- Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor ("Appassionata"), Op. 57
- Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor ("Moonlight"), Op. 27/2
- Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor ("Pathétique"), Op. 13
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The pianist Oleg Akkuratov, blind since birth, was already well known in Russia when this album appeared abroad in 2019 (it was recorded in 2017 at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, which has the right sonic scope but probably gave Akkuratov's high notes a brighter edge than he intended). Akkuratov was the subject of a Russian documentary film, and he is one of the very few pianists to have succeeded in both jazz and classical touring careers. He even placed second in a U.S. jazz competition that no Russian had ever entered before, and he sings jazz as well as playing piano. All that said, this group of extremely frequently played Beethoven sonatas marks his classical piano debut recording, on the venerable Russian label Melodiya, no less. It is a pleasure to be able to report that Akkuratov lives up to the hype and more. He could have played it safe with these sonatas, like many another young pianist, or picked the usual Russian repertory. Instead, he accomplishes the considerable task of devising fresh readings of the three most famous piano sonatas of all time. Sample the first movement of the "Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op 13 (Pathétique)" for an idea of Akkuratov's general approach: he introduces just a bit of tempo flexibility that enables him to explore the motivic structure of the movement in great detail. The syncopation that is the movement's central feature is not overemphasized at the start but introduced neutrally and then reshaped in all the various ways in which it appears. In the "Piano Sonata No. 23 in F sharp minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata)," Akkuratov achieves a remarkably flexible flow that builds up to an exceptionally powerful finale. The "Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op 27, No. 2 (Moonlight)," is different: Akkuratov treats it as an entr'acte and takes the logical but rare step of extending the clear, transparent texture of the famous first movement through the other two. Remarkably mature and very exciting, these performances embody far more than a pianist riding the age-old mystique of the blind musician. Highly recommended.