Wednesday 10th December 2014

Beethoven – Sonata No. 22 in F major, Op. 54
Beethoven – Sonata No.23 in F minor, Op.57 [Appassionata] Bruno Mantovani – Le Livre de Jeb
Ravel – Miroirs
Bartok – Sonata for Piano


Virtuoso Magic at the Ilkley Concert Club

The concert began with a moving tribute from the club’s president David Pyett to the composer Arthur Butterworth, a great friend of Ilkley music, who died recently. Then on stage came Jean-Efflam Bavouzet to play a non-standard programme of nineteenth to twenty-first century music. He began with the rarely heard Beethoven op.54 sonata, beautifully phrased with many magic moments, the whole thing wonderfully alive.

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Then he spoke at length and most engagingly about Le Livre de JEB by his friend Bruno Mantovani. His committed performance of this took us into a different musical world that is unfamiliar I suspect to many audience members who are not followers of New Music. The performance held their attention throughout with its fascinating exploration of the resources of the modern concert grand. In his talk M. Bavouzet had stressed the importance of the work’s structure and this was born out in the way we were led on an aural journey that ended just where it should and just as it should.

Back to Beethoven – an incandescent performance of the Appassionato sonata with spell-binding control of its many dramatic moments. This pianist is a risk-taker, never more so than in the finale’s Presto coda. In contrast was the central slow movement, taken at a good flowing tempo. It showed his skill in cantabile playing, real poetry here.

The concert revealed many marvellous aspects of this renowned artist’s playing (how lucky we are in Ilkley to be able to attract world-famous musicians of this calibre). But above all, and more even than his astounding technical facility, was the range of colours that he was able to produce from what might seem to be a monochrome instrument, notwithstanding the excellence of our halls’ Steinway We had already met these colours before the interval but what came after was even more dazzling whether in the subtle sound palette of Ravel’s Miroirs or the much more earthy folksong and dance inspired world of Bartók’s Sonata. Some Enchanted Evening!


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Recommended Recordings



M. Bavouzet is recording all the Beethoven Piano Sonatas for Chandos, and the first two volumes have been released to critical acclaim. The third volume, which should be released soon, contains Sonatas Nos. 22 and 23. Should you wish to buy the Sonatas now, I can recommend Nicolai Lugansky on a medium priced Erato CD-2564633472, which contains Sonatas Nos. 7, 14, 22, 23. An excellent alternative, if not quite as well recorded, is performed by Sviatoslav Richter on Decca 475 8124 (2 discs at medium price), and contains Sonatas Nos.19-23 and 30-32.

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Bruno Mantovani

No commercial recordings appear to have been made.


M. Bavouzet’s recording of the complete Piano Works is superb, and very well recorded on MDG 604 1190-2 (2 discs at medium price). There is an excellent cheap alternative by Jean-Philippe Collard on EMI/Warner 5860612. The recording quality is not quite as good as the Bavouzet, but perfectly satisfactory.


A very cheap Brilliant Classics 2 disc set of Bartók Piano Works has the first disc shared between Zoltan Kocis and Andras Schiff, with the former playing the Sonata. The second disc, which is naturally less well recorded, has Bela Bartók himself playing selections from his Mikrokosmos. As an alternative, the very reliable Jeno Jandó plays the Sonata with other Bartók works, on Naxos 8.554717 (upper budget price).

Raymond Waud

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