Classical CD of the month

How does he do it? A Beethoven piano sonata collection that seems to set out its stall as emphatically ‘modern' and unsentimental, yet ends up deeply affecting.

Name Complete Piano Sonatas, Volume 2
Composer Lugwig van Beethoven
Artists Paul Lewis (pianoforte)
Label Harmonia Mundi

The answer, for me, lies in the fact that Paul Lewis, with consummate skill, ratchets the emotional ante across the various works gradually. Structure comes first, rather than the attention-grabbing effect of the moment, and with structure comes - what? Understanding, perhaps, or emotional penetration.

None of which is to deny Lewis's credentials as a virtuoso of the highest order. He can supply the flourishes with the best, but it is his finely judged touch that lingers in the ear.

Our critic Bryce Morrison says in his review: ‘Here is one of those rare pianists who can charge even a single note or momentary pause with drama and significance and convince you, for example, that his lyrical, often darkly introspective way with Beethoven's pulsing con brio in the Waldstein Sonata is a viable, indeed, memorable alternative to convention.'

Morrison suggests that we may be witnessing the creation of ‘the most musicianly and ultimately satisfying of all recorded Beethoven piano sonata cycles'. You wouldn't bet against it.

James Inverne is editor of Gramophone. A full review is published in the December issue

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