Over the coming three weeks, Austrian pianist Rudolph Buchbinder will perform all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. It’s a challenge that carries dangers, especially as so many pianists have scaled their heights before. So what can Buchbinder offer that is either new or simply relevant to the cause?
His opening recital in the elegant barrel-vaulted neoclassicism of the Playfair Library Hall in Edinburgh University’s Old College, left the question unanswered, but still one we should be curious to follow with interest.
Buchbinder laid out his stall with an opener that packaged the early F major (Op2 No1) with the hybrid 2-movement F sharp major (Op78), and the D minor (Tempest) and E flat major from the three Op 31 sonatas.
I’m rather hopeful the gravitas he invested in the Tempest, and the spirited fortitude that found its inevitable release in the brilliant closing presto, will inform later recitals. Otherwise, there was a matter-of-factness in the Op2 sonata, and an occasional messiness in the beautifully elusive Op78 that let the performances down.
It remains to be seen whether external street noise will prove an ongoing irritation. And did we really need an encore, especially from another sonata?
Playfair Library Hall
Published in The Scotsman on 10 August 2015
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