Backhaus in Beethoven
Posted by Ralph Moore on November 13, 2018, 8:53 am
I was pleased that my colleague Stephen Greenbank responds so positively to the early recordings of one of my favourite pianists in his review of the "Complete pre-war Beethoven recordings" on the APR label, posted yesterday, but bemused by his telling us that he had previously found Backhaus' later recordings for Decca "impassive, unimaginative, unexciting and colourless." |
I have always thought Backhaus' reputation was for leonine strength and, if anything, an excessive commitment to expressive extremes which are too heavy-handed for some tastes. In a review I wrote some time ago of those later sonatas, I said, "The evenness and delicacy of his touch in the Adagios complement the power of his forte passages and he uses plenty of pedal to create a spacious, floating ambiance. There is never any sense of undue haste despite the propulsiveness of his playing; the fury of the concluding Presto in the "Moonlight" and the thunderous attack of the opening of the "Appassionata" are both thrilling. For contrast, sample the variety of colouration and dynamics in "Les adieux".
These things are subjective, of course and I am delighted that Stephen admits the possibility of his having been wrong about those later performances - just as I might sometimes return to a recording and radically revise my first response. We critics are frail creatures, prey to our whims, moods and passions!