BEETHOVEN: Complete Piano Sonatas Vol. 5 = No. 5 in c, Op. 10/1; No. 10 in G, Op. 14/2; No. 22 in F, Op. 54 – Igor Tchetuev, piano – Caro Mitis multichannel SACD CM 0062010, 51:09 [Distr. by Albany] *****:
After having reviewed another Beethoven piano SACD and expressed delight in the recording and performance, I was little prepared for what I heard from Igor Tchetuev on this release. Perplexed, and wanting to make sure that what I was hearing was not outside the boundaries of a legitimate rave, I turned to the pages of Audiophile Audition to see if he had been reviewed before, since this is my first exposure to him. Sure enough three reviews appear covering the first three volumes of this complete series (evidently we missed Volume 4). All, by two reviewers, received five stars. After hearing this disc I have no intention of breaking the string—this is exceptional, very special piano playing by the highest standards, and deserves the attention of anyone interested in the Beethoven sonatas.
First the sound; I thought that my recent review of Mari Kodama on Pentatone had great sound (and it does), but for this one Caro Mitis has pulled out all of the stops and given the piano a more focused and intensely pianistic sound spectrum that is simply beautiful, one of the best piano recordings I have ever heard. I can only assume that the other volumes are its equal. But the performances are what really stand out. In the C-minor, obviously paralleled on Mozart’s K457 of the same key, Tchetuev does little to make the work more than it is. Beethoven had not embarked on his quest of pointed individualism in this piece, and instead models Mozart to a tee in his classical restraint and formal processes, letting the darker yet still sharper C-minor key take care of the drama.
No. 10, still coming in just under the 1800 dateline, is a model of elegance and perfection in its balance, a veritable dialog of many voices covering a plethora of emotions, none too serious but still to be taken seriously. Tchetuev tickles the keys in a way that more than stresses the joyous and playful manner of much of the work, something not exactly prevalent through the magnificent 32. With Op. 54 we move into the world of the mysterious if not mystical, an experiment that Beethoven would draw on for many sonatas down the road. The two movements, Haydnesque at first glance, contrast in a way that Beethoven’s mentor never did, with the “minuet” first movement only exacerbated in its calmness with the lively and almost Mendelssohnian mystery that emerges triumphant in the A-flat major that dominates the piece. Here is Beethoven sans theme, the unifying factor being the harmonic motion alone. Tchetuev understands this well and is especially adept at probing the mysterious nature of the work, projecting it as far from experimental, but as already arrived at, and making sense of itself.
This could be the standard-setting SACD version of the Beethoven sonatas; we will have to see. At the very least it is phenomenal pianism that has to be reckoned with.