No prizes for predicting that this Liszt B minor Sonata is technically flawless and beautifully structured. What may come as more of a shock (though not to those who have followed Pollini's career closely) is its sheer passion. To say that he plays as if his life depended on it is an understatement, and those who regularly accuse him of coolness should sit down in a quiet room with this recording, a decent hi-fi system and a large plateful of their own words. The opening creates a sense of coiled expectancy, without recourse to a mannered delivery such as Brendel's on Philips, and Pollini's superior fingerwork is soon evident. His virtuosity gains an extra dimension from his ability at the same time to convey resistance to it—the double octaves are demonstrably a fraction slower than usual and yet somehow feel faster, or at least more urgent. There is tensed steel in the very fabric of the playing. By the two-minute mark so much passion has been unleashed one is bound to wonder if it has not all happened too soon. But that is to underestimate Pollini's unerring grasp of the dramatic structure and its psychological progression from paragraph to paragraph; it is also to underestimate his capacity to find extra technical resources when it would seem beyond the power of flesh and blood to do so.
This boxed set reassembles largely analog material from existing Lyrita CDs under a new generic grouping. Dates and locations of recording sessions are not given. Lyrita seem always to have been reticent about those details. The sound is a model of its kind – Lyrita were always able to boast glorious sound. The freshly written liner-notes are by the authoritative and accessible Paul Conway and run to ten pages. These are not a simple retread of the original notes by other authors.
Things are not nearly as bad for the admirer or potential admirer of Stanford’s chamber music as they were a couple of decades ago. The Clarinet Sonata has had a good run for its money on disc and the two violin sonatas have been recorded, but much remained on the shelf. Now we have a three-CD box of the complete music for violin and piano from Alberto Bologni and Christopher Howell.
This important set contains the sixteen Beethoven sonatas that Wilhelm Kempff recorded for Grammophon in Germany between 1940 and 1943. Several are reissued here for the first time since their original release on 78rpm discs and none are currently available elsewhere. The sound is excellent for the period and all reveal the young Kempff at his best, in performances that compliment his later thoughts. The release is the companion of two previous APR releases of early Kempff Beethoven recordings the late sonatas (APR6018) and piano concertos 1, 3, 4 & 5 (APR6019), both of which received excellent reviews and were amongst APRs best sellers.