Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 30, Op. 109 [18:33]
Piano Sonata No. 31, Op. 110 [19:03]
Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111 [26:49]
Eric Le Sage (piano)
rec. 2-10 January 2012, Philharmonic Concert Hall, Liège, Belgium
ALPHA 607 [64:25]

This is Eric Le Sage’s best recording yet. He has finally learnt how to add sensitivity and contrast to his usual fleet, virtuosic, speedy style. The old Le Sage would have burned through Sonata No. 32’s first movement in near-record time, but the new pianist does that and then delivers as soft, beautiful and refined an arietta as we’ve heard in years.

Contrast is a new watch-word. Le Sage does not do half-measures. He throws himself into the opening of Sonata No. 30 with dazzling abandon, and in the finale he successfully catches the wide swings between the variations. No. 31 is notable for a relatively quick, clear-eyed aria and fugue which nevertheless achieves transcendence. The overall effect of Eric Le Sage’s playing: no fussiness, no showboating, just pure Beethoven. This playing is so direct, it’s easy to get caught up and swept away, which is a hindrance if you are trying to review it.

Le Sage can also be heard in various other recordings including Fauré for Alpha, Poulenc for BMG-RCA and Connesson for Chandos.

He has been invited to perform the works of Schumann at various distinguished venues including the Louisiana Museum of Arts in Denmark for a 10-concert series, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Salle Pleyel, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, the Schumann Festival in Düsseldorf, La Roque d’Anthéron, la Folle Journée, St Magnus Festival and the Warsaw Beethoven Festival for the Schumann year.

Eric Le Sage previously recorded all of Schumann’s piano music completing that project in 2010. These are available now in a big, cheap box from Alpha. My friends and colleagues are sharply divided about that set: he plays things quickly, with a bit of clatter sometimes, and didn’t always sufficiently characterize Schumann’s darker, more melancholy side.

Clearly the pianist has grown and matured, or Beethoven’s three great sonatas have inspired the performer to new levels. This album is fantastic. Sound quality is what you would expect from a 2012 production, recorded in an orchestral hall but closely enough that you can’t tell.

Brian Reinhart


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