Category Archives: Reviews

Steven Masi Review of Beethoven Piano Sonatas by Marc Medwin

BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas Nos.1-32    Steven Masi (pn)  ●  ALBANY TROY1661 (10 CDs: 674:38)


It’s been quite a season for Beethoven piano music enthusiasts. In the past several months, we’ve witnessed the completion of sonata cycles by Pavali Jumpannen and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, not to mention the epic conclusion of Ronald Brautigam’s survey of Beethoven’s complete solo piano works. Then, there was the fruition of a set with whose performer, Steven Masi, I had been absolutely unfamiliar but with which I’ve been having the pleasure of new acquaintance. What sets Masi’s set apart from the others is a sense of voyage, a kind of spontaneous approach to each sonata that charts a singular path of progression through a series of pieces that, all too often, can come off sounding glib, affected or some uneasy combination of both.

By way of transparency, let me offer a bit of reviewer context. Maybe it needn’t be said, but, as with most things of enduring quality, there is no best Beethoven sonata cycle. In the right hands, much interpretive freedom can lead to new insight and experience for the listener open to hearing it, from the smallest details of color and structure to the vast architectural principles Beethoven learned, expanded and ultimately destroyed and redesigned. For me, the journey has become paramount in importance, and if the performer can document a personal vision of that journey, as Masi does, so much the better. Continue reading Steven Masi Review of Beethoven Piano Sonatas by Marc Medwin

Fanfare Magazine Review

Fanfare Magazine Review of Pianist Steven Masi

Jerry Dubins  March 14, 2014

“I don’t know what life Steven Masi was living when this materialization of Beethoven’s A-Major Sonata came into being because I wasn’t there for any of his previous existences, but the one he experienced for this performance must have been of transcendent grace and glory, for it’s a performance of both bliss and ecstasy.”

Masi strikes me as an artist that combines an innate musical instinct with an intellectual discipline in a perfect balance in which neither dominates, but in which both work together as a single, unified entity.

Fanfare Magazine

Fanfare Magazine Review of Pianist Steven Masi

Colin Clarke  March 14, 2014

Volume One of Masi’s Beethoven cycle gets off to an auspicious start, with a “Pastoral” (No. 15) that does indeed sound as if it was, to paraphrase Masi himself, singing itself into existence (it was in fact this very songlike quality that impelled me to ask about the pianist’s links to Schubert). The inclusion of the first movement repeat adds to the sense of breadth; the surprisingly emphatic accents act, perhaps, as a reminder that this is after all Beethoven we are dealing with. Masi’s awareness of texture is key to his reading: Listen to the tremendous left hand staccato in the second movement, for example, perfectly weighted and perfectly toned. The remaining two movements provide perfect contrasts: the rugged third against the hurdy-gurdy of the Finale. Continue reading Fanfare Magazine

Audiophile Audition

Audiophile Audition Review of Pianist Steven Masi

Lee Passerella   September 06, 2013

“Right from the start in the lovely “Pastoral” Sonata, it’s evident that Masi has thought a great deal about matters such as dynamics and phrasing. The shaping and shading of the first movement are carried out with great care, and the slightly slow tempi allow the listener to savor the pianist’s studious ministrations. Continue reading Audiophile Audition

Musicweb-International, United Kingdom

Musicweb-International, United Kingdom Review of Pianist Steven Masi

Brian Reinhart     September 06, 2013 

“Steven Masi’s new cycle of the Beethoven sonatas starts with a bold choice of four great works that are very different from one another… Best is the famous Pathétique, strong of spine and lyrical too, with some of Masi’s idiosyncrasies – take the rhythms of the introduction, or the clear accompaniment in the adagio’s central passages – perking up my ears. I’m pretty jaded about this piece, have heard it too many times, but Masi brought back my interest and curiosity and gave me greater pleasure than any performance has in years. Continue reading Musicweb-International, United Kingdom

The Telegraph, Calcutta, India

The Telegraph, Calcutta, India Review of Pianist Steven Masi

“Schumann’s abject romanticism could not have deserved a better acolyte than Masi, as he approached the Fantasie Pieces, op. 12 with a bouquet of notes that radiated a sense of convivial chaos, comprising a litany of small melodic phrasings, mildly peremptory and sometimes coquettish, all in an ode to the sense of beckoning melancholy that weaves through most of Schumann’s oeuvre.”

New York Times

New York Times Review of Pianist Steven Masi

“A pianist of gifts…The concluding Toccata (Prokofiev Sonata No. 7) was thrilling… He had no trouble proving that he is an accomplished instrumentalist and musician. His performances told of empathy for the music and understanding of their organization.”

Gramophone Review

Gramophone Review of Pianist Steven Masi

Laurence Vittes    October 11, 2013

Vol. 1 beginning with an op. 28 which invests Beethoven’s rich episodic scheming with a deeply moving emotional vulnerability. Masi appropriately abandons the spacious structures which work so effectively in Op. 28 in order to explore the hedonistic wilds of op. 79, a performance highlighted by numerous touches such as the delicious grace notes at the end of the first movement and a nearly motionless beauty in the second. Continue reading Gramophone Review