Beethoven 32: Vol 9 – Piano Sonatas Nos. 30-32
The final volume in pianist Boris Giltburg’s ambitious 9-volume work-through of all of Beethoven’s sonatas is yet another example of both the power of the work and the brightness of the musical personality – a wondrous pairing of composer and player here. All nine will be collected up in a box-set but it’s all most too much to consider them that way, though fine to have them. Or – in my case – to want to have them.
Listening to them and then contemplating them one album at a time makes the most sense though. For in the closing moments of just the second part of the first sonata here (No. 30) we have so much to take in; Giltburg’s fearsome technique and almost overwhelming narrative drive – and the relentless perfectionism and refinement. Here the composer was really – finally – at peace with this music and so aware of what the piano alone was capable of. And here we have a player so sure of that. Coming to this music centuries on and toppling it with his own bravura performance.
There are deeply tranquil passages too (the 12 minutes of Sonata No. 30’s closing movement is utterly sublime).
And the key changes allow for whole new worlds opening up, from E-Major across 30, to A-Flat Major for No. 31 and finally C. Minor for No. 32. In the middle of the album – as Giltburg works through No. 31 we are given such a spectrum of emotion. The joyous dexterity on display in the opening section, the determination of the middle section, still pretty, still engaging on every level but a noticeably tougher assignment for the player, and then way the tempest is stirred across the final passage of No. 31. This is masterclass stuff.
We hear the breathe and can feel the movement of the arms as No. 32 begins. There are peaks and valleys in this piece – a near career-summation in brief. And across the 17 minutes of the final section of this masterwork we feel Giltburg’s marathon ending.
Solo classical piano is one of my more recent listening joys. And this is truly moving, and utterly wonderful. What a project. And what an amazing effort to complete it. Such beautiful music. So well served here.