Though Murray Perahia's recording of the five Beethoven piano concertos is a staple of the catalogue, he has seriously neglected the Beethoven piano sonatas on disc. In this first of a series, he has devised an unexpected but inspired coupling for the earliest of the late sonatas, the elusive A major, Opus 101, with its lyrical first movement and abrasive scherzo. Instead of more piano music, he has the first of the late string quartets, Opus 127 in E flat, as transcribed for string orchestra.
One may miss the sense of stress that this supremely demanding music makes with four solo players, but the power of the piece, its weight and strength, is enhanced by the sound of the St Martin's Academy, with Perahia a strong and direct conductor. Best of all, the soaring lines of the great expansive adagio slow movement are even more ethereal as played by the silky violins of the Academy.