Ishay Shaer’s Distinctive Late Beethoven

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Born in 1983, the Israeli pianist Ishay Shaer has been building up a healthy resume of international recital, concerto, and chamber music appearances over the years. Although Shaer’s newly released Beethoven recital for Orchid Classics isn’t exactly a CD debut (a 2008 disc with works by Schumann, Chopin, and Ravel is available via the pianist’s website), the meticulous virtuosity and musical intelligence he brings to these oft-recorded works deserves serious consideration.

Shaer projects the improvisatory spirit of the Op. 109 sonata first movement, yet with an innate sense of proportion and careful timing of the climax. He launches into the central Prestissimo movement at full throttle, making interpretive points not so much by force as through the pianist’s strong left hand and varied articulations. These assets are even more apparent in the third-movement variations, where Shaer’s full-bodied staccatos are melodic rather than percussive. Rarely have Variation Five’s polyphonic lines emerged with comparable independence and personality, while the Da capo theme statement sums up everything that came before in the way Shaer subtly winds the music down.

Shaer doesn’t put a wrong foot forward (nor a wrong finger!) in Op. 101’s first two movements in regard to phrasing and balances, although I find the opening Allegretto movement somewhat reticent and studio-bound. Likewise, Shaer’s impeccably poised Vivace alla Marcia would have benefited from just a little more abandon and forward impetus, as one hears from Igor Levit and Stewart Goodyear. Yet, again, Shaer’s left-hand clarity decisively fuels the knotty finale.

Both the Op. 119 and Op. 126 Bagatelle cycles find Shaer in his element, as he plays up and characterizes the wild contrasts between poignant lyricism and madcap fantasy, from deft transitions in the earlier opus to effectively pushing Op. 126 No. 4’s fast runs in the manner of Schnabel’s foaming-at-the-mouth angularity. The Steinway concert grand used by Shaer for this recording appears to be a responsive and well-regulated instrument, and is beautifully reproduced by way of producers Andrew Keener and Phil Rowlands. A most distinctive release.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Op. 109: Annie Fischer (EMI); Op. 126: Alfred Brendel (Philips), Op. 119: Rudolf Serkin (Sony), Op. 101: Igor Levit (Sony); Claudio Arrau (Philips, analog recording)

    Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major Op. 109; Bagatelles Op. 126; Bagatelles Op. 119; Piano Sonata No. 28 in A major Op. 101
  • Ishay Shaer (piano)

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