Many pianists have been seduced by the multi-layered pleasures of performing all of Beethoven's sonatas in public. One of these afficionados is Till Fellner, a very serious, 37-year-old Viennese native whose most significant influence was Alfred Brendel. He's not doing it as some sort of marathon, but more as a leisurely guided tour spread out over three years. This is year two.
As part of his full musical immersion in Beethoven, Fellner's orchestra outings these days have also focused on that composer's concertos.
Fellner is one of those pianists who leaves nothing to chance. Every note has a specific intention behind it. His work doesn't sound spontaneous, but highly polished and sharply articulated.
It's worth giving him a try. National Public Radio put together a nice interview with Fellner late last week. The 40 minutes include a studio performance. Fellner has no plans to record the sonatas at this time, he said in New York (where he performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's recital series) earlier this fall.
Here's how The Telegraph's Geoffrey Norris began a review of a live concert in London a month ago:
It is a major step when a pianist decides to encompass the complete canon of Beethoven's 32 sonatas. Some maintain that this is an undertaking that should be left to musicians of mature years, but it would be a pity to be denied Till Fellner's rich, discerning blend of perception, freshness and concentration because of some artificial age limit.
The Austrian pianist, now in his mid-thirties, has long been steeped in the central Austro-German repertoire, and, on the evidence of this inaugural recital of a two-year series, he has invaluable things to say about the sonatas' ingenuity and expressive range.
Torontonians are getting a chance to hear Fellner perform Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and its music director, Kent Nagano, on Jan. 25. (The two have a Beethoven concerto recording project on the go.)
Here is Fellner performing the Adagio from Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (I don't know who the conductor is):