7, 10 - James Brawn (Piano) - 681585146927 - Released: October 2017 - MSR Classics MS1469

Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor
Piano Sonata No. 6 in F major
Piano Sonata No. 7 in D major
Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major

As I pointed out in (this review) of Volume 3 of pianist James Brawn's recording cycle of the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas, "his Beethoven is lucid, direct, and most importantly, real." These interpretative characteristics of Brawn's approach to Beethoven's music have not changed, and would now include an unparalleled focus on expressive details. His attention to Beethoven's tempo, dynamic and expressive markings is almost devout. As I follow along with the piano score in hand (Schnabel Edition), I can't help but notice that every minute detail is followed to the letter. And such an approach is extremely effective for example in the Largo e mesto movement of the Piano Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10 No. 3, one of Beethoven's most inspired slow movements, in which the slightest inflections, add an enormous amount of emotive weight to the music. I've always considered Beethoven's own expressive markings to be valid, accurate and justified. Some may find fault with James Brawn for not injecting more of his own personal touches to the music, but why would he need to when Beethoven has already laid down the perfect blueprint for the project at hand. As always, this is 100% Beethoven from phrase to phrase, page to page, start to finish, and always at the service of the composer's master plan.

The recorded sound, thanks to recording engineer Ben Connellan, is close and natural, and accurately captures this Steinway's well-balanced tone from top to bottom. It also avoids the usual pitfalls of added reverb or staging, leaving the piano exactly where it belongs. This MSR Classics traversal of the complete Beethoven sonatas is well worth investigating.

Jean-Yves Duperron - November 2017