Review by: Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 7
Sound Quality: 8
Andrew von Oeyen looks upon this Bach and Beethoven program as a musical narrative of his pandemic experience. Had there been no concert cancellations or lockdowns, would Oeyen have played these works differently? Would his finger work throughout Bach’s Overture in the French Style have yielded comparably meticulous yet less dry, more vibrant results à la Angela Hewitt or Evgeni Koroliov? Would his approach to the zany Scherzo of Beethoven’s Op. 27 No. 1 sonata been less foursquare and inhibited than the dull, workaday reading here? Would he have let go more in the first movement’s sudden, vehement outbursts? Yet once past the Appassionata first movement’s somewhat inhibited rhythmic exactitude, Oeyen sheds his mask, so to speak, and his expressive palette opens up for a unified and easily unfolding central Andante con moto movement, followed by an exciting and dramatically contrasted finale.
Oeyen plays the Bach/Kempff Siciliano beautifully on the surface, but lacks the variety of articulation and clear-cut textural perspective that distinguish Kempff’s own recording, not to mention the venerable Lipatti version. By contrast, Oeyen painstakingly calibrates the F minor concerto transcription’s solo foreground and orchestral background layers. Yet his generalized shaping of the vocal line doesn’t begin to approach Kempff’s own gorgeous cantabile phrasing and subtle dabs of pedal. In short, a disc that promises more than it delivers.
Reference Recording: Bach Overture: Hewitt (Hyperion), Beethoven Op. 57: Richter (RCA), Bach/Kempff Transcriptions: Kempff (DG)