Review by canonical February 16, 2010 (6 of 7 found this review helpful)
|This might be a single disc, but it is really two different recordings, in two different halls, at two different times, of two distinct musical forms.
Part 1: Early Beethoven Solo works
Recorded: August 2009 Dortmund
The repertoire here is early Beethoven (1794-1797), some of which is new to my collection. The SACD includes:
* Allegretto in C minor Hess 69
* Rondo in C Op 51 No.1
* Prelude in F minor WoO 55 (a dark and brooding brilliant gem!)
* Piano Sonata WoO 51: Allegro and Adagio - see for instance: http://www.raptusassociation.org/woo51e.html
* Rage over a Lost Penny Op. 129
In the above, WoO numbers refer to the German acronym WoO (Werk ohne Opuszahl) meaning a 'work without an opus number' as given in the Kinsky-Halm catalogue. Hess numbers refer to additional works listed in the catalogue by Willy Hess that are not in the Kinsky-Halm catalogue.
The Sony SACD piano sound has a lovely zingy bass, and yet a softer 'distant' quality. Stadtfeld has a light delicate touch where appropriate, and equally some uber sturm und drang when needed, as in the absolutely magnificent Prelude in F minor WoO 51. There is, however, some slight unevenness in Stadtfeld's ornamentation in the Rondo, which suggests that slower tempi might be appropriate. Indeed, I think his Rondo No.1 is too rushed by any measure, to the extent that musical virtue is lost. In this regard, I distinctly prefer the version with the American pianist Russell Sherman on Redbook CD (6min10sec vs 4min53sec for Stadtfeld). The Allegretto, the fabulous Prelude and the Adagio are all splendid. On balance, the solo repertoire is a very fine recording of unusual early Beethoven repertoire, and comes highly recommended.
Part 2: Beethoven Piano Concerto No.2
Recorded: November 2008 (Dresden)
I don't feel this rendition of Beethoven No.2 has much to say: while the piano sound is pure, the orchestral sound is oddly bland, strident and muffled, and the orchestral accompaniment is frankly mediocre. The orchestral ensemble work is sometimes patchy/sloppy, with irritatingly overdone musical sighs from the strings that are almost student-like in their conception: these moaning 'sighs' appear throughout the first mvmt, with more of the same in the third movement. I think Martin would have had a more successful SACD sticking to solo repertoire. For Beethoven 2, on SACD, I would go with Kissin (even though the sonics of the latter are nothing too special). The highlight of the concerto is Martin's own original cadenza to the first movt (track 7), with some fun fugal ideas. These ideas could have been more fully developed - the net result is thematically choppy, and sometimes even a bit Chopiny, but it's nevertheless new and interesting and different and fun and exciting .. which is exactly what a cadenza should be.
The final work ... a sort of bonus ... is the lieder Adelaide Op .46 with tenor Marcus Ullmann. At the risk of false generalisation, ... young turk solo pianists don't usually tend to make good accompanists ... and indeed this final track sounds, at least the way it has been recorded, as a work written for piano, with tenor accompanist in the background. And even then, I was not overly enamoured with the tenor's rendition, nor the frontal nature of the piano. So why include it? Or the piano concerto? In designing a programme of early Beethoven works to fill out a disc, there are many more logical inclusions, including the second Rondo Op.51, or one of the early Piano sonatas.
The Concerto probably warrants a 2 or 3 for performance, as does the Adelaide lieder.
The rest of the disc (solo piano) is super and easily deserves 4 and half stars.
My inclination: enjoy the disc the way it should have been correctly conceived ... as an excellent solo album by a very talented pianist ... and just ignore the rest.
Resolution: not stated??
Programme notes: in German only
Super Jewel Box: YES
Performance: 4.5 stars (solo piano); ... 2 and a half stars (the rest)
Recording: 4.5 stars (solo piano); ... 3 stars (the rest)
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