The E-major Piano Sonata by Joseph Wölfl (1773-1812) is a terrific introductory piece – of energy, big gestures, engaging invention, and with an attractive if brief slow movement that holds the ear by not doing the obvious. The Finale is very catchy, smile-inducing, played nimbly and with relish by Jean-Efflam Bavouzet.
Of the other Sonatas embraced here by the titular “The Beethoven Connection”, that by Clementi (A-major, Opus 50/1, dedicated to Cherubini whom Beethoven much-admired) packs many glittering notes into a scholarly design, the deepest emotions expressed being in the central Adagio sostenuto e patetico, whereas the Finale flies off the page.
Sonatas by Hummel and Dussek complete Bavouzet’s recital – the former’s F-minor example (Opus 20) covers a lot of emotional ground, and Czech-born Jan Ladislav Dussek’s two-movement work (F-sharp minor, Opus 61, Élégie harmonique sur la mort de son Altesse Royale le prince Louis-Ferdinand de Prusse) laments in the relatively lengthy Lento patetico, which rises in eloquence and agitation, while the Finale is of serious intent, gruffly Beethovenian.
This eighty-three minute release, graced by two booklet essays, one by the pianist, culminates with “Musical illustrations” played by Bavouzet, without words, related to the pieces just heard and with Beethoven comparisons (of course, you could start there). Recorded in Potton Hall just before last Christmas, producer Rachel Smith and engineer Jonathan Cooper do a sterling job, the background is noise-free, the piano ripely tangible: ergo this enjoyable and enlightening collection is highly recommended – on Chandos CHAN 20128.