RECORD GEIJUTSU: 32-Sonata Album Selected as Record of the Month
Mari's Beethoven 32 Sonata album has been re-released in Japan with Japanese translation booklet.
It has been chosen as the CD of the month of December issue of Record Geijutsu.
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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas No. 29 in B♭, “Hammerklavier”; No. 28 in A♭ (Pentatone)
“With this final volume Mari Kodama sets out to scale the Everest of Beethoven’s sonatas, the “Hammerklavier.” This is no undertaking for the physically weak, the psychologically timid, the musically unprepared, or the spiritually irresolute. Happily, I can report that Kodama is none of these. Hers is an exceptionally lucid reading of the piece, one that lacks for nothing in determination and true grit, or in concentration….Kodama’s A♭-Major Sonata is as lovely, lyrical, boisterous, and joyful as her “Hammerklavier” is suffused with majesty, nobility, and dignity. This earns a well-deserved place in the winner’s circle.” (Fanfare Magazine, December 2013)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas 28 & 29 (Pentatone)
“I commented on two earlier disks of Mari Kodama with growing interest and admiration for her interpretations of a number of Beethoven sonatas. Now that she has reached the last installment I think it’s becoming that I turn to her once again to see how well she has brought to an end the immense task of a complete Beethoven piano sonatas cycle.
“I shall not go back to all I have said in the past about Mari Kodama; her style, her feminine yet forceful ‘toucher’; neither will I comment on the recording, which, this time, is perhaps even a shade clearer, underlining once more its consistency and exceptional quality.
“It is, furthermore, noteworthy that it has taken her some seven years to record all the 32 sonatas. This is a whole lot longer than the remarkable effort by the Korean, HJ Lim, recording them for EMI in only three months’ time. It would nonetheless seem to me that it takes more time to reflect upon these sonatas; time to really understand and come to grips with the structure, underlying meaning, vision and emotion. And there Kodama is in good company: Wilhelm Kempf, Alfred Brendel cs. also spread their cycles over a good number of years or did even more than one. In fact, it requires a life time experience for a deeply thought through cycle.
“As for the ‘Die Hammerklavier’ sonata, for me the main work on this disk: It is not only difficult to play; it is also difficult to understand, and as such for the interpreter and listener alike. I, for one, would not recommend starting with this sonata for newcomers in this field. In that sense Kodama’s cycle has been well built: beginning with popular sonatas like the Pathetique and the Mondschein, followed by the Appassionata etc. (or the other way around, I don’t remember exactly), before finishing with the more inward looking, late sonatas, with their monumental character and innovative structure brought about by, yes indeed, a life time experience.
“These elements are, apart from all the technical qualities of the artist and the sound engineers, my yardstick to judge this final installment.
“As had already been the case with the previous volume: Sonatas Nos. 30, 31 & 32, one notes in opus 101 and 106 an increased insight in the way Kodama approaches Beethoven’s late sonatas. Over the years she has gone from strength to strength. Contemplation and mature vision have replaced virtuoso passage work. It seems to me as if she lets herself be guided by what she ‘sees’ in her mind, rather than what she hears with her ears. There is no false attempt to impress; she plays Beethoven as if she has become Beethoven (without, however, banging the keys as he did due to his growing deafness and subsequent angriness). She is in her own cloud and audience does no longer seem to matter. I had a feeling of being privileged to share these moments with her and all that I associate with true and genuine artistry.
“The heart of Op. 106 is no doubt the Adagio Sostenuto. Kodama’s is not as slow (almost 16 min.) as, for instance (and for a change), Rudolf Buchbinder’s (20 + min.), whose highly praised (The Gramophone) 1982 recording I took for comparison off my RBCD shelf. But she does not give the impression of being hurried at all. She just keeps the flow going with perhaps more ‘molto sostenuto’ and less resignation than Buchbinder.
“As I have said earlier, complete ‘female’ Beethoven cycles are rare. Some brilliant players, like Mitsuko Uchida (with an excellent recording of the ‘Hammerklavier’, by the way) did not record all of the sonatas; Lim’s show & speed performances may wear off quickly, as soon as the novelty has gone by.
“If you like delicate, contemplating, almost Schubert like, yet strong and powerful performances, Mari Kodama will not disappoint. On the contrary.
“As for the cycle as a whole: I would not be surprised if this one were to become a top choice, and not only for those who appreciate a more feminine version, with as a not to be missed bonus a realistically glorious sound.” (Adrian Cue, France, September, 2013)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas 11-13, 15, 22, 27 (Pentatone)
“This CD brings to a close the cycle of the complete Beethoven Sonatas by Mari Kodama…Patience has its virtue; we are at the end of an ensemble of great consistency and integrity, as much from the point of view of interpretation as for sonority (excellent piano regulation and sound quality). The approach is, as in the previous volumes, fine, rigorous and even, almost Brendelian (Alfred Brendel recorded the entire cycle three times) with certainly, less digital magic than Bendel or Gulda. Symbolically and laudably, Mari Kodama closes the cycle with the Pastorale Sonata, the 15th, seemingly anodyne possessing many tonal challenges for performers. In the world of SACD multichannels, the only competitor is Michael Korstick (Oehmns), more dazzling but less even.” (Le Devoir, October 2013)
“In her interpretation Kodama seems to have a secret formula. Some will like it, others maybe not so. Since she has not to worry about the technical problems many of the Beethoven sonatas pose, and since she does not have, nor want to prove how good she is, she is able to take ample time for reflection on the intrinsic value and the subtle elements in each of the sonatas as she sees it. The fact that she is Japanese and a woman brings out the extra flavour that is sometimes missing in routinely played and recorded ‘male’ versions: i.e. elegance, tenderness, finesse, sensibility and even a kind of meditation, to name but a few qualifications, while at the same time not shunning extrovert and powerful expression where needed to get Beethoven’s assumed imagery feelings across.” (sa-cd.net, January 2013)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas 30-32 (Pentatone)
“There’s clarity to her voicing and a lyrical spontaneity to her readings, especially in the opening movements of the E-Major and A-Major sonatas (Nos. 30 and 31) that catch just the right tone of Beethoven’s poeticized utopian vision. …Her broad, stately, quiet and deeply contemplative statement of the opening themes (“Gesangvoll” movement of the E-Major Sonata) communicates, as it should, as sense of reverential mystery.” (Fanfare, November-December 2012)
“She has an elegant and a sensitive, female touch, but does at the same time not shy away from the more powerful passages. She combines a male approach with bringing out gentle and sometimes hidden feminine intentions. Her musical ‘palette’ stretches from searching to assertive. She, furthermore, refrains from unwanted glamour by not turning everything into a speed contest.” (sa-cd.net, April 2012)
“The pianist, of Japanese heritage, finds a tone and a dynamic that is personal, mastering (with a beautiful eloquence in the penultimate sonata) the flow of Beethoven’s tempi…” (Concertonet, April 2012)
Beethoven: Triple Concerto and Piano Concerto No. 3 (Berlin Classics)
“Ms. Kodama makes a most-powerful statement throughout, with playing that sounds assured, delicate, powerful, moving, and heroic by turns” (Classical Candor, October 2012)
“The release will delight those who heard the Triple Concerto by Nagano and the Tetzlaff Trio at the Virée classique, as Kodama-Blacher-Moser play equally well, with a slow movement of a rare finesse. The 3rd Concerto captures our attention for its translucid accompaniment and the Mozartian quality to the piano playing.” (Le Devoir, September 2012)
“In the 3rd Piano Concerto, unusually Mari Kodama accentuates the Pathos. We particularly appreciate that. This is not usual for Beethoven, certainly, but in the Second Movement, there is a lot of poetry.” (Pizzacato, March 2012)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 9, 10, 19, 20, 24 & 25 (Pentatone)
“Kodama is widely experienced and her performances of sonatas she calls ‘lyrical islands’ are graceful, fluent and musically transparent. Everything proceeds in a faultless flow of sound and in this sense her credentials are impeccable. Never bearing down heavily on the music, she always allows Beethoven his own voice.” (Gramophone, March 2011)
“Kodama immediately earns the listener’s attention with a poised and well-observed account of the first movement of the G major Sonata, Op. 78. The following Andante is made limpidly expressive, and a nimble and truculent finale, in which Kodama’s tempo and dynamic variances are arresting and convincing, rounds the work off. This sets the pattern for a very enjoyable recital during which Kodama unfailingly judges things to a nicety. She finds depth of utterance at the opening of the F sharp work, and then her measured speed for the Allegro (here very much ‘ma non troppo’) is very affecting. Throughout, what really comes across is her affection for the music, her wish to give it time so that we may enjoy its shape, harmonies and details. She has the imagination and confidence to point things up without exaggeration and to reveal just how much there is in these seemingly slight works, an abundance of invention and development thereof.” (Colin Anderson, International Record Review, November 2010)
“Kodama is equipped to deliver as few pianists on the present scene are, include style, sensitivity to nuance, the ability to discern when to provide a lighter touch and when to apply a bolder characterization, the ability to let the individual melodic line sing forth in all its glory or subside into one of those Beethoven silences that can be more eloquent than sound.” (Dr. Phil Muse, Audio Video Club of Atlanta, October 2010)
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2, Kent Nagano, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin (Analekta)
“We are not exactly short of recordings of these works, and in a crowded market, for a small label and a relatively unknown pianist the competition is stiff. But the performances from all concerned are out of the top drawer and the disc, unusually, presents the concertos in the order in which they were composed… Miss Kodama plays the Second concerto with a delightfully light Mozartian touch, changing to a fuller tone for the weightier First concerto… In all, a disc that brings a fresh lick of paint to these two evergreen works.” (Classic FM, August 2009)
“Uplifting The fresh notion of playing, the agility and intensity of Mari Kodama and the DSO under Kent Nagano is truly formidable… The soloist takes up the impulse, and with striking sound, clearly phrased, she develops a coherence; with its saturated, dreamy gravity the second movement comes like fully captured for the first time whereas the lively Rondo is a hommage to spontaneous art of figuration… A completion of the concerti would be a gain – an unpretentious, impulsive Beethoven style like this is always worth listening to.” (Fono Forum, August 2009)
“Mari Kodama is endowed with astonishing virtuosity, self assurance and control. This reminded me of Glenn Gould when his limitless ability, boarding on arrogance, could stand in the way the music. As these performances unfold I was persuaded that she is offering genuine musical insights with a personal touch that is quite appealing.About eight minutes into the first movement of the first concerto, Beethoven’s genius is manifested using simple means for the unfolding drama of the music. How these simple passages are played is one of the critical measures of artistic insight. No reservations here nor with the inner world of the slow movement. The third movement, taken at a brisk pace, is exhilarating. Kodama’s style is perfectly akin to the second concerto. Her no nonsense, clear approach suits this work perfectly. Sparkling throughout and as stylistically satisfying as any I know of. It will be quite interesting to hear the other three concertos as they may require less of the sparkling pianism and more heavyweight musicianship. Odds are she’ll make it brilliantly.” (WholeNote, 1 May 2009)
“The beauty of this piano-playing sneaks up on you… One telling example of her over-arching view is the consistency of her sforzandos; they never come crashing down, as one is used to hearing in Beethoven, but rather land with all the notes evenly revealed and intact, still loud and even biting, but not clangy… The very idea that someone can still play this music and introduce a new perspective is remarkable enough.” (Fanfare Magazine, May/June 2009)
“Ms. Kodama brings a canny, graceful style to these early – though iconoclastic – works of Beethoven, a graded, assiduous sense of rhythm and tempered dynamics.” (Audiophile Audition, 23 December 2008)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1, 2 & 3 (Pentatone)
“Young Japanese pianist Mari Kodama continues her recordings of Beethoven’s piano sonatas with this issue of the three of Op. 2. Already she has recorded three SACDs for Pentatone containing nine other sonatas. Excellent performances all, and very well recorded with larger than life surround sound.” (classicalcdreview, February 2009)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 16, 17 & 18 (Pentatone)
Ideal balance “Japanese pianist Mari Kodama is only the fourth woman to take a chance on the complete recording of Beethoven’s sonatas. Yet the first two CDs were of sensational quality, now we have to consider the recording of sonatas Nos. 16, 17 and 18 as superior. Mari Kodama masters the balance of head and heart so every note, every measure appears plausible and genuine. Plus her talent to let Beethoven’s music pulsate and ‘swing’, so that the listener directly participates in the musical event. In the slow movements of sonatas Nos. 16 and 17 great sincerity prevails which Kodama avails herself for musical introspection. Sonata No. 18 ‘The Hunt’ lives on incomparable agility and a powerful yet beautiful and shaded keystrokes, making this Beethoven unique. Mari Kodama is on the way to present a modern, timeless recording of Beethoven’s piano sonatas which can claim the title reference recording already now.” (Pizzicato, August 2006)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 14, 4 & 8 (Pentatone)
“Mari Kodama has a colourful, sensitive and transparent view on the Sonatas. And suddenly it sounds exciting and new, even the Moonlight Sonata and the Pathétique. From the long and interesting op. 4/7 she makes an exhilarating play of joy and sadness.” (Piano, March/April 2005)
“Same as on her previous album the Japanese pianist enchants with her vigorous, precise, rigorously detailed approach which at the same time always shows in a convincing way the message behind the notes carefully balancing the big lines and beautiful details… Here we see the ideal mixture of music and technique.” (Fono Forum, October 2004)
“I have to think Mari Kodama, who released two CDs of Beethoven sonatas before this one, would be an exception. Her playing is lucid and straightforward, conspicuously bombast-free. The slow movements are bright and lyrical, and without trying to reinvent the wheel, she subtly emphasizes the haunting beauty of the finale to the ‘Tempest’ Sonata (No. 17) and the good-natured energy of ‘The Hunt.” (Buffalo News, 8 September 2006)
“This lady also plays fabulous Beethoven. With an air of authority yet a delicate touch, Kodama plays with passion and fire. Despite the similarities between the Sanata in G and the Sonata in E flat, Kodama offers clean and concise readings played with the air of a great artist. (…) Please do check out these releases. The playing is truly excellent and the sound is absolutely to die for.” (HiFi Magazine, October 2006)
“In her brilliant interpretation of these works [Beethoven sonatas], Mari Kodama combined technical lightness with psychological intuition – and so she expressed the composer’s very own perception with every single note. Differenciated pianissimo sound patterns developed into dynamic constructions, into a very personal architecture.” (Amberger Zeitung, 12 March 2007)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 16, 17 & 18 (Pentatone)
“Mari Kodama’s playing is marked by musical matureness, naturalness, sensitiviy and clear sense of structure… In the ‘Waldstein’ and ‘Appassionata’ sonatas she perfectly holds the balance of personal inflection and score facts, energetic furor of the Beethoven gesture and the development of overall context. Also in the ‘Pathétique’ a distinct principle dominates, and also elegance without shallowness, rhythmical stability without obstinacy. The tempi never reach the borders of transparent audibility: in the ‘Tempest’ sonata flexibility and smooth sense for colours triumph. This does not mean Kodama is not able to dive into particular attacks of Beethoven’s dramas, like the final of the E flat major sonata. Mari Kodama is a pianist who needs to be discovered.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 11 January 2008)