Classical CD Reviews

BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major, “Hammerklavier”; Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor – Dina Ugorskaja, p. – BR Klassik

We might suspect we hear the natural heir of Russian legend Tatiana Nikolayeva in Ms. Ugorskaja, whose powerful and poetic approach to Beethoven proves remarkably poignant.

Published on December 17, 2012

BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major, “Hammerklavier”; Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor – Dina Ugorskaja, p. – BR Klassik

BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major, Op. 106 “Hammerklavier”; Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111 – Dina Ugorskaja, piano – BR Klassik 8553256, 73:59 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:

Resembling the actress from “House,” Lisa Edelstein, Munich-based pianist Dina Ugorskaja (b. 1973) enjoys the pedagogical benefits of her father, Anatol Ugorski, and teachers Nerine Barrett, Andras Schiff, and Edith Picht-Axenfeld. But casting aside personalities and celebrity status, Ugorskaja definitely brings majesty and poetry to bear on two of Beethoven’s most daunting sonatas, the 1819 Hammerklavier and the fearsome C Minor from 1822.

In each case, Ugorskaja exhibits (rec. November 2011) the supple strength and muscularity of phrase to embrace the demands – physical as well as emotional – these works impose upon the most seasoned interpreter.  When we hear Ugorskaja’s clarity of line and capacity to balance intensely chromatic and contrapuntal passages, we might be witness to the natural Russian heir in Beethoven of the legendary Tatiana Nikolayeva, especially since Ugorskaya can project as much by way of diaphanous sonority and crystalline textures as she musters sheer virile girth. For the Hammerklavier Sonata, the liquidly-sensitive development of the opening “fanfare” materials of the first movement leave us virtually unprepared for the colossal momentum Ugorskaja achieves later, both in the lithe middle section of the Assai vivace, Presto second movement and in the titanic fugue that pays homage to Bach and beyond. That something of Rudolf Serkin’s legacy – via Nadine Berrett -  infiltrates Ugorskaja’s digital and intellectual concept of the music, with its potent percussion balanced by interior voicings of refreshed lucidity, proves entirely persuasive. The joyous bouncing interplay of the phrases and abbreviated affects of the C Minor’s labyrinthine Arietta movement testifies to a vivid arsenal of keyboard techniques at Ugorskaja’s command. Her trill alone would garner respect from the most devoted Serkin proselyte.

What I admire in these renditions of two “profound” Beethoven sonatas remains Ugorskaja’s inner serenity of spirit, despite the music’s occasional manic velocities and descents into personal abysses. The gradual evolution of the C Minor Arietta’s late variarions into a distant E-flat Major, only to be reconciled into a glowing C Major strikes us with the cool clarity of line Ugorskaja projects, as if she could connect this music with Au Lac du Wallenstadt by Liszt and the water music of Ravel.   On the other hand, whatever consolation G Major might bring in the otherworldly Adagio in the Hammerklavier soon yields to unholy suggestions in F-sharp Minor, as though Beethoven, too, could ask, “Why has Thou forsaken me?” In passing, we hear carillon bells and allusions to Beethoven’s own sets of bagatelles. So many of the Beethoven musical kernels are built on rising and falling thirds, and this intervalic glue makes its “tragic” potential felt when, some seven and one-third minutes into the Adagio of the Hammerklavier, we hear the very stuff of the Brahms E Minor Symphony first movement. That I happened to audition this profoundly effective disc on 16 December, Beethoven’s birthday,  only adds to the thoughtful pause this music imparted as an introduction to Ms. Ugorskaja, a pianist who has made her mark.

—Gary Lemco




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