Discussion:
Beethoven Piano Sonatas
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ivanmaxim
2011-07-10 12:02:37 UTC
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Permalink
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
Randy Lane
2011-07-10 12:42:40 UTC
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Permalink
Post by ivanmaxim
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
Paul Lewis is probably true most significant addition in the last few
years IMHO.
pianomaven
2011-07-10 13:24:26 UTC
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Permalink
Post by Randy Lane
Post by ivanmaxim
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
Paul Lewis is probably true most significant addition in the last few
years IMHO.
There are so many. And I am quite sure that most here have not been
investigating the newer releases. Lewis? Yes. Good. But he has greater
impact as a pianist in person than on recordings, in my opinion. He
seems too cautious, too careful, too subdued on CD. In person he is
much more virile, more forceful.

You would be quite wrong to slight the Stephen Kovacevich set, perhaps
the most distinguished modern version of the complete sonatas.

As you would be to slight Alfred Brendel's final reading of the
sonatas on Philips. Unmatched for their textual fidelity and enormous
sophistication.And

And then there are all those in progress: Korstick, for example, very
German, very direct, and quite unfussy, with a stunningly
uncompromising Hammerklavier sonata.

Tchetuev is also very fine. He's at volume 4, I think. Beautifully
recorded by the old Philips technicians in Moscow.

And what about Garrick Ohlsson? Ian Hobson? Craig Shepard? Seymour
Lipkin? O'Connor? Nikolaeva?

There are so very many readings of these pieces it is almost
impossible to listen to them all. Which then makes it really
impossible to say that one or the other is "the most significant
addition in the last few years".

I am still waiting for Harris GOldsmith to update his book from 1970
on Beethoven sonatas on record. That would be a book I would buy in a
second.

TD
Randy Lane
2011-07-10 14:09:50 UTC
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Permalink
Post by pianomaven
Post by Randy Lane
Post by ivanmaxim
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
Paul Lewis is probably true most significant addition in the last few
years IMHO.
There are so many. And I am quite sure that most here have not been
investigating the newer releases. Lewis? Yes. Good. But he has greater
impact as a pianist in person than on recordings, in my opinion. He
seems too cautious, too careful, too subdued on CD. In person he is
much more virile, more forceful.
You would be quite wrong to slight the Stephen Kovacevich set, perhaps
the most distinguished modern version of the complete sonatas.
As you would be to slight Alfred Brendel's final reading of the
sonatas on Philips. Unmatched for their textual fidelity and enormous
sophistication.And
And then there are all those in progress: Korstick, for example, very
German, very direct, and quite unfussy, with a stunningly
uncompromising Hammerklavier sonata.
Tchetuev is also very fine. He's at volume 4, I think. Beautifully
recorded by the old Philips technicians in Moscow.
And what about Garrick Ohlsson? Ian Hobson? Craig Shepard? Seymour
Lipkin? O'Connor? Nikolaeva?
There are so very many readings of these pieces it is almost
impossible to listen to them all. Which then makes it really
impossible to say that one or the other is "the most significant
addition in the last few years".
I am still waiting for Harris GOldsmith to update his book from 1970
on Beethoven sonatas on record. That would be a book I would buy in a
second.
TD
All very good points. On this topic I highly value what you contribute
Tom. You haves perspective and breadth of experience and exposure few,
if any, of us can match. thank you.

I don't recall everything that was discussed in 2005, but thought of
Lewis because his and Brautigam's recordings are the only ones that I
can think off the top of my head that are totally new or completed in
that time frame. I am sure there are others though and as this thread
develops more will but thrown into the pot. Finances being what they
are, and my immediate recording budget being spent on Bach Organ music
lately (I just won an eBay auction of all 26 LPs of Ewald Kooiman's
first traversal of that body of music) I may have to ignore this
thread until I recover from the current spending lest I be tempted
while I can least afford it. I love these works, and I am sure this
discussion will generate some must-buys.

I would appreciate, however, a broader discussion of ALL of theLvB
solo piano works. Too many artists, or at least their recording
producers, record only the sonatas, and often those who record more
only commit a few of the other works. The work of LvB in this genre I
listen to the most are the Eroica Variations, but how very few of
those who record the sonatas ever touch that work, or the many other
neglected keyboard works. Kempff was mentioned- never recoded the
work, or many of the other works for that matter. Same for Kovacevich.
Brendel you mention - his Vox recording of the Eroica Variations is a
fave - but he never did it again. I agree with you about Brendel's
mature readings of the sonatas and feel deep sadness that we don't
have the equivalent mature readings of the other works he recorded in
his youth when he was a Vox artist.

I know why - they don't sell well. But that doesn't heal the sadness I
fell because of the neglect.

I brought up the name of Brautigam. I was especially impressed/excited
by his first volume of LvB solo keyboard works, particularly the
Pathetique sonata. I have acquired the subsequent volumes, but I find
the set uneven, and often felt the performer somewhat self-absorbed.
Has anyone else followed that set closely? If so, what do you think of
the "body" of recordings so far overall?
td
2011-07-10 14:30:20 UTC
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Permalink
Post by Randy Lane
Post by pianomaven
Post by Randy Lane
Post by ivanmaxim
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
Paul Lewis is probably true most significant addition in the last few
years IMHO.
There are so many. And I am quite sure that most here have not been
investigating the newer releases. Lewis? Yes. Good. But he has greater
impact as a pianist in person than on recordings, in my opinion. He
seems too cautious, too careful, too subdued on CD. In person he is
much more virile, more forceful.
You would be quite wrong to slight the Stephen Kovacevich set, perhaps
the most distinguished modern version of the complete sonatas.
As you would be to slight Alfred Brendel's final reading of the
sonatas on Philips. Unmatched for their textual fidelity and enormous
sophistication.And
And then there are all those in progress: Korstick, for example, very
German, very direct, and quite unfussy, with a stunningly
uncompromising Hammerklavier sonata.
Tchetuev is also very fine. He's at volume 4, I think. Beautifully
recorded by the old Philips technicians in Moscow.
And what about Garrick Ohlsson? Ian Hobson? Craig Shepard? Seymour
Lipkin? O'Connor? Nikolaeva?
There are so very many readings of these pieces it is almost
impossible to listen to them all. Which then makes it really
impossible to say that one or the other is "the most significant
addition in the last few years".
I am still waiting for Harris GOldsmith to update his book from 1970
on Beethoven sonatas on record. That would be a book I would buy in a
second.
TD
All very good points. On this topic I highly value what you contribute
Tom. You haves perspective and breadth of experience and exposure few,
if any, of us can match. thank you.
I don't recall everything that was discussed in 2005, but thought of
Lewis because his and Brautigam's recordings are the only ones that I
can think off the top of my head that are totally new or completed in
that time frame. I am sure there are others though and as this thread
develops more will but thrown into the pot. Finances being what they
are, and my immediate recording budget being spent on Bach Organ music
lately (I just won an eBay auction of all 26 LPs of Ewald Kooiman's
first traversal of that body of music) I may have to ignore this
thread until I recover from the current spending lest I be tempted
while I can least afford it. I love these works, and I am sure this
discussion will generate some must-buys.
I would appreciate, however, a broader discussion of ALL of theLvB
solo piano works. Too many artists, or at least their recording
producers, record only the sonatas, and often those who record more
only commit a few of the other works. The work of LvB in this genre I
listen to the most are the Eroica Variations, but how very few of
those who record the sonatas ever touch that work, or the many other
neglected keyboard works. Kempff was mentioned- never recoded the
work, or many of the other works for that matter. Same for Kovacevich.
Brendel you mention - his Vox recording of the Eroica Variations is a
fave - but he never did it again. I agree with you about Brendel's
mature readings of the sonatas and feel deep sadness that we don't
have the equivalent mature readings of the other works he recorded in
his youth when he was a Vox artist.
I know why - they don't sell well. But that doesn't heal the sadness I
fell because of the neglect.
I brought up the name of Brautigam. I was especially impressed/excited
by his first volume of LvB solo keyboard works, particularly the
Pathetique sonata. I have acquired the subsequent volumes, but I find
the set uneven, and often felt the performer somewhat self-absorbed.
Has anyone else followed that set closely? If so, what do you think of
the "body" of recordings so far overall?
Cannot comment on Brautigam. Not specially fond of Beethoven on
fortepiano. Paul Badura-Skoda's set for Astree has just been reissued
on high quality CD in Japan.

TD
Nick Sun
2011-07-10 15:16:50 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by pianomaven
Post by Randy Lane
Post by ivanmaxim
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
Paul Lewis is probably true most significant addition in the last few
years IMHO.
There are so many. And I am quite sure that most here have not been
investigating the newer releases. Lewis? Yes. Good. But he has greater
impact as a pianist in person than on recordings, in my opinion. He
seems too cautious, too careful, too subdued on CD. In person he is
much more virile, more forceful.
You would be quite wrong to slight the Stephen Kovacevich set, perhaps
the most distinguished modern version of the complete sonatas.
As you would be to slight Alfred Brendel's final reading of the
sonatas on Philips. Unmatched for their textual fidelity and enormous
sophistication.And
And then there are all those in progress: Korstick, for example, very
German, very direct, and quite unfussy, with a stunningly
uncompromising Hammerklavier sonata.
Tchetuev is also very fine. He's at volume 4, I think. Beautifully
recorded by the old Philips technicians in Moscow.
And what about Garrick Ohlsson? Ian Hobson? Craig Shepard? Seymour
Lipkin? O'Connor? Nikolaeva?
There are so very many readings of these pieces it is almost
impossible to listen to them all. Which then makes it really
impossible to say that one or the other is "the most significant
addition in the last few years".
I am still waiting for Harris GOldsmith to update his book from 1970
on Beethoven sonatas on record. That would be a book I would buy in a
second.
TD
What's wrong with Andreas Schiff? His set clearly is not pedestrian.
But seriously, these days, if one knows where to search there are
plenty to be found. I know some folks have 50+ complete set in their
collection, even just by listening to them once, it will take quite
some time. So, take some time listening is far more important than
giving opinions. :-)
td
2011-07-10 15:32:28 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Nick Sun
Post by pianomaven
Post by Randy Lane
Post by ivanmaxim
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
Paul Lewis is probably true most significant addition in the last few
years IMHO.
There are so many. And I am quite sure that most here have not been
investigating the newer releases. Lewis? Yes. Good. But he has greater
impact as a pianist in person than on recordings, in my opinion. He
seems too cautious, too careful, too subdued on CD. In person he is
much more virile, more forceful.
You would be quite wrong to slight the Stephen Kovacevich set, perhaps
the most distinguished modern version of the complete sonatas.
As you would be to slight Alfred Brendel's final reading of the
sonatas on Philips. Unmatched for their textual fidelity and enormous
sophistication.And
And then there are all those in progress: Korstick, for example, very
German, very direct, and quite unfussy, with a stunningly
uncompromising Hammerklavier sonata.
Tchetuev is also very fine. He's at volume 4, I think. Beautifully
recorded by the old Philips technicians in Moscow.
And what about Garrick Ohlsson? Ian Hobson? Craig Shepard? Seymour
Lipkin? O'Connor? Nikolaeva?
There are so very many readings of these pieces it is almost
impossible to listen to them all. Which then makes it really
impossible to say that one or the other is "the most significant
addition in the last few years".
I am still waiting for Harris GOldsmith to update his book from 1970
on Beethoven sonatas on record. That would be a book I would buy in a
second.
TD
What's wrong with Andreas Schiff? His set clearly is not pedestrian.
But seriously, these days, if one knows where to search there are
plenty to be found. I know some folks have 50+ complete set in their
collection, even just by listening to them once, it will take quite
some time. So, take some time listening is far more important than
giving opinions.
I have.

Please note that I did not "give opinions". Merely suggested that
further listening is required before making sweeping statements.

As for Schiff, I am sure his readings are fine, if you like his
mannerisms.

TD
David Fox
2011-07-10 19:54:45 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Nick Sun
Post by pianomaven
Post by Randy Lane
Post by ivanmaxim
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
Paul Lewis is probably true most significant addition in the last few
years IMHO.
There are so many. And I am quite sure that most here have not been
investigating the newer releases. Lewis? Yes. Good. But he has greater
impact as a pianist in person than on recordings, in my opinion. He
seems too cautious, too careful, too subdued on CD. In person he is
much more virile, more forceful.
You would be quite wrong to slight the Stephen Kovacevich set, perhaps
the most distinguished modern version of the complete sonatas.
As you would be to slight Alfred Brendel's final reading of the
sonatas on Philips. Unmatched for their textual fidelity and enormous
sophistication.And
And then there are all those in progress: Korstick, for example, very
German, very direct, and quite unfussy, with a stunningly
uncompromising Hammerklavier sonata.
Tchetuev is also very fine. He's at volume 4, I think. Beautifully
recorded by the old Philips technicians in Moscow.
And what about Garrick Ohlsson? Ian Hobson? Craig Shepard? Seymour
Lipkin? O'Connor? Nikolaeva?
There are so very many readings of these pieces it is almost
impossible to listen to them all. Which then makes it really
impossible to say that one or the other is "the most significant
addition in the last few years".
I am still waiting for Harris GOldsmith to update his book from 1970
on Beethoven sonatas on record. That would be a book I would buy in a
second.
TD
What's wrong with Andreas Schiff? His set clearly is not pedestrian.
But seriously, these days, if one knows where to search there are
plenty to be found. I know some folks have 50+ complete set in their
collection, even just by listening to them once, it will take quite
some time. So, take some time listening is far more important than
giving opinions. :-)
It's been discussed before. Schiff did a concurrent series of
lectures which are still available on the web and they are essential.
These lectures contain many examples, and these examples offer vibrant
unaffected playing that is as good as the commentary. For some
reason, the actual recordings (taken from live concerts) are far less
satisfying for the most part. He adds affectations like end-of-phrase
ritards in the early sonatas which make no sense, strange pauses here
and there that break the flow, etc. Still, there is some excellent
playing in this set. I was particularly pleased with his recording of
the final three sonatas.

Here's a link to the Schiff Guardian Lectures:

http://bit.ly/IWEaE

DF
td
2011-07-10 20:43:36 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Nick Sun
Post by pianomaven
Post by Randy Lane
Post by ivanmaxim
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
Paul Lewis is probably true most significant addition in the last few
years IMHO.
There are so many. And I am quite sure that most here have not been
investigating the newer releases. Lewis? Yes. Good. But he has greater
impact as a pianist in person than on recordings, in my opinion. He
seems too cautious, too careful, too subdued on CD. In person he is
much more virile, more forceful.
You would be quite wrong to slight the Stephen Kovacevich set, perhaps
the most distinguished modern version of the complete sonatas.
As you would be to slight Alfred Brendel's final reading of the
sonatas on Philips. Unmatched for their textual fidelity and enormous
sophistication.And
And then there are all those in progress: Korstick, for example, very
German, very direct, and quite unfussy, with a stunningly
uncompromising Hammerklavier sonata.
Tchetuev is also very fine. He's at volume 4, I think. Beautifully
recorded by the old Philips technicians in Moscow.
And what about Garrick Ohlsson? Ian Hobson? Craig Shepard? Seymour
Lipkin? O'Connor? Nikolaeva?
There are so very many readings of these pieces it is almost
impossible to listen to them all. Which then makes it really
impossible to say that one or the other is "the most significant
addition in the last few years".
I am still waiting for Harris GOldsmith to update his book from 1970
on Beethoven sonatas on record. That would be a book I would buy in a
second.
TD
What's wrong with Andreas Schiff? His set clearly is not pedestrian.
But seriously, these days, if one knows where to search there are
plenty to be found. I know some folks have 50+ complete set in their
collection, even just by listening to them once, it will take quite
some time. So, take some time listening is far more important than
giving opinions. :-)
It's been discussed before.  Schiff did a concurrent series of
lectures which are still available on the web and they are essential.
These lectures contain many examples, and these examples offer vibrant
unaffected playing that is as good as the commentary.  For some
reason, the actual recordings (taken from live concerts) are far less
satisfying for the most part.  He adds affectations like end-of-phrase
ritards in the early sonatas which make no sense, strange pauses here
and there that break the flow, etc.  
It is precisely these affectations - I call them mannerisms - which
drive me crazy with Schiff's playing.

TD
Sol L. Siegel
2011-07-10 17:04:01 UTC
Reply
Permalink
I am still waiting for Harris Goldsmith to update his book from 1970
on Beethoven sonatas on record. That would be a book I would buy in a
second.
In the meantime, you might content yourself with the handful of
sonatas that he's recorded himself.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000KHYO5A/

- Sol L. Siegel, Philadelphia, PA USA
pianomaven
2011-07-10 19:34:20 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Sol L. Siegel
I am still waiting for Harris Goldsmith to update his book from 1970
on Beethoven sonatas on record. That would be a book I would buy in a
second.
In the meantime, you might content yourself with the handful of
sonatas that he's recorded himself.
I have those, Sol, but I like his writing very much. Not that I would
read ARG in order to get it.

TD
David Fox
2011-07-10 20:23:13 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by ivanmaxim
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
My list (chronological):

Schnabel: The great storyteller. Not the last word in Beethoven -
there is no such thing - but everyone should hear these. There are
some duds but the good recordings hold up to repeated listening over
the years.

Kempff: The great lyricist. On paper one would not think a pianist
who excels in bringing out singing lines and organ-like textured
chords would be a great Beethoven pianist, but he is. It just shows
how multifaceted these works are. I'm not sure it would be the first
or only Beethoven I own, but it's a great set. I prefer the mono, but
the stereo is not as bad as some say. If he recorded only the stereo
set it would not have changed my assessment of his Beethoven.

Nat: For years this set was a hidden gem. The late great Mario
Taboada (MrT on this group) pointed this out to me. Nat was French
and had come out of retirement shortly before recording this set.
Neither of these facts would be obvious to a listener. He does not
sound like the stereotypical "jeu de pearl" French pianist at all and
his playing, while not letter-perfect, is for the most part secure.
His playing is very masculine, but not gruff. He approaches each
piece on its own terms as all of the great Beethoven players do. I
never get the sense of sameness that one sometimes gets in complete
sets that the pianist is playing something he quickly learned to "play
out the string." He makes a good counterbalance to Kempff's never-
ending singing line.

Arrau (Philips analog set): His is a serious Beethoven which
sometimes doesn't wear well in the earlier sonatas, but his deep
understanding of each score permeates every measure. If Kempff is a
sunnier Beethoven, Arrau is the craggy shaking fist in the air, but
also with perfectly voiced chords, even passagework, and his patented
deep-in-the-keys sonorities. Again, not necessarily a first set to
own, but if you're not allergic to Arrau's musical personality it is
highly recommended.

Gulda (Amadeo stereo set). Gulda's technique is amazing. He captures
the youthful excitement of early Beethoven as well or better than
anyone, and for that alone the set is worthwhile. He seems a little
rushed in some of the mature sonatas, especially the late ones, but
you will never hear clearer more delineated passagework in the fugue
sections of Op. 109, 110 and better internal trills in the late
sonatas.

Kovacevich: My favorite set of the digital era. It reminds me a bit
of Nat as the playing is very masculine and there's definitely more of
a sense of technical struggle than one hears in Arrau or Gulda, but
the technique is more than sound. One could make the argument that
this sense of struggle adds an essential element to Beethoven. Again,
there is no "sameness" - each sonata and each movement is
characterized and thought-out. Kovacevich manages a nice balance
between the lyrical and percussive nature of Beethoven's piano
writing. Some have a problem with the instrument(s) he used and the
recorded sound, but these qualities do not diminish the recordings to
me.

I'm sure I left out many truly great sets, but this is my personal
list. Of course, there are great individual sonata recordings by
Richter, Gould, Sokolov, Sofronitzky, Gilels, Serkin, and others too
numerous to count.

Good luck! I envy you hearing some of these sets for the first time.

DF
td
2011-07-10 20:47:54 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by ivanmaxim
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
Schnabel:  The great storyteller. Not the last word in Beethoven -
there is no such thing - but everyone should hear these.  There are
some duds but the good recordings hold up to repeated listening over
the years.
Kempff:  The great lyricist.  On paper one would not think a pianist
who excels in bringing out singing lines and organ-like textured
chords would be a great Beethoven pianist, but he is.  It just shows
how multifaceted these works are.  I'm not sure it would be the first
or only Beethoven I own, but it's a great set.  I prefer the mono, but
the stereo is not as bad as some say.  If he recorded only the stereo
set it would not have changed my assessment of his Beethoven.
Nat:  For years this set was a hidden gem.  The late great Mario
Taboada (MrT on this group) pointed this out to me.  Nat was French
and had come out of retirement shortly before recording this set.
Neither of these facts would be obvious to a listener.  He does not
sound like the stereotypical "jeu de pearl" French pianist at all and
his playing, while not letter-perfect, is for the most part secure.
His playing is very masculine, but not gruff.  He approaches each
piece on its own terms as all of the great Beethoven players do.  I
never get the sense of sameness that one sometimes gets in complete
sets that the pianist is playing something he quickly learned to "play
out the string."  He makes a good counterbalance to Kempff's never-
ending singing line.
Arrau (Philips analog set):  His is a serious Beethoven which
sometimes doesn't wear well in the earlier sonatas, but his deep
understanding of each score permeates every measure.  If Kempff is a
sunnier Beethoven, Arrau is the craggy shaking fist in the air, but
also with perfectly voiced chords, even passagework, and his patented
deep-in-the-keys sonorities.  Again, not necessarily a first set to
own, but if you're not allergic to Arrau's musical personality it is
highly recommended.
Gulda (Amadeo stereo set).  Gulda's technique is amazing.  He captures
the youthful excitement of early Beethoven as well or better than
anyone, and for that alone the set is worthwhile.  He seems a little
rushed in some of the mature sonatas, especially the late ones, but
you will never hear clearer more delineated passagework in the fugue
sections of Op. 109, 110 and better internal trills in the late
sonatas.
Kovacevich:  My favorite set of the digital era.  It reminds me a bit
of Nat as the playing is very masculine and there's definitely more of
a sense of technical struggle than one hears in Arrau or Gulda, but
the technique is more than sound. One could make the argument that
this sense of struggle adds an essential element to Beethoven. Again,
there is no "sameness" - each sonata and each movement is
characterized and thought-out.  Kovacevich manages a nice balance
between the lyrical and percussive nature of Beethoven's piano
writing. Some have a problem with the instrument(s) he used and the
recorded sound, but these qualities do not diminish the recordings to
me.
Basically I don't disagree with your overview.

I think that all interpreters of Beethoven have something unique to
say and deserve a hearing. This is major music and for any pianist to
commit the time and effort to learn them all is a major task. That
task deserves acknowledgement.

In the case of Gulda, I prefer the early Decca set or, very
interesting, the almost contempraneous set just released from Austria.

TD
ivanmaxim
2011-07-10 22:24:02 UTC
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Post by ivanmaxim
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
Schnabel:  The great storyteller. Not the last word in Beethoven -
there is no such thing - but everyone should hear these.  There are
some duds but the good recordings hold up to repeated listening over
the years.
Kempff:  The great lyricist.  On paper one would not think a pianist
who excels in bringing out singing lines and organ-like textured
chords would be a great Beethoven pianist, but he is.  It just shows
how multifaceted these works are.  I'm not sure it would be the first
or only Beethoven I own, but it's a great set.  I prefer the mono, but
the stereo is not as bad as some say.  If he recorded only the stereo
set it would not have changed my assessment of his Beethoven.
Nat:  For years this set was a hidden gem.  The late great Mario
Taboada (MrT on this group) pointed this out to me.  Nat was French
and had come out of retirement shortly before recording this set.
Neither of these facts would be obvious to a listener.  He does not
sound like the stereotypical "jeu de pearl" French pianist at all and
his playing, while not letter-perfect, is for the most part secure.
His playing is very masculine, but not gruff.  He approaches each
piece on its own terms as all of the great Beethoven players do.  I
never get the sense of sameness that one sometimes gets in complete
sets that the pianist is playing something he quickly learned to "play
out the string."  He makes a good counterbalance to Kempff's never-
ending singing line.
Arrau (Philips analog set):  His is a serious Beethoven which
sometimes doesn't wear well in the earlier sonatas, but his deep
understanding of each score permeates every measure.  If Kempff is a
sunnier Beethoven, Arrau is the craggy shaking fist in the air, but
also with perfectly voiced chords, even passagework, and his patented
deep-in-the-keys sonorities.  Again, not necessarily a first set to
own, but if you're not allergic to Arrau's musical personality it is
highly recommended.
Gulda (Amadeo stereo set).  Gulda's technique is amazing.  He captures
the youthful excitement of early Beethoven as well or better than
anyone, and for that alone the set is worthwhile.  He seems a little
rushed in some of the mature sonatas, especially the late ones, but
you will never hear clearer more delineated passagework in the fugue
sections of Op. 109, 110 and better internal trills in the late
sonatas.
Kovacevich:  My favorite set of the digital era.  It reminds me a bit
of Nat as the playing is very masculine and there's definitely more of
a sense of technical struggle than one hears in Arrau or Gulda, but
the technique is more than sound. One could make the argument that
this sense of struggle adds an essential element to Beethoven. Again,
there is no "sameness" - each sonata and each movement is
characterized and thought-out.  Kovacevich manages a nice balance
between the lyrical and percussive nature of Beethoven's piano
writing. Some have a problem with the instrument(s) he used and the
recorded sound, but these qualities do not diminish the recordings to
me.
I'm sure I left out many truly great sets, but this is my personal
list.  Of course, there are great individual sonata recordings by
Richter, Gould, Sokolov, Sofronitzky, Gilels, Serkin, and others too
numerous to count.
Good luck!  I envy you hearing some of these sets for the first time.
DF
Well that would be me - I am leaning towards Kovacevich for my next
set. As I said I only have the Schnabel and stereo Kempff. Its not my
nature to go for the "pretty" sets but something more personal as if
Furtwangler were playing then the way he conducts. Wagner Fan
wkasimer
2011-07-11 01:45:48 UTC
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Post by ivanmaxim
Well that would be me - I am leaning towards Kovacevich for my next
set.
Good luck finding a copy at an affordable price - EMI appears to have
let it go out of print, and used copies on Amazon are pretty pricey.

Bill
Randy Lane
2011-07-11 02:01:28 UTC
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Permalink
Post by wkasimer
Post by ivanmaxim
Well that would be me - I am leaning towards Kovacevich for my next
set.
Good luck finding a copy at an affordable price - EMI appears to have
let it go out of print, and used copies on Amazon are pretty pricey.
Bill
I kick myself sometimes for not grabbing when it was available and
cheap. But I heard a lot of discussion in various places that
expressed disappointment when the performances were compared with the
earlier Philips recordings of the few sonatas he recorded while a
Philips artist. I likened the thoughts with my own response to his
remakes on EMI of the Brahms concertos (I don't recall what I disliked
about the the EMI Brahms specifically, but I quickly got rid of them
in disgust) and made my mind up pass on the Beethoven. Having had the
opportunity to personally sample some of the EMI a few months ago I
now regret my choice.
Randy Lane
2011-07-11 02:03:23 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Randy Lane
Post by wkasimer
Post by ivanmaxim
Well that would be me - I am leaning towards Kovacevich for my next
set.
Good luck finding a copy at an affordable price - EMI appears to have
let it go out of print, and used copies on Amazon are pretty pricey.
Bill
I kick myself sometimes for not grabbing when it was available and
cheap. But I heard a lot of discussion in various places that
expressed disappointment when the performances were compared with the
earlier Philips recordings of the few sonatas he recorded while a
Philips artist. I likened the thoughts with my own response to his
remakes on EMI of the Brahms concertos (I don't recall what I disliked
about the the EMI Brahms specifically, but I quickly got rid of them
in disgust) and made my mind up pass on the Beethoven. Having had the
opportunity to personally sample some of the EMI a few months ago I
now regret my choice.
I have become fond of Arrau's second run, another rare item that
fetches high prices.
George
2011-07-11 02:27:34 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Randy Lane
Post by Randy Lane
Post by wkasimer
Post by ivanmaxim
Well that would be me - I am leaning towards Kovacevich for my next
set.
Good luck finding a copy at an affordable price - EMI appears to have
let it go out of print, and used copies on Amazon are pretty pricey.
Bill
I kick myself sometimes for not grabbing when it was available and
cheap. But I heard a lot of discussion in various places that
expressed disappointment when the performances were compared with the
earlier Philips recordings of the few sonatas he recorded while a
Philips artist. I likened the thoughts with my own response to his
remakes on EMI of the Brahms concertos (I don't recall what I disliked
about the the EMI Brahms specifically, but I quickly got rid of them
in disgust) and made my mind up pass on the Beethoven. Having had the
opportunity to personally sample some of the EMI a few months ago I
now regret my choice.
I have become fond of Arrau's second run, another rare item that
fetches high prices.
Is that the Arrau Heritage one?

George
ivanmaxim
2011-07-11 02:29:43 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by wkasimer
Post by ivanmaxim
Well that would be me - I am leaning towards Kovacevich for my next
set.
Good luck finding a copy at an affordable price - EMI appears to have
let it go out of print, and used copies on Amazon are pretty pricey.
Bill
Thats OK - EMI has an inexpensive 3 CD set of ten favorite Beethoven
sonatas with him so I'll have that till the whole thing is reissued
(If I like it that is). Wagner fan

David O.
2011-07-11 02:26:08 UTC
Reply
Permalink
On Sun, 10 Jul 2011 05:02:37 -0700 (PDT), ivanmaxim
Post by ivanmaxim
It's been a few years since the group discussed complete recordings of
the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Back in 2006 the opnions were kind of all
over the place but there were good thoughts for Schnabel (of course),
Bernard Roberts and Claude Frank. I have the Schnabel on Dante CDs and
the Kempff on budget DG CDs (I find him a bit too small scale for my
taste). Does the present group have aything to add as to what set they
would recommend and why??? Wagner fan
I happen to completely enjoy the Claude Frank set. I love the way he
traverses the varied styles with what seems to me consistent felicity
& mature, moving musicality. A couple of sonatas, or sometimes just
movements, are played so well that the Frank recording is my favorite.
For example: the Allegretto from No. 17 & the Presto from No. 30. I
also love the sound on the remastering from several years ago.
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