Years before J.S. Bach paved the way toward what is now largely considered the height of the German Baroque, Dietrich Buxtehude was hard at work in northern Germany on his own individual union of the Italian and French Baroque styles. His Op. 1 is a sumptuous, dynamic set of seven sonatas scored for violin, gamba, and continuo (played here by cello and harpsichord). Unlike composers both before and after him, Buxtehude was far from formulaic when it came to the organization of his sonatas, each one having its own unique combination and sequence of movements.
Paavali Jumppanen is an internationally esteemed pianist, with a vast performance repertoire spanning from Bach to the Avant-garde. Jumppanen’s performances of the complete cycles of Beethoven’s and Mozart’s Piano Sonatas as well as Beethoven’s concertos and chamber music have won critical acclaim. Jumppanen has collaborated with numerous contemporary composers and has premiered many solo and chamber works for the piano. Of particular note are his recordings of Pierre Boulez’s complete piano sonatas at the request of the composer. This adaptability between musical genres gives a fresh reading of the core classical piano repertoire.
Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt has specialized in Baroque and Classical music, and her Beethoven is about as delicate as some might expect. But there's a difference between applying delicacy to works that are not conventionally played that way, and applying it to already delicate works. There are two of each here. Hewitt runs counter to type in the early Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 2/2, and Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 10/1. In the Op. 10 work, perhaps a preparatory essay for the tumultuous "Pathétique" sonata that followed in the same key, Hewitt will be underpowered for many. But all is redeemed in the gentler pair, the Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major, Op. 78, and Piano Sonata No. 31 in A major, Op. 110. Hewitt takes moderate tempi in these, infusing a sense of spontaneity into the brief, tightly constructed Op. 78 and opening up the fugal counterpoint in the Op. 110 finale. Hewitt's Bachian training really applies in this work, whose first movement is also particularly raptly, almost mystically done. It's hard to offer a general judgment on this set, but for those buying online, in pieces, know that the last two selections are must-haves.
…The double-CD set, which marks the last volume in Harmonia Mundi's effort to record all of Handel's opus-numbered publications, can nevertheless be strongly recommended.
The performances are nothing less than superb: they bring back the memories of the great series of recordings made with Pinnock and Hogwood from the 1970's and 80's, and it can be easily seen why the Academy has been the recipient of much praise and awards. These performers have reached a level of performance that clearly places them amongst the top rankings to be found anywhere. But the recordings, too, made by Harmonia Mundi, are also superb. The sonics are excellent, with large dynamic range, imperceptible noise levels, and fantastic balance of the various pieces.
…highly recommended particularly to those who have already discovered some of the other low opus number works described above. “Somewhat neglected children….?” There is rather less chance of that now with the release of these excellent CDs.