BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57 “Appassionata” – Lambert Orkis (BRIDGE)

by | Jun 3, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57 “Appassionata” –
Lambert Orkis, fortepianos and piano – Bridge 9169  76:25
(Distrib. Albany)***:

Perhaps more musicological than musical, this curious CD presents us
the same pianist in three interpretations of the same piece,
Beethoven’s well-familiar Appassionata Sonata. We have come a long way
from my initial recording of this emotionally powerful work, with its
Neapolitan harmonies and explosive outbursts of emotion: Edwin Fischer
on old RCA 78 rpm records.  The two fortepianos used in this
recording–by Thomas and Barbara Wolf after instruments by Nannette
Streicher (1814-1820); and R.J. Regier, after Viennese instruments
around 1830–capture the sonority of period instruments that were
themselves undergoing rapid development and modification. The tonal
qualities and responses of each instrument manages to imbue to the
music its own character and sonic density.

The one piano used in this recording is a Bosendorfer Imperial Concert
Grand, with a much heavier action and a fuller sonority than its
delicate cousins. The light action of the fortepianos only convinces
one that Beethoven felt confined by its limitations in power and
expression, and the Appassionata was intended to transcend, even
obliterate, such restrictions. Of the three performances, I confess to
favoring the modern sound of the Boesendorfer, which is truly a
Herculean rendition of a mighty piece of music. The lyrical theme and
variations of the second movement, no less than in the emotional throes
of the first and last movements, enjoy a breadth and serenity of
expression that rival anything we have in Richter, Serkin, and
Casadesus. As I have indicated elsewhere, my own response to period
instruments is guarded, since the lightness of the action and the tinny
ping in the registration does not gladden my ears. True, the lighter
action increases one’s sense of nervous and brittle tension, but I lose
the music to the relative shallowness of the textures. You decide, if
you wish to purchase a disc whose comparative intricacies of expression
may attract more music majors than music lovers. The notes, by Orkis
and the respective makers of the fortepianos, are quite informative
given one’s bent for authenticity.

–Gary Lemco

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