Gerardo Teissonnière’s Late Beethoven

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 9

Gerardo Teissonnière savors the improvisatory nature of Op. 109’s first movement, conveying an expansive and reflective aura. By contrast, the pianist’s mannered rhythmic lurchings and fussy phrasings leave an unsettled impression throughout the Prestissimo movement. The dutiful and literal mood of Teissonnière’s third movement shatters but once, when the pianist unleashes Variation Three’s rapid two-handed counterpoint.

For all of the care and attention to detail that Teissonnière brings to Op. 110 (especially in the third movement’s pellucid cantabiles), the pianist undermines the composer’s extreme dynamic contrasts. The same can be said about the lack of heft in the Op. 111 introduction’s big chords, as well as regarding the pianist’s clear yet somewhat small-scaled approach to the main section’s combative counterpoint, although I’m struck by how Teissonnière increases the low-lying left hand trills’ speed in carefully meted out increments.

Like Claudio Arrau and, more recently, Angela Hewitt, Teissonnière deliberates over the Arietta’s theme, and takes more trouble than most pianists to articulate the murmuring left-hand ostinatos later in the movement. The fast and “jazzy” dotted-rhythm variation, however, occasionally becomes cloudy and flattened out, in contrast to the young Maurizio Pollini’s ironclad control or Igor Levit’s nimble poise.

There’s no questioning Teissonnière’s sincerity and seriousness, and that he’s obviously lived with and pondered these frequently recorded works for a long time. However, for truly transformative artistry and transcendent pianism, our reference versions remain top choices.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: The Last Sonatas
Reference Recording: Op. 109: Fischer (EMI), Op. 110: Levit (Sony), Op. 111: Pollini (DG, analogue recording); Arrau (Decca, analogue recording)

    Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major Op. 109; Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major Op. 110; Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor Op. 111
  • Gerardo Teissonnière (piano)

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