P1406. SOLOMON: Sonata #1 in f; Sonata #3 in C; Sonata #32 in c, Op.111 (all Beethoven). (Austria) Testament SBT 1188, recorded 1951-52. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 749677118822
"Others might promote the cause of Myra Hess or Clifford Curzon, but one of their contemporaries, Solomon, surely was the greatest British pianist of the 20th century. Born Solomon Cutner (but always known professionally by his first name) in London in 1902, he was a child prodigy, playing the Tchaikovsky First Concerto in public at the age of ten, but unlike so many prodigies steadily matured into an artist of massive integrity and musical insight.
In 1956 a stroke left him paralysed and unable to play when he should have been at the height of his powers. Catching sight of him in the audience for piano recitals in 1970s was a poignant reminder of what British musical life had been deprived. One of those lost legacies was a complete cycle of the Beethoven piano sonatas on record. Beethoven was the centre of Solomon's musical world, but by the time he was forced to stop performing he had recorded just 18 of them.
As every single movement here demonstrates, the essence of Solomon's approach was its simplicity. There is nothing fussy in his phrasing, his pedalling or his use of rubato. Every texture is beautifully imagined, every chord perfectly placed, yet the playing never seems anything but spontaneous and instinctively felt. If there are stylistic comparisons to made between his approach and that of a more recent pianist it would be with the Russian Emil Gilels (another great player of Beethoven who never completed his cycle of the sonatas); or with the Maurizio Pollini of 30 years ago, equally refined and equally aristocratic.
But at his finest Solomon was a more searching interpreter than either of those. In the late works, there is always something new to discover, a perception that no one else seems to have hit upon before.
It's hard to encapsulate in a single sentence just what makes these performances so exceptional, but perhaps the overriding distinction is their total lack of egocentricity. The music always comes first….some of them are simply indispensable to anyone remotely interested in these sonatas.”
- Andrew Clements, THE GUARDIAN, 22 Sept., 2000