Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
Piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat major, D. 960
Benjamin Moser's album of the final piano sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert is a product of the pianist's fascination with "late" works, of which these two pieces hold a special place of honor in his repertoire. The idea of leave-taking is evident in Beethoven's "Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111," particularly in the second movement's beatific closing pages, where the music suggests resignation and transfiguration. Less obvious are the moods in Schubert's "Piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat major, D. 960," where only the composer's awareness of his approaching death explains the work's enigmatic shifting between lucid calm and gloomier intimations of mortality. Moser's playing is measured and controlled, and there's little exaggeration in his tempos and dynamics, so he avoids making the music melodramatic. Still, there is a strong emotional engagement with the music that feels spontaneous, so Moser's touches of rubato and lingering over certain phrases seem natural and well-suited to these intensely expressive sonatas. Avi's recording is clear and vibrant, and all details in the music are perfectly audible.