Refreshing Beethoven; Michael Tanner hails Garrick Ohlsson's Sonata recital

09.11.08
Garrick Ohlsson
BBC Music Magazine

BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 5: Op. 13 (Pathétique), Op. 27/2 & Op. 53

Garrick Ohlsson (piano)

Bridge 9250 Reissue (1995) 63:21 mins

This is great playing. Garrick Ohlsson made these recordings 13 years ago, and they were issued on another label, but now take their place as part of his complete cycle of the Sonatas. These accounts of three of Beethoven's most popular works have the same characteristics as the four previous CDs, recorded recently. Ohlsson is careful in his observance of the composer's markings almost to the point of pedantry, though it's only in the brief middle movement of the Moonlight that he tips over into that. Otherwise there is the typical Beethovenian surge, violent contrasts and amazing key-changes, but all bound together by a deep understanding of the underlying unity of each work, which incidentally is helpfully illuminated in the inlay notes.

Ohlsson has used different instruments during the cycle, and the one here, a Bösendorfer, is more clangerous, less velvety than the previous ones. That suits the Pathétique and the Waldstein well, while the Moonlight takes on an unusual quality which is refreshing. Indeed, everything here is refreshing, in works which so often sound stale.