Beethoven: Piano sonatas/Oppitz

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 5

Like his one-time teacher Wilhelm Kempff, Gerhard Oppitz plays Beethoven’s Op. 22 sonata wonderfully well. Oppitz’s brisk pacing and characterful accents certainly define the first movement’s “con brio” countenance, emphasizing its almost Rossini-like melodicism and humor. Lyrical warmth permeates the pianist’s amply textured Adagio, and while his curvaceous inflections convincingly enliven the Menuetto, similar gestures convey a slightly arch impression in the Rondo finale. Unfortunately, the diffuse and distant engineering that typifies both this release and others in Oppitz’s Beethoven cycle for Hänssler is anything but easy on the ear. In fact, it often renders the rapid scales, arpeggios, and rotary passages throughout the Waldstein and Appassionata as great big blurry gobs, supplanted by occasional metallic jangling and a foot stomp or two (the Waldstein’s Prestissimo coda, for instance). To paraphrase Mark Twain’s comments vis-à-vis Wagner, the pianist’s stylish, conscientious, and fluent interpretations may be better than they sound. And that’s a shame, because this cycle’s high points represent Oppitz’s finest playing on disc.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Op. 22: Kempff (DG), Op. 53: Hungerford (Artemis), Op. 57: Richter (RCA)

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN - Piano Sonatas No. 11 in B-flat Op. 22; No. 23 in C Op. 53 (“Waldstein”); & No. 23 in F minor Op. 57 (“Appassionata”)

  • Gerhard Oppitz (piano)

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