Long-time duo partners Peter Hill and Benjamin Frith mark the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth with this survey of his complete output for piano four hands.
Works from his early years in Bonn and from the period of the ‘Eroica’ Symphony, a decade later, are joined by a unique masterpiece from the year before his death. In 1826 Beethoven was persuaded to publish an arrangement for piano duet of the Grosse Fuge, finale of the String Quartet in B flat Op 130, which had astonished and bewildered listeners at the Quartet’s first performance. He took great care over the arrangement, effectively re-imagining the work in terms of the piano, for example in exploiting the added sonority of the bass (Beethoven’s Broadwood piano extended an octave below the C string of the cello).
The result is a tour de force of pianistic virtuosity, the equivalent for the nineteenth century of Stravinsky’s piano duet version of The Rite of Spring – centrepiece of Hill and Frith’s most recent Delphian album – and like the Stravinsky nothing less than the recreation of a masterpiece in another medium.
"Even at this early stage in his career, however, Beethoven understood how to sidestep the genre’s pitfalls that make countless similar pieces more fun for players than listeners...Hill and his longstanding duet partner Benjamin Frith understand them, too. Whichever of them plays secondo...keeps the bass parts well defined and lightly articulated"
- Gramophone Magazine
The fifth [work] is the transcription Beethoven made reluctantly, yet with high intensity, of the Grosse Fuge. This new-fangled masterpiece leaps in track 22 like a tiger from the album leaves of Six Variations on “Ich denke Dein”, and affords the joy of discovering what, and how, art really matters
- The Sunday Times
Release Date: 31 January 2020
Recorded: 12-13 July 2019, Cardiff