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Power and precision, then delicacy and dreams

Bachtrack, Steve Draper

Tim Horton’s gripping Beethoven at Sheffield Chamber Music Festival

After very pleasant wine and conversation, [Tim] Horton launched not a double bill, but a triple bill of Beethoven piano sonatas. This could be overkill in the hands of some pianists…

… but Horton brought much colour to the black and white – power and precision, then delicacy and dreams.

In the Piano Sonata no. 30 in E major, this was best demonstrated in the final movement, where Horton gave its slow, bel canto-like opening a dreamy, distant feel, then contrasted this with a stormy, but clear fugato. The Sonata no. 31 in A flat major has a really wonderful demonstration of Beethoven’s obsession with the fugue in his final period. Of course, even the early piano could bring out one line of the counterpoint more strongly than the others, and on a modern one pianists like Horton can do Beethoven’s fascination with Bach justice. Beethoven’s last sonata is something else though. How can rage and tenderness be expressed in just two bars? Well, the first two of this sonata can and Horton made them.

The studio was gripped as he progressed from what seems like Beethoven exploring the feelings of his turbulent past in the first movement, to his hope of some future serenity in the second and last.

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