Stellar performance where intricate detail shone through
Beethoven Sonatas Programme Two
Municipal Theatre, Napier, Sunday March 24
Reviewed by Peter Williams, Hawkes Bay Today, 26/3/2013
Inevitably in a set of sonatas there are particular compositions which stand out for the unique quality of the writing. This factor has been the catalyst for the arrangements of the sonatas within each of the seven recitals encompassing the whole of the 32 Beethoven sonatas which Michael Houstoun is presenting this year in this ReCycle series.
Central to this programme was the Sonata in D minor, Op.31 No.2, commonly known as the Tempest. While not a nickname given by Beethoven, the sonata is aptly named because of its tempestuous nature, particularly of the first movement, with the continuous juxtaposition of tempi, harmonic changes, driving rhythmic motifs and extended melodies, all contained within the standard sonata form structure.
This was a stellar performance where all the intricate detail of the score was in place. The serenity achieved in the following Adagio movement, and the energy conveyed in the moto perpetuo style finale, all added to a memorable presentation of a great sonata.
A late period sonata, No.31 (sic) in A, Opus 101, where Beethoven seems ahead of his time in his exploration of the possibilities of the whole range of piano sound, again showed Houstoun's deep understanding of Beethoven's music. His skill in projecting the innate lyricism of the score with its complex rhythm, fugal structure and balance of the writing with its wide-ranging compass, was hugely impressive. The standing ovation which followed the playing was richly deserved.
The recital started with an engaging performance of one of the two technically easier sonatas, Sonata No. 20 (sic) in G minor, Op.49 No.1, the performance an ideal model for the numerous students present who may play this sonata.
In a sparkling performance of Sonata No.6 in F, Op.10 No.2, every rhythmic detail and expressive contrast was crystal clear in the open-textured outer movements. In the Sonata No.11 in B flat, Op.22, the inherent nobility and dynamic contrast of the score was certainly conveyed boldly.
(Minor details, but the sonata Op.101 is the 28th in the canon, and Op.49 No.1 is the 19th. MH)