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Joseph Moog’s young Sonatas

Tchaikovsky & Scharwenka: Piano Sonatas

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The young German artist Joseph Moog has been causing something of a stir in pianistic circles, with an easy virtuosity and a propensity for unusual repertoire. Don’t be distracted by the slightly gimmicky James Dean-esque cover: this guy can really play.

His achievement in Tchaikovsky’s aptly named ‘Grande Sonate’ is to avoid making its more hectoring passages sound simply like a bangfest. This is partly because he’s alive to every opportunity to display its more delicate moments, and partly because he surmounts the composer’s outlandish technical demands with ease. Only in the slow movement is there a sense of not quite being up to the great Sviatoslav Richter in terms of poignancy.

Xaver Scharwenka was born in Poland a decade after Tchaikovsky, outliving him by more than 40 years, but their sonatas were written in the same year –1878, when Scharwenka was just 28. The fact that it’s a more accomplished work than Tchaikovsky’s is perhaps due to the Pole’s prodigious keyboard skills. Moog makes a serious addition to the catalogue here, with a performance of real thrust and aplomb, more so than Seta Tanyel’s groundbreaking recording of some two decades ago. The shorter pieces demonstrate Moog’s more poetic side and form a neat bonus to a compelling disc.