Classical CD Reviews

BEETHOVEN – “Moto perpetuo” = Piano Sonatas – Javier Perianes, piano – Harmonia mundi

Spanish piano virtuoso Perianes casts brilliant lights upon four Beethoven sonatas whose motor elements prove as compelling as their lyrical and dramatic energies.

Published on October 17, 2012

BEETHOVEN – “Moto perpetuo” = Piano Sonatas – Javier Perianes, piano – Harmonia mundi

BEETHOVEN – “Moto perpetuo” = Piano Sonata No. 12 in A-Flat Major, Op. 26 “Funeral March”; Piano Sonata No. 22 in F Major, Op. 54; Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor, Op. 31, No. 2 “The Tempest”; Piano Sonata No. 27 in E Minor, Op. 90 – Javier Perianes, piano – Harmonia mundi HMC 902138, 69:55 ****:

Spanish pianist Javier Perianes (b. 1978) impresses as a natural Beethoven pianist par excellence. Given the splendid nature of the recording (December 2011) from the Teldex Studio, Berlin under the supervision of sound engineer Martin Litauer, perhaps it is little wonder that the Beethoven ethos has been so sumptuously reproduced in vibrant colors. The premise of the disc relies on the illusion of “perpetual motion” with which Beethoven experimented in several of his keyboard sonatas, the succession of notes in their various movements approximating the mechanical illusion that the laws of thermodynamics might be temporarily suspended by the sheer life-force propelling the forward energy.

Perianes opens with the 1801 Sonata in A-flat Major, none of whose movements conform to sonata-allegro format. The rich textures of the first movement, the 3/8 Andante con variazioni offer Perianes numerous moments for nuance and dramatic power. Beethoven then reverts to the fast-slow-fast structure, the ¾ Scherzo ablaze with deft wit in shifting accents alternating between A-flat and D-flat.  The Funeral March in the tonic minor asks Perianes to thrust and retreat in a manner that well presages the Eroica Symphony’s own funeral march. The eponymous “moto perpetuo” occurs in the last movement Allegro, a brilliantly fleet explosive rondo in A-flat Major. In a performance of singular intensity, Perianes declares himself a pianist in the mode of a youthful Sviatoslav Richter.

The 1804 Sonata No. 22 in F in two movements brings another aspect of Beethoven’s mammoth personality to the fore, his rambunctious wit. Its In tempo di minuetto contrapuntal excursions find an eerie balance in simple parlando episodes that end with a turn or liquid trill. The dynamics surge forth then immediately simmer down almost placidly, but with a nervous wink that can flare up in a heartbeat. A constantly changing harmonic palette marks the final movement, an Allegretto whose “moto perpetuo” inserts odd chords and doubled octaves. Among the most “knotty” of Beethoven structures, it presents no less a miracle of harmonic and contrapuntal compression, quite virtuosic and  executed with vibrant flair by Perianes. The volatile opening movement of the 1802 D Minor Sonata, with its improvisatory arpeggio, Largo, and answering forceful Allegro become quite gripping as Perianes explores their passionate, tempestuous alternations. The B-flat Major Adagio hardly lightens the overcast mood, especially given its broken melodic pattern and its martial, almost obsessive, bass ostinato. The “moto perpetuo” comes in the liquid figures of the final Allegretto, in unrelieved eighths and a four-note motto that Czerny insisted had been inspired to Beethoven by a passing horseman. Perianes’ pearly play here compels repeated auditions and impatient hopes that he will continue his Beethoven surveys.

The lovely yet elusive E Minor Sonata (1814) concludes the exploration of “moto perpetuo,” here embedded in a two-movement work whose motor compression in the opening, skittering Allegro concentrates on a falling semitone, G to F-sharp. The last movement simply inverts the pattern into E-F-sharp-G-sharp to structure a rondo theme played four times that harkens to the opening movement in variegated cyclic form. If played, as by Senor Perianes, “not too fast, singing,” the Rondo movement does move perpetually but in cantabile protean constellations of exquisite tenderness and lyrical beauty. Highly recommended!

—Gary Lemco




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