Beethoven: Piano sonatas, Rondo/Panenka

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 6

Pianist Jan Panenka is best known as a member of the Suk Trio, where his solid technique and sensitive musicianship never went unnoticed. Three Beethoven sonata recordings from 1968 reveal Panenka the solo pianist to be a forthright, honest, somewhat small-scaled interpreter. His rather matter-of-fact traversal of the Op. 14 No. 2 sonata’s finale robs the scale passages of their quirky tension and misses the humor behind the silences. At least he favors a brisk tempo for the E major Op. 14 No. 1’s central movement that truly conveys the music’s Allegretto countenance.

Yet there’s little heroic sweep to the “Les Adieux” sonata’s blazing outer movements. For example, Panenka executes the Finale’s rapid downward scales with no pedal, and the results sound picky and schoolmasterish next to the fluid bravura of, say, Arrau, Moravec, Goode, or, best of all, Schnabel. Within Panenka’s limited dynamic parameters the G major Rondo is nimble and incisive, albeit more of a “fume and fret” over the lost penny as opposed to Schnabel’s unvarnished, slobbering rage! The remastered sound is fine, but watch out for louder moments in “Les Adieux” where the close miking results in a piano tone that’s metallic, dry, and downright ugly.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Sonatas: Goode (Nonesuch), Kempff (DG)

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN - Piano Sonatas Op. 14 Nos. 1 & 2; Piano Sonata Op. 81a ("Les Adieux"); Rondo a capriccio in G Op. 129 ("Rage over a Lost Penny")

  • Jan Panenka (piano)

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