Composers: Beethoven
Compositions: Piano Sonatas Nos. 22, 21, 10 and 1​
Performers: Angela Hewitt p
Catalogue Number:​ Hyperion CDA68220​

Angela Hewitt opens this random and, to me, curiously assembled, collection with Beethoven’s First Sonata with what can only be described as a “Mannheim Rocket” – a spectacular upward thrust beloved by the Mannheim School of composers to display the virtuosic prowess of their eponymous ensemble. She makes it reminiscent of the last movement of Mozart’s penultimate symphony. The first movement sounds comparatively business-like.

In the Op 14 No 2 Hewitt’s second movement theme and variations aren’t quite as sunny as other pianists’. She seems more at home in the even sunnier Op 54, where she brings out the work’s essential innocence and makes the final second movement a virtual perpetuum mobile.

In the mighty Waldstein, Hewitt set me thinking just how much more powerfully expressive this work was than almost any solo keyboard work preceding it. She makes the first movement a kaleidoscope of contrasts: the stern first subject followed by the long-breathed, more tender second subject, the tiny “buffer zone” slow movement a world of its own, preparing the listener for the next universe of sound and containing the same sort of suspense as in the transition passage between the third and last movements of the Fifth Symphony. With the glorious coalescence of the final movement Hewitt made me finally realise why the French have always insisted on calling the sonata L’Aube (The Dawn).

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