Classical: Music on CD: A class act to follow

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Beethoven: Tempest, Waldstein and Appassionata Sonatas; Sonata No. 31.

Frederic Lamond (piano),

Recorded: 1927-30

Biddulph LHW 043

Glasgow-born Frederic Lamond gives us Beethoven "on the bone", full of flavour, scurrying through the Waldstein's first movement, speeding or lingering as the mood dictates, never forcing his tone, or showing off, or prettifying the text. The recording dates from 1930, when Lamond was 66, but if you're after flash-Harry pyrotechnics, forget it. Lamond was a class act whose youthful studies with Liszt probably meant less to him than Liszt's youthful encounter with Beethoven. "Beethoven was my god, the creed of my life, my one and all," wrote Lamond. "Through continually absorbing his wonderworks, I began to regard the practical side of life, that which gives pleasure to the majority of human beings, with repugnance." Elitist, or what? I'd say not. I would also say that Lamond's unworldly idealism granted his playing an endearing sincerity that glows from virtually every bar. His Appassionata is warm, quixotic, affable, occasionally fallible; his Tempest relatively storm-free though with a lilting finale, and while the great A flat Sonata isn't as probing as either Brendel's or Schnabel's, it has a conversational quality that is quite charming on its own old-fashioned terms. Above all, Lamond's playing is of a piece with the man himself, a man who had known Brahms, Richard Strauss and Anton Rubinstein, who gave the British premiere of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto and who, at the time of his last London performances, was billed as "the greatest living exponent of Beethoven". This beautifully transferred CD helps explain why. A companion disc (LHW042) programmes three more sonatas (including the Moonlight and Pathetique) plus an ancient but arresting Emperor Concerto.