Alfred Brendel, Maurizio Pollini: Part 1

For a while now I’ve been eager to get a good recording of Moonlight Sonata, since the one I’ve had thus far is entirely unsatisfactory. So today I searched for recordings of Sonata 14 on iTunes, and I found two albums whose reviews and ratings warranted a purchase – an album by the Austrian pianist Alfred Brendel, and another by the Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini. Brendel’s album consists of Piano Sonatas 14 (“Moonlight”), 8 (“Pathetique”), 23, and 26; Mollini’s of 13, 14, and 15.

I downloaded Pollini’s album first. It was good, satisfying, and impressive, but he played it a little too fast for my ears. I like to “dwell” in the piece – slow down the tempo. So next I downloaded Brendel’s album. I believe he plays it slower, or slows it down more at key parts, and I found it much more stirring. But what I wasn’t expecting was to be completely blown away by another piece – Brendel’s performance of Piano Sonata no. 8, popularly called “Pathetique”. I would be asleep right now if I weren’t so addicted to this piece – I decided to go to sleep when Sonata 8 came on, and then I couldn’t stop listening, so I figured I would write this blog post while the first movement played.

But the first movement is now over, and the second isn’t quite as gripping, nor is the start of the third – so I am free to go. When I am less tired (it is 1 am and I am exhausted) I would like to write my reaction to Brendel’s performances of no. 8 and 14. The experience of listening to no. 8 is something like a uniform bliss; however, I am ashamed to say (as I think it probably reflects on my own scant knowledge of classical music) that I find Moonlight Sonata to be a little redundant in the third movement… it’s almost as if the score is being replayed several times. I will ask my guru pianist roommate what he thinks of my perceived “redundancy” and write that into my follow-up post.

Until part 2, au revoir, imaginary audience!

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