Piano Sonata in D minor, Op.31/2 (Tempest)
Piano Sonata in E flat, Op.31/3
Piano Sonata in F minor, Op.57 (Appassionata)
Ingrid Fliter (piano)
Reviewed by: Andrew Maisel
Reviewed: 7 June, 2011
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall
The three Opus 31 sonatas arose out of the deepest despair for Beethoven with his love for a young woman having come to nothing and, even worse, his hearing was beginning to fail. These works highlight the composer’s emotional turbulence and the new musical direction he was determined to embark on. ‘The Tempest offers perhaps the best example of this unrest Beethoven was living through with its stormy opening movement, the emotional outpourings of the Adagio and the feelings of uncertainty encapsulated by the closing diminuendo at the very end of the work. Fliter’s playing was graceful and fluid throughout with some beautifully transparent textures but it was all a little too polite. The impulsive allegros following were a little dulled rather than conveying a sense of anger or even fury. Momentum suffered through slow tempos in the middle movement, Fliter imposing herself on the music a little too much.
The well-mannered approach also marred the opening of the third Opus 31 piece. The disturbing sforzandos that punctuate the lightness were rather glossed over but from the second movement onwards the performance took wing. Seemingly from somewhere Fliter discovered the dynamic contrasts that had been lacking previously for playing of urgency and a sense of purpose. So we had a scherzo which positively bristled with energy, sudden fortissimos now having real impact. After a tender and beguiling Minuet, the galloping finale was in turns exuberant and unsettling as befitting the volatility of the writing.
Filter was fully in her stride for the ‘Appassionata’. This was a perfect example of how to achieve maximum results with the minimum of fuss. Tempos were well judged and nothing felt forced or rushed. There was judicious use of rubato and phrasing was subtly nuanced. The first movement exploded with conviction, the variations of the second one were carried off to perfection and the finale swept all before it.
Three encores followed, a polished Chopin Waltz and a Nocturne, closing with a Schubert Impromptu that was deliciously poetic.