Title: Magnificent Obsession Vol. 6: Beethoven Sonatas
Artist: Sebastian Forster
Release Date: 2015 Apr 21
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Sebastian Forster is obsessed with the Beethoven Piano Sonata’s, and that’s a good thing for all of us who love these works, and really want to have them in an affordable package. There are actually ten releases in total, containing all thirty-two piano sonatas. Volume Seven was just released, but for now we’ll focus on Volume Six.
Sebastian Forster: Magnificent Obsession Vol 6
This release focuses on two of the longer middle works by Beethoven: Piano Sonata No 18 (Hunt) and Piano Sonata No 21 (Waldstein), and is pair with two shorter, earlier sonatas: No 19 and No 20. While the numbering is sequential in order, this is due to the publication dates of the works, and not the actual composition dates.
Piano Sonata No. 21 is known as being one of the most demanding works by Beethoven for the Rondo section of the third movement. In fact, many players tend to use a simplified version of the score in order to approach it’s demanding technique. However, Forster is not such a musician. His skills and abilities being forth an ability to interpret Beethoven’s work in a manner that is crisp and clear.
He is perfectly at home with the heroic period of Beethoven’s composition. (This was also the same period in which the composer penned Symphony No. 3, the Heroic Symphony.) He starts the first movement of all of the bravado and brashness the work demands. However, it never becomes overbearing on the listener, and soon we find that Forster also finds the intricacies of the inner portion of the movement as an enlightenment on the outer portions of the movement.
The second movement, while designed to be a slower, more reflective presentation of the themes of the work leave Forster the space to explore the love theme within as it is transformed into the theme of the hero, with much of the same love and passion as the first movement. Third movement builds from the pianissimo opening, with it’s swift build to fortissimo over extremely fast scales in the left hand. The second theme is interrupted by a turbulent A minor sections that foreshadows the central episode. Much of the technique of shifting from C major to C minor is one that Beethoven adopted more to his larger works (such as the Emperor Piano Concerto). The final section picks up the main theme and transitions it through three different keys before returning to C major for the finale in which several themes through the work are picked back up before moving into a final Prestissimo coda before ending in a final rush of grandeur.
The ability of Forster to bring out many shades of emotion and color throughout this work is wonderfully gratifying to listen to, and reinforces the excellent interpretations of the other sonatas on this release. With recordings of this clarity, and exemplary technical ability, and beautiful interpretation this is a series of recordings that any classical music fan should have in their collection.