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This Moscow-born pianist (1949) is now living in Germany. He was a student of Lev Oborin, Lev Naumov, and Maria Yudina. This is the third volume of his Beethoven sonata series and is sold at a premium price. The booklet shows him having already recorded a large amount of the repertory for his instrument. I have reviewed his Mozart, but have not been able to find a review of his earlier Beethoven recordings in ARG.

While one can give a bow to Koroliov’s credentials and to his digital control, whether he adds a special dimension to his playing worthy of attention is a question for the reviewer. Simply good is no longer enough when one is inundated with endless duplication—particularly of Beethoven’s last three sonatas.

I need not have feared. These are beautiful performances, played with generosity of vision, refined tonal allure when called for, powerful assertion and bursts of impressive speed when needed. Sonata 30 is played with all the refinement and sensitivity one could ask for. His hushed gentleness makes it seem that he really cares and has fully immersed himself in the music. Sonata 31 shares this gentle refinement. Late Beethoven need not present problems for the listener if performers have a grasp of the structures and clarify and balance the music effectively. Nowhere is this more evident than in the final Adagio and the Fugue that grows with steady inevitability, releases tension somewhat, only to again assault us with a briefly cryptic Allegro in closing.

Sonata 32 may be the most difficult for the average listener. It is in two movements. A final fugue was eventually rejected by the composer. Clarity, as an ever present factor in Koroliov’s interpretation, brings us closer to Beethoven’s thought processes as he allowed ideas to grow from in the seeds of what has preceded them. Still, the musings and final whimper at the close of the last movement may always leave one perplexed.

The sound of the Steinway D has been well caught by the engineers, and collectors should not hesitate to add this to their buy list of the last three sonatas. Obviously one cannot exist with just one performance of such glorious music.

© 2015 American Record Guide
Alan Becker

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