Special piano recital

Paul Lewis, Snape Proms, August 16ANY recital by Paul Lewis is almost certainly guaranteed to be a special event, and Thursday's prom, where he performed the last three piano sonatas of Beethoven was no exception.

Paul Lewis, Snape Proms, August 16

ANY recital by Paul Lewis is almost certainly guaranteed to be a special event, and Thursday's prom, where he performed the last three piano sonatas of Beethoven was no exception. The last discs of Lewis' complete cycle of Beethoven's sonatas are due for release in the autumn, and this foretaste proved a richly rewarding experience.

The thread which makes these last three sonatas such a satisfactory programme, if one were needed, is the highly innovative form: the “classical forms” where they exist being much modified.

In the opus 109 sonata in E, for instance, the opening vivace alternates with an adagio; as likewise the fugue and arioso in the last movement of opus 110, and both opus 109 and the 111 end tranquilly with a slow movement.

One of the reasons Lewis' readings were so satisfactory was his ability to knit together seamlessly the sometimes episodic, almost improvisatory, quality of the music, as in the perfect balance he achieved between vivace and adagio in opus 109, the demisemiquavers of the latter perfectly controlled. Likewise the continuity in the adagio before the arioso in 110 and the measured playing of the fugue which followed. There was no shortage of dramatic power where necessary as the first movement of opus 111 bore witness, and the slow movements of the first and last sonatas were the high points in this splendid recital.

Frank Cliff

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