Stephen Manes' third traversal of the complete Beethoven piano sonata cycle is quite an event.
This is the sort of concert series that doesn't happen all that often, a showcase that gives listeners a great chance to hear the composer's artistic progress from young lion to full-formed master. The second concert in this year's series was a perfect example of this kind of programming.
Starting off the evening was a fairly straightforward performance of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major (op. 2, no. 2), which reveals the young musician's debt of gratitude to Franz Joseph Haydn with just a touch of the romantic bravura that was to come. Manes played the work fairly cleanly, but there just wasn't a whole lot of brilliance to be found.
It was a good piece, not a great piece, and chances are that it would have sounded more interesting if it had been played on a forte piano instead of the concert grand that was on stage.
After the intermission, things got even better. The Piano Sonata No. 9 in E major (op. 14, no. 1), with its bright and perky opening movement, is one of the gems of Beethoven's early catalog, and Manes did right by it, transitioning from the bright and perky opening movement to the emotional potency of the second part and delivering a most dramatic Rondo to wind the whole thing up.
Last scheduled was one of the composer's greatest, most beloved works for piano, the Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major (op. 53) otherwise known as the Waldstein sonata. Beethoven wrote this piece after he came into possession of a larger piano than the one he had written all his other keyboard works for.