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A young pianist grows with Beethoven

Paavali Jumppanen plays with overflowing energy. Paavali Jumppanen plays with overflowing energy.

The young Finnish pianist Paavali Jumppanen has the resumé of an intellectual musician. He was a student of Krystian Zimerman and worked with Pierre Boulez on Jumppanen's recording of Boulez's three piano sonatas, modernist artifacts par excellence. One might have expected his playing in Sunday's all-Beethoven recital at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum -- the second in a series of eight covering all 32 sonatas -- to be heavy on technique, clinical and precise.

But though Jumppanen's playing was highly intelligent and accomplished, what held one's attention throughout his impressive performance was the sheer, overflowing energy of his musicianship. The four sonatas on his program -- the single work of Op. 7 and the three of Op. 10 -- show Beethoven eager to innovate, having already mastered the conventions of his craft. There's a constant sense of discovery and invention in these pieces, which Jumppanen highlighted with playing of extroverted intensity. The result was a bracing and enjoyable reminder of how pathbreaking Beethoven's music was, even early on.

Jumppanen got off to a somewhat rough start, as his headlong enthusiasm made for a somewhat unsettled reading of Op. 7, the largest work Beethoven had written to that point. He rushed some of its big moments, causing a few finger slips, and he had a tendency to bang at louder moments. He hit his stride in the finale, where the music's genial cast is interrupted by an unexpectedly stormy outburst.

The Op. 10 sonatas were more consistently satisfying. Taken as a whole, they cover a huge expressive range, and Jumppanen sought to magnify the music's contrasts and heighten its dramatic urgency. Accents were brusque, pauses were lengthy, moods turned on a dime. Here his control was much better, especially in the taut declarations of the first sonata in the set. Not everything he tried worked, but it was never less than interesting.

His most complete success was the third sonata, a milestone work that overflows with imagination. Jumppanen took the first movement at a speed that seemed almost reckless. He paused only a few seconds at the end before plunging into the slow movement, a dark statement of profound tragedy. His account of it was spellbinding, with the last few notes left hanging in the air. Jumppanen is still becoming the musician he'll be, but there's no denying his talent and the freshness of his ideas.


Paavali Jumppanen, pianist

At: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Sunday