Beethoven’s late piano sonatas burst open known boundaries. Challenge the listener. Demand the pianist to give his all. And open up new horizons to both of them. For there is a very special aura clinging to these works; an aura that one attempts to capture with terms such as esotericism, mysticism, spirituality, or radicalism. For otherwise, words fail us. This recording presents a combination of his Op. 101 and Op. 106, perhaps the boldest giants in Beethoven’s late works for the piano. And at the same time, it is the final release in Mari Kodama’s integral Beethoven cycle, which is now available.
After starting the recordings in 2003, Mari Kodama completed the final piece in 2013. Once again Ms. Kodama meets all expectations in the pursuit of these horizons, and she entirely takes on the challenge with the last instalment of her critically-acclaimed journey through this ever-fascinating cycle. It is then only fair that this feat is celebrated in the form of a collector’s item SACD box set with its larger-than-life surround sound. One can't have too many Beethoven sonata cycles in their library when the performance is this fabulous and the surround sound is just to die for.
Beethoven’s late piano sonatas burst open known boundaries. Challenge the listener. Demand the pianist to give his all. And open up new horizons to both of them. For there is a very special aura clinging to these works; an aura that one attempts to capture with terms such as esotericism, mysticism, spirituality, or radicalism. For otherwise, words fail us.
As Gramophone eloquently phrases it: ‘Never bearing down heavily on the music, Mari Kodama always allows Beethoven his own voice.' Mari Kodama says about this great achievement:
“First of all, I’d like to say that, for me, all 32 are absolute masterpieces. Through their great inner power and connotations of freedom and revolution, the extremely classical early sonatas already embody Beethoven’s character. Beethoven’s piano sonatas are a musical treasure of inestimable value. The more time I spend with them, regardless whether I’m playing them at the piano or reading them away from the piano, the more I discover. The greatest opportunity provided to me by the project was time itself. I had the time to think through my interpretations of a given work several times, so that I was able to view and illuminate it from different standpoints. The most exciting part was always when I considered the relationship between the works already recorded and those yet to be recorded.
“Immersing myself so deeply in Beethoven’s artistic world allowed me to realise what a visionary and how modern a thinker he truly was. Beethoven is often portrayed as a rigorous and strict composer who never smiled. But he was in fact a great exponent of humanity and justice. His music overflows with strength, spaciousness, warmth and humanity, without ever sacrificing the most exquisite whit and humour! Beethoven’s art is always with me. And that is a true gift.”
Beethoven Piano Sonatas - Mari Kodama plays the Beethoven Piano Sonatas
Interview with Mari Kodama - Mari Kodama talks about the recordings of Beethoven Piano Sonatas
Take a look at some of the glowing recent press coverage by some of the world's best known publications featuring PENTATONE's Beethoven Piano Sonatas edition.
"There seems to be a broad divergence of opinion with regard to Beethoven sonata interpretation, and a handful of pundits out there seem to be of the opinion that Ms. Kodama doesn’t inflict enough of her own character into her readings here. Here’s my opinion: hogwash! Mari Kodama obviously knows her Beethoven, and her readings are filled with superb technique and tons of emotion."
"Among the many qualities of this interpretation, two stand out in particular: first, the tempi, the importance of which is never denied. At first, some strike the ear, more accustomed to an automatic reaction that is almost a caricature – but none cast her particular approach into doubt. Mari Kodama’s sincerity of choice ends by convincing us. Second, the pianist never avoids harsh sounds – these ‘imperfections’ of detail that are completely Beethovian – nor does she look to exaggerate them: the colours she obtains recall as much Haydn (the simple expressiveness of Opus 26) as Stravinsky (the attacks in the ‘Hammerklavier”). Mari Kodama does not enclose Beethoven in an “Épinal” romanticism, but lets his music, this prodigy of history, slide into timelessness."
“Kodama is widely experienced and her performances of sonatas she calls ‘lyrical islands’ are graceful, fluent and musically transparent. Everything proceeds in a faultless flow of sound and in this sense her credentials are impeccable. Never bearing down heavily on the music, she always allows Beethoven his own voice.”
"With an air of authority yet a delicate touch, Kodama plays with passion and fire. Despite the similarities between the Sanata in G and the Sonata in E flat, Kodama offers clean and concise readings played with the air of a great artist. (…) Please do check out these releases. The playing is truly excellent and the sound is absolutely to die for.”