Piano Sonata No. 9 in E major, Op. 14/1
Piano Sonata No. 19 in G minor, Op. 49/1
Piano Sonata No. 20 in G major, Op. 49/2
Piano Sonata No. 16 in G major, Op. 31/1
Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major ("Les Adieux"), Op. 81a
Angela Hewitt, in the midst of her Beethoven piano sonata cycle, here turns to works that, with the exception of the "Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, Op. 81a (Les adieux)," are not generally counted among the first rank of the Beethoven canon. Yet this is part of the charm and interest of the album: Hewitt's clean approach, shunning pedal and emphasizing line and voice leading, works especially well with the small and transitional works that make up most of the program: you get the feeling of entering into Beethoven's compositional thinking, in a way. Consider (and sample, perhaps the first movement of the "Piano Sonata No. 19 in G minor, Op. 49, No. 1") the two easy sonatas of "Op. 49," where every note is weighted with exceptional care. Few of the hundreds of performances available of these sonatas hold the listener's interest like these do. The entire "Piano Sonata No. 16 in G major, Op. 31, No. 1," with its brittle leaps and figurations, takes on its proper status in Hewitt's hands as an experimental work. The marquee attraction, the "Les adieux" sonata, may be a bit more problematical in Hewitt's largely unpedaled reading; it seems to lose the warmth that the program implies. Yet there is some historical support for Hewitt's approach, and at the very least it's a daring and original version of the work. She gets strong engineering support from Hyperion in the Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel in Dobbiaco, Italy, in a release that takes its place in what's becoming a major Beethoven statement.