The Terrace Theater resounded with the song of storm and stress Thursday night, as Anton Kuerti gave forceful readings of four Beethoven piano sonatas.
He began with the beginning, Beethoven's Sonata No. 1. Kuerti simply refused to acknowledge the daintiness of the allegro and the usual shallowness of the third movement. Apparently unaware that the work is a youthful tribute to Haydn, the pianist instead chose to highlight Beethoven's own nascent personality and strength, and the results were refreshing.
Kuerti then moved to the popular Sonata No. 21, the "Waldstein." It was an unorthodox, amazing interpretation. The speed of the first movement was such that one marveled more at his performance than at the score's own wonders, but this indulgence was quite forgivable. What was unusual was how the cascades of notes often failed to compose phrases, but rather remained discrete and often void of legato, highlighting the work's structure even at the incredible pace. By contrast, the adagio allowed sonorities to linger and feelings to crystallize, with melodies joyously waking up to the final rondo. Here, Kuerti displayed the sweet impetuosity of a Werther.
In the Sonata No. 12 there was restraint, even patience, until the moving funeral march "On the death of a hero," which caught the ear unprepared with the suddenness of death itself. The mood was carried through the guilty pleasures of the allegro with its inconclusive ending. The program closed with the Sonata No. 6.