I am certainly no expert when it comes to Beethoven's complete set of Bagatelles. However, I have played many of them over the decades, and I know how I like Beethoven to sound.
I am not familiar with pianist Christoph Scheffelt, but it became immediately apparent he has a special feel for Beethoven. Listening to a full hour of Beethoven miniatures might at first seem like too much of a good thing. However, this pianist plays with such a natural expression, and with endless variety - of mood, touch, tone and pedal - that I never felt this was an overlong concert. It was endlessly rewarding.
Last year, I had the pleasure of listening to, and reviewing, Volumes 1-6 (in an ongoing cycle) of Beethoven's complete Piano Sonatas, played by the marvelous pianist, James Brawn, on the MSR label. I was struck with his natural feel for Beethoven, in many of the same ways I am with Mr. Scheffelt's Beethoven. Further, both pianists have the rare ability to make the smaller, "lesser" works (the early Sonatas, and these Bagatelles) sound as important as the monumental ones. I like how Mr. Scheffelt describes these Bagatelles as "short jewels" in the excellent booklet. And jewels they are in his hands.
Both pianists benefit enormously from fabulous recorded sound. And that is nothing to take for granted. The concert grand piano has proven to be an almost insurmountable challenge for many recording engineers. In this instance, producer Martin Korn and recording producer, Andreas Werner, have gotten it absolutely right. The sound is realistically full-sized, portraying the scope and power of a full concert grand in a large hall, yet with the delicacy and "ringing" tone in more intimate passages, which make it sound real. The warm, wooden left-hand range of this piano is especially delectable.
This is yet another terrific release on the first-class Prospero label (a co-production with SRF2 Kultur), the likes of which you simply do not find elsewhere. The CD comes in a hard-back, jewelcase-sized book, with very high-quality contents, complete with all the information you could ask for, plus interesting/entertaining art-work, recording data, etc. I look forward to more from this pianist.
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