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All Music Guide
Beethoven Sonatas Vol.2
By James Mannheim

Turkish pianist Idil Biret has embarked on a Beethoven cycle (sonatas, concertos, and symphony transcriptions) to round off her prolific recording career. There are many pleasures of a quiet kind among the results. The brash young Beethoven is said to have destroyed pianos when playing some of these early works. Biret isn't even going to break a string, but the precise articulations and motivic connections revealed in her performances are dramatic in their own way. She focuses especially in details on the left hand. Biret doesn't immediately reveal her conception of a movement's shape, and the slow movements, especially, tend to begin very circumspectly. But focus on the small details, and she will draw you in. An especially good example is the slow movement of the Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 10/1, a work that is often treated as a kind of warmup for the "Pathétique" Sonata and doesn't get its due. The music begins plainly enough, but in the central section it deepens into an almost mystic repose of the sort often associated with the later works. The passage raises expectations for Biret's forthcoming performances of the late sonatas; although she has thus far grouped early sonatas with other early ones, she seems to be resisting the usual periodization. The performance of the Piano Sonata No. 3 in C major, Op. 2/3, is very strong, with a fine sense of how the later parts of the first movment seem to explode with sudden invention. The Piano Sonata No. 18 in E flat major, Op. 31/3, is very laid-back, as the lingo goes, but this is interesting in itself; Biret is finding the innovation in early Beethoven in places other than the usual ones. In any event, except for those who definitively envision the young Beethoven as loud and abrupt, this is a recording that will reward multiple hearings.

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