MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around

and more.. and still writing ...


Search MusicWeb Here


Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer

International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Salon Treasures from the Max Jaffa Library



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

August 2022

Louis Caix d'Hervelois

orchestral songs



String Quartets

la folia



July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

Horneman Alladin
Horneman Alladin

Stojowski piano concertos
Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Vaughan Williams on Brass

Yi Lin Jiang - Dualis I



Support us financially by purchasing this from
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 Hammerklavier (1817-18) [43:45]
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 Moonlight (1801) [14:17]
Chorus of the Whirling Dervishes and Turkish March from The Ruins of Athens, Op. 113 (1811-12) (arr. Alessio Bax) [4:15]
Alessio Bax (piano)
rec. Wyastone Concert Hall, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK, 17-19 January 2014

According to his note in the CD booklet, Alessio Bax has lived with the Hammerklavier Sonata, the Everest of piano sonatas, for nearly twenty years. That means he would have been about age 17 when he first played it. Quite a feat, I would say and one that he proves to have mastered in this new recording. This behemoth is both technically and intellectually challenging and only the greatest of pianists have really conquered it. The recording of the sonata with which I first became acquainted was that by Rudolf Serkin. That performance on Sony is still magnificent even if today’s pianists find it easier to play than some of their illustrious predecessors did. Another such pianist, the young Igor Levit, has also made quite a name for himself in this work and the other later Beethoven piano sonatas. I did a comparison of the two pianists and find that their interpretations complement one another. Levit seems more straightforward, while Bax displays more tempo variety and emphasizes the dramatic elements. I don’t want to make too much of this and can say that both pianists excel in this mammoth piece. In all but the second movement Scherzo Bax takes longer than Levit: the first movement for Bax lasts 10:59 and for Levit 10:18, while Bax completes the third movement in 18:50 and Levit in 17:14. When listening to them side by side the overall tempos do not seem that different, but Bax has more give and take. The pause near the beginning of the first movement is quite a bit longer with Bax, but it only adds to the drama. I am also impressed with Bax’s dazzling finger-work in the finale’s fugue. If I want to nit-pick, I would wish for more bass — more of the left hand — to come through at times. Overall, though, I find this performance hugely stimulating both technically and emotionally.

It is quite a switch to the Moonlight Sonata, but again Bax excels here, too, by playing the work simply and beautifully. The first movement may be on the fast side, but it flows nicely and the Allegretto second movement is at just the right tempo with sufficient lightness and lift. For me this movement is much more satisfying than in Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s rendition, which seems heavy and pedantic in comparison. Bax then tears into the finale, no holds barred, and yet one can hear the individual notes well. This is certainly a refreshing take on one of the piano’s warhorses.

Bax ends his “recital” with two encores, which he has arranged from Beethoven’s The Ruins of Athens: both the Chorus of the Whirling Dervishes and the famous Turkish March come up well in his arrangements and conclude the disc on a note of fun. One could say that Bax’s programme goes “from the sublime to the ridiculous,” and that is meant as a compliment. I hope that Alessio Bax will now give us more Beethoven and especially the other “late” sonatas.

Signum’s production values also leave little to be desired. In addition to Bax’s own note in the CD booklet, there is a lucid discussion of the sonatas, with musical examples, by Patrick Castillo.  

Leslie Wright