Daniel Heide plays Beethoven – Piano Sonatas Nos. 17, 20, 27, 31 – CAvi-Music

by | Mar 24, 2024 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 27 in E Minor, Op. 90; Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor, Op. 31/2 “Tempest”; Piano Sonata No. 20 in G Major, Op. 49/2; Piano Sonata no. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110 – Daniel Heide piano – CAvi-music 8553540 (12/123) (64:43)

The third volume of German pianist Daniel Heide’s survey of the Beethoven piano sonatas, these recordings from 2021 and 2023, respectively, boast the concept of their being performed “chronologically” or “autobiographically” in terms of the performer’s discovery of them!  Heide in his accompanying note claims he needed time to consider solo works because of his dedication to chamber music, and the COVID situation provided the “sabbatical” he required.

Heide opens with the 1814 Piano Sonata No. 27 in E Minor, which Heide first played aged sixteen. In this work, Heide claims to have been influenced by Wilhelm Kempff and his pupil Detlef Kraus. The haunted first movement, ¾, to be played Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus mit Empfindung und Ausdruck, “with lively feeling and expression throughout,” projects a bleakly restless landscape, its passion driven by contrapuntal energies; and though conforming to sonata form, it does not repeat the exposition. The development, built from the initial subject, refuses to resolve its angst in an emotionally satisfying cadence. The opposition to the head must come from the heart, so movement two, in E Major, 2/4, designates its realization must occur Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen, “not too quickly and carried in a singing manner.” Here, Beethoven provides a melody of great lyrical beauty, which Heide intones with care. The romantic allure of this movement aligns its ethos with much in Schubert, and the music evolves in sonata-rondo hybrid form, enriched by the shades of color Heide evokes from his Bösendorfer VC 280.
Heide next turns to the 1802 Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor, associated more by Anton Schindler than by Beethoven, with Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. For this sonata alone, Heide resorts to a Steinway D instrument. In soft chords, Heide captures the experimental ethos of the first movement, Largo. Allegro, in which the entire progression centers on the vacillation of slow episodes and dramatically tumultuous eruptions of powerful feeling. The interruption of recitatives suggests the influence of the Bach sons, particularly that of C.P.E. Bach. Heide propels the vagaries of this curio in sonata form, allotting a gentle affect to the secondary theme in A minor. The engaging style of Heide’s transition to the recapitulation, measures 147-156, proves compelling, and he maintains an excellent sense of dramatic tension as sonata moves relentlessly, often in rich chromatics, to the coda. Never does Beethoven opt for the tonic major as a source of emotional consolation. 

The Adagio in B-flat Major second movement appears to extend motifs from movement  one, though the bass insinuates a martial tattoo that contributes its own tension. Use of dominant harmony, pedal points, and passing ornaments adds an exotic character to the variants of the original motif, all of which Heide has held in good, even lyrical, proportion. Many auditors have compared the last movement, Allegretto, to a perpetuum mobile in sonata form, which Heide executes in brisk tempo. Constructed from four opening notes, the repetition of the motif becomes alluring and hypnotic, enhanced by Beethoven’s ardent bass harmony. The secondary theme, announced in two notes in the dominant (A) minor, defies convention, as does much in this, the initiator of Beethoven’s “new path” of his musical development. Heide instills an elated passion in this last, mesmerizing movement, balancing his dynamics and applied accents with elastic deftness.

Portrait Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven,
by Hornemann

The influence of Haydn and Mozart find response in Beethoven’s 1797 Sonata in G Major, the second of the diptych published as Opus 49. Heide means its inclusion to counterbalance the gravitas of the other sonatas in this album. The concept of movement one, Allegro, ma non troppo, 4/4, respects tradition: the tonic subject one consists of two sections, four measures each, with a connecting, modulatory episode to the second subject in D. The development section catches our attention by proceeding in minor modes of A and E. Performed with a light hand, this movement offers grace and charm at all points. The second movement, Tempo di Menuetto, ¾, has a prior incarnation in Beethoven’s Septet,Op. 20. A tripartite rondo form, the court dance plays with tonal centers in its poised narrative, with passing journeys into D, C, and A minor before concluding in the tonic. Heide’s touch, clear and resonant, effects at times a music-box sonority that chimes in loving tones.

Even as a youth, Heide learned to respect “the last Beethoven sonatas” as works demanding veneration, that performers were “stepping into holy ground” by addressing them. Immediately invoking cosmic hyperbole, Heide writes of “transcendence, intimate emotions, and. . .someone searching for redemption” as crucial to musical realization, here, for the Sonata in A-flat Major, Op. 110 (1822). Admittedly, Heide invests the opening measures of Beethoven’s Moderato cantabile with a luminous patina, which he maintains in fluently articulated filigree, without exaggerated pathos. We realize, later, that the initial, lyrical motif, in reduced form, provides the subject for the last movement fugue. The nervous delicacy, rife with ornaments, proceeds in rising emotional vistas to a shimmering level of contemplation. The shock of the ensuing Allegro molto in f, off-kilter in 2/4, creates a dramatic foil to the first movement, both whimsically syncopated and a mite demonic. That the tune as such had a beer hall genesis in the songs, “Our cat has had kittens” and “I am slovenly; you too are a slob,” only confirms Beethoven’s capacity to combine the vulgar with the Empyrean, as had Bach in his famous quodlibet of the Goldbergs.
While the disc divides the Adagio ma non troppo and Fuga. Allegro ma non troppo into two separate tracks, scholars and musicians consider them as a single movement in five sections that display a plethora of musical forms and impulses: recitative, arioso, inverse parallel motion, huge crescendos, manic repetition, and counterpoint. The affective range proves equally imposing, from dark desolation to almost giddy euphoria.  Heide instills the mood of profound, inner meditation at once, much at the same level as we have had from contemporary Jonathan Biss. Heide’s grief-filled Arioso dolente possesses great lyric power, leading directly to the fugue, whose later development includes the Arioso, whose emotional tenor has become uplifted.  The music’s retreats herald a kind of darkness before some immaculate dawn, the sustained crescendo on a single, repeated chord a revelation of its own. The final two minutes enter a rarified, sacred space, what Paglia likes to call a temenos, of rising affirmations of the spirit.

—Gary Lemco

More information through Proper Music

Album Cover for



Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01