Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata No. 30 in E major Op.109 [18:37]
Sonata No. 31 in A flat major Op.110 [19:47]
Sonata No. 32 in C minor Op.111 [25:31]
Cédric Pescia (piano)
rec. 2009, Siemens-Villa, Berlin
CLAVES 50-2903 [64:09]
Although not reviewed by MusicWeb International when it was first issued in 2009, I was so impressed by this recording when I first heard it recently that I was anxious to spread the news.

Born 1976 in Lausanne, Cédric Pescia studied piano with Christian Favre, Dominique Merlet and Klaus Hellwig in Lausanne, Geneva and Berlin respectively. In 2002 he took first prize at the Gina Bachauer International Artists Piano Competition in Salt Lake City, USA. As well as fulfilling concert engagements in Europe, China, South America, North Africa and the USA, he is a founding member and artistic director of the Lausanne chamber music series "Ensemble en Scène". His love of chamber music has lead to collaborations with the violinist Nurit Stark. In 2012 he was appointed professor for piano at the Haute École de Musique de Genève.

I first heard a concert performance of these last three sonatas in London about twenty years ago, in magisterial accounts played by Maurizio Pollini. They left a powerful and overwhelming impression. This final trilogy boasts many sublime realizations on CD, among my favourites are those by Igor Levit, Alfred Brendel and Pollini. I have no hesitation in adding Cédric Pescia’s offering to this august list. He has a lofty vision, applying his formidable intellect and musicianship to the service of these works. He allows the music to flow naturally and speak for itself, not imposing his personality on it. He has obviously lived with these scores for a while, allowing them to mature, as his grasp of their structure and architecture is remarkable. This is playing which certainly commands attention.

The Sonata No.30 in E major Op.109 is agreeably paced. The opening movement has an improvisatory feel, and an underlying sense of logical. The Prestissimo, which follows, is rhythmically tight. Pescia handles the variation movement persuasively. The theme has an inward, luminous quality and simplicity, with the variations well-characterized.  There is a Youtube video of a full performance of Sonata 30 by Pescia.

Pescia’s opening of the A flat major Sonata is poised, with impeccable pointing of chords. There’s overall immaculate technical control, especially in the beautifully articulated and evenly distributed arpeggios, which form an integral part of the structure of the opening movement. The dark, sombre and brooding mood of the Adagio is full of doubt and despair, and the fugal section is expertly voiced.

In Op. 111, Pescia makes an effective contrast between the struggle and conflict of the opening movement and the serenity and transcendental qualities of the Arietta. In the first movement the contrapuntal lines are delineated with precision and power. The final movement is sublime in its realization, with the cumulative effects of each subsequent variation, each becoming more rhythmically complex, providing tension and drama as the movement progresses. The dotted ‘jazzy’ third variation is seductively brought off. At the end Pescia transports us to another world of peace, tranquillity and resignation.

The sound is immediate, and the piano is ideally positioned in the aural perspective, the Siemens-Villa acoustic conferring warmth and intimacy. The well-written booklet notes deserve more than a cursory mention. An added bonus is the presence of photos of the pianist, interspersed throughout. The recording is still available as a CD or can be obtained as a download.

I can think of no better advocate for these last three sonatas than Cédric Pescia.

Stephen Greenbank

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