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A Single Breath: Beethoven's Last Three Piano Sonatas

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 30, 2013
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Editorial Reviews

Praised for her 'boldly inflected readings' (Eichler, NY Times), NY based pianist Beth Levin has honed her interpretive and expressive skills since her days as a child prodigy in Philadelphia. Beethoven's Sonatas 30-32 (Op.109, 110, 111), famously composed 'in a single breath,' serve as fitting source material for Levin to express her skill.
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2:36
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14:53
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Product Details

  • Composer: Beethoven
  • Audio CD (April 30, 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Navona
  • ASIN: B00BK6HREU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,712 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
"Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman."
~ Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven was a radical man living in a revolutionary time, a true avant-garde pianist and composer. A decisive figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. It's still amazing to this listener to comprehend that his hearing began to deteriorate while Beethoven was in his late twenties, and by the last decade of his life he was almost completely deaf. He is said to have conceived of the outline for his final three piano sonatas (Op. 109, 110 and 111) during the summer of 1820, while he was deaf and working on his Missa Solemnis.

A Single Breath: Beethoven's Last Three Piano Sonatas by New York-based pianist Beth Levin illustrates how she has polished her expressive and interpretive expertise on the piano since her early days as a child prodigy in Philadelphia. She has been highly praised by critics for her technique and readings. Beethoven's Sonatas 30-32 (Op. 109, 110, and 111), notably composed "in a single breath," serve as ideal material for Ms. Levin to express her skills, exploring the expressively multifaceted works with innovation, elegance, and almost-reverent interpretation of Beethoven's final piano sonatas.

In case they don't show up on the listings here, these are the tracks than can be found on this beautifully interpretive album, which is available on both CD and MP3 formats:

1. Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109: I. Vivace ma non troppo
2. Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109: II.
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Among the many pianists who have recorded the late sonatas of Beethoven, some stand out: Goode, for his Romantic spirit; Pommier, as Classical as Brendel is intellectual; Schiff and Pollini for their elegance. When Beth Levin plays this quicksilver music, enlightening each sonata with aspects of the others--they were composed in a single breath, remember--her touch embodies the sonatas' common visceral exuberance and shared meditative poignancy. Levin plays these sonatas in an unrushed free-flowing exhalation with a focus not only on individual utterance but also rhythm and structure, and she infuses the music with a spontaneity that never excludes respectful adherence to original intention.

There is poetry here ("In the end is my beginning"), highlighted by the way in which Levin limns the fugue in the last movement of Op 110, handles the jazzy variations in Op. 111, and summons up the athleticism necessary for the Op. 110 scherzo, just to scratch the surface. How to characterize this performance? It is daring ferocious pellucid witty elegant wise and eloquent. With endless delights of phrasing and interpretation, Levin's attention to detail and her penetrating investigation make her a pianist to be reckoned with, and A Single Breath a CD to return to often.
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This performance of the last Beethoven three sonatas is astounding in every way. Levin displays complete mastery over the daunting technical details and brings out so many different colours and emotions. She plays as if she knew Beethoven personally, such is her understanding of the music. These sonatas so complex that every new interpretation will render them fresh and new pieces to the listener and this interpretation is one of the best interpretations I've ever heard. It is up there with the greats. I can't recommend it strongly enough.
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What a delightful discovery! Not the Beethoven -- but the pianist. Her playing is thoughtful and mature. She has the firepower when it is needed, and the poetry too. I hope she records many more pieces.
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