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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 21 in C, “Waldstein” [26:01]
Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, “Appassionata” [24:40]
Piano Sonata No. 27 in E minor, Op. 90 [13:12]
Sequeira Costa (piano)
rec. 4-9 September, 1998, The Lied Center, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas
CLAUDIO RECORDS CB55722 [63:53]

Sequeira Costa’s Beethoven, at least in this volume, falls in the category “good but not great”. His Waldstein opens with a relaxed first movement that I find very easy to like, and is generally well-paced, but the transition from the slow midsection to the finale is quite literal. That slow section’s final note is much louder than usual, and the finale’s big tune unfolds with none of the hushed beauty that sets apart great recordings like those of Schnabel or Gilels.

The Appassionata is a similar combination of virtues and deficits. The first movement is expansive but atmospheric, a good blend; the slow movement’s variations, though, feel blocky. Costa has a hard time making transitions feel smooth and natural. The finale isn’t as exciting as the best versions, especially in a slightly too tame coda.

After these two epics one of my favorite sonatas, No. 27, does not feel shortchanged. It’s a very good performance, especially the first half, and if there’s any cause to quibble it’s with a slight lack of lyricism in the finale’s main tune.

These recordings were made in Kansas in the 1990s, and are good if not the last word in refinement. The piano is fairly cloudy in the highest frequencies, but this isn’t a big problem. Don’t expect your ears to bleed but don’t expect the state of the art either.

P.S. Odd trivia fact: his full name is José Carlos de Sequeira Costa, so the way he refers to himself professionally is a bit like if nobody ever said that Lloyd Webber’s first name was Andrew.

Brian Reinhart

Masterwork Index: Beethoven sonatas 21 & 23 ~~ Sonata 27

Note - the review copy was from the label of the Vianna Da Motta International Music Foundation (founded by Sequeira Costa) with a catalogue number of VMF-050299. However, the only available copies of the recording are now from Claudio Records.