- Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
- Piano Sonata No. 18 in E flat major ("Hunt"), Op. 31/3
- Piano Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10/3
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The leisurely cycle of Beethoven sonatas by pianist Jonathan Biss has inspired some fairly strong reactions, pro and con, along the way, perhaps surprisingly since Biss offers interpretations that are in the main rather circumspect. He's not a pianist in the heroic mold, and in the three sonatas here, he has no earthshaking insights. However, he does take each sonata as an individual entity rather than applying an overarching approach, and listeners are free to like some of them but not others. Biss keeps to chamber dimensions in the "Piano Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10, No. 3," and even the "Piano Sonata No. 18 in E flat major, Op. 31, No. 3," the last sonata of Beethoven's so-called early period. In the finale of "Op. 10, No. 3," the trend has been toward restless, high-powered readings, but Biss situates it in the Haydn tradition. He's always worth hearing, with detailed readings that emphasize the left-hand manifestations of Beethoven's intricate motivic structures. In the "Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111," Biss gives the piano full rein and produces an exciting, virtuosic reading. Even here, he doesn't push the tempos, but he gives the variation finale a brilliant sheen that emphasizes its otherworldly quality. The listener may not be able to identify Biss' playing on a blind hearing as one could with, say, András Schiff, but his interpretations are deeply thought out and always worth considering.