Mccawley on Beethoven critical delight
Thierry Ash | New York, USA | 12/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The `Pathétique' gets off to a real no-nonsense start, with the dynamics of the bold introduction acutely observed; McCawley sees Beethoven's ff marking in relation to the p marking, producing great depth of tone and provides us with a convincing intelligent and lyrical approach. His unaffected, songful reading of the famous slow movement is never sentimental or maudlin. The crisp finale again slightly underplays the sforzando accents, but he rightly waits (as do we the listener) for the final page to reach the climax, a stormy coda crowning the performance. The great `Les Adieux' Sonata receives a similarly authoritative reading. From the pensive, questioning opening motif (that so haunted Mahler) McCawley traverses the work's many mood swings with unique insight. In the haunting slow movement, with its daring harmonies, McCawley beautifully characterises the essence of Beethoven, and there is no want of thrilling virtuosity in the finale, marked Vivacissamente and delivered with deliciously masterful abandonment. The shorter items in this recital are also hugely enjoyable and to be noted. The little Andante, once destined as the slow movement of the `Waldstein' but famous in its own right as the Andante Favori, gets a suitably delicate reading at the outset leading to things hotting up nicely, particularly the athletic octaves about five and half minutes in. McCawley opens up the stops at the crucial moments whilst integrating the structure, and seduces us with such a tonal palate that this does make for truly insatiable listening. Variation form was always one of Beethoven's favourite compositional devices, and the two sets here make for marvellous listening, especially when so much is packed into so short a space. The superb 32 Variations in C minor last barely 10 minutes, but in McCawley's hands become a real short ride in a fast machine. This is the boldest playing on the disc (which makes it an excellent opener). The Six Variations Op.34 show us more of Beethoven's dark humour, and are played here with a poise and clarity that is entirely winning. McCawley here shows us he has grown from prodigy to mature pianistic genius since winning the International Beethoven Competition a decade back at the tender age of 19. If you like this disc you should try McCawley's latest Schumann release particularly his lyrical waldszenen..."