- Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major ("Hammerklavier"), Op. 106
- Piano Sonata No. 3 in C major, Op. 2/3
What could one say to Markus Becker, the German pianist who made his solo recording debut with 10 volumes of the complete piano works of Max Reger in the late '90s and then followed that up with recordings of the piano works of Jan Dussek and George Antheil plus Bach's "Goldberg Variations"? The same thing one could say to Becker when he recorded Beethoven's gargantuan "Hammerklavier Sonata, Op. 106," in 2004: "Good luck and God bless you." But whatever the merits of Becker's Reger recordings, his Hammerklavier sounds much too close to Reger for comfort. The work itself, of course, is the biggest, the toughest, and, one could argue, the most Reger-esque of all Beethoven's sonatas, but despite the fact that Becker clearly has the technique and the temperament for the work and although his attack is clean, his tone is crisp, and his interpretation is clear, there's still something too like Reger about his performance. Perhaps it's the apparent dominance of the intellect over the emotions and of the fingers over the soul, but whatever it is, it makes Becker's Hammerklavier a bit too much to take. Amazingly enough, however, Becker's coupling of Beethoven's "C major Sonata, Op. 2/3," is altogether much more successful. Perhaps it's the lighter tone or slighter dimensions, but the work brings out a less strenuous and more playful side of Becker's character that suits the music admirably. CPO's digital sound is cool, but too distant and a bit harsh.