Author Topic: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas  (Read 599386 times)

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Online Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4140 on: April 20, 2019, 11:21:55 PM »
 I think there's something very distinctive about Levit, and I don't see why amw and Premont and Brian are saying he's anonymous in 109-111: he can play in a way which is at one and the same time muscular and light, sprightly. This combination of strength and playfulness is not a bad way of making sense of Beethoven.

In truth though I'd heard him in concert with a Beethoven cycle I'd never heard the recordings. If anything, I've enjoyed the recordings more than the concert and I'm looking forward to the release.

For what it's worth, I'll mention that Levit was in one of the worst recitals, the most boring recitals, I've ever had the displeasure to be at: it was the two Schubert piano trios.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2019, 12:30:01 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline amw

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4141 on: April 21, 2019, 02:30:41 AM »
I went back to listen to Op. 106, and compared it with a pianist with a very similar interpretation (Jean-Frédéric Neuburger). In the first movement Levit never gives the music a real sense of forward motion, nor does he let it breathe in the more relaxed moments; Neuburger does both. This is not to say that his playing is metronomic it just lacks a certain inner life. There's not much snap to the rhythms, which are sometimes fudged, and there's also some sloppy voicing (e.g. not bringing out the top note in the opening motive) although the playing is overall technically superior to Neuburger's, especially the softer playing. I guess this is a subjective reaction for me personally but I don't get any sense of joy or passion from the movement. In the scherzo the main thing I can fault Levit for is his phrasing—he puts an accent on every bar without fail, and the accents are all uniform, so I don't personally get a sense of the larger phrases, which are all either seven or nine bars long in a sublime example of Beethovenian wit. His performance generally lacks a sense of....capriciousness I guess. But a lot of other pianists also fall flat in that regard. Levit's adagio is fine, dynamically very restrained and impossible to mistake for anything "appassionato e con molto sentimento" but such dirgelike performances have been an acceptable interpretive option ever since Solomon, at least. Nothing special but definitely listenable. Finally in the fugue Levit actually seems to wake up and deliver a performance that builds momentum and shows off some of the macho brashness you mentioned, but always tempered with a bit of humour. I guess that's the movement he spent most of his time practicing. It's a sparkling performance and reveals that he can turn out better than routine work, which makes the comparative flatness of the first three movements all the more puzzling given that this is, after all, a studio recording.

In any case I feel a bit more positive about Levit although probably still not enough to buy the complete cycle

Offline Todd

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4142 on: April 21, 2019, 04:53:25 AM »
Just too hard to imagine how it wouldn't be better than Rasch, which was such a full-on crashing bore.


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Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4143 on: April 22, 2019, 08:57:05 AM »
Just relistened to his Op. 101. The late trio of 109-111 was fairly anonymous, but very competent; 101 is super eccentric, but generally in the sense of going soft and quiet in places where you might not expect. Bit of rubato in first movement. I thought some of his "poetic" touches were precious and overthought, but I really dug the way he deliberately monotoned his way through the finale fugue bits at an unchanging dynamic level, as if playing some sternly sexy harpsichord.

Edit: wtf I sound like Mandryka

I remember hearing him in recital before he became a big deal -- although locally (Munich) he was already being hyped -- and found his Beethoven typically Russian; structurally wanting, all-too-caught up in the moment; ultimately rather underwhelming.

Offline staxomega

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4144 on: April 28, 2019, 06:48:05 AM »
Levit made very positive remarks about Schnabel in the Schnabel documentary, I think something along the lines of "no one played Beethoven in such an inspired way or with such feeling" so I figured I would revisit the 2 CD late sonatas but sadly I didn't hear much on it that has me too keen on this cycle.

Offline staxomega

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4145 on: May 09, 2019, 01:48:42 PM »
I've now made it through Russell Sherman's cycle. I remember hearing it a while ago on Tidal streaming, listening to it in order and immediately being turned off by it as at least for my tastes the Op. 2 sonatas were really, really off putting to me. And then reading one of Jed Distler's reviews where he gave one of the discs a comically bad 2/10 rating; it just didn't have me interested in hearing more. I am sort of puzzled why Jed Distler felt the need to slam it to that extent when he often extols the virtues of Schnabel.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago I came across these for cheap and then decided to complete the set. Besides the Op. 2 sonatas which I'm still not a big fan of I think this is an extremely interesting cycle. Sherman's tremendous dynamic range, tonal color and his obsession with really bringing out the voices makes for a very interesting non-reference cycle. If you can look past his sometimes reckless use of rubato, tempo stretching, the little pauses he takes, etc. What I have founds helps is "listening to them from afar" instead of honing on these things, with that frame of mind Sherman has some tremendous ideas. This will be one of those great cycles I'll be enjoying for years, I think the way he breaks up the sonatas by volume was very well done as this isn't a cycle I'd want to listen to from start to finish but instead focus on in the order he presents them.

Now trying to decipher his liner notes does require some high proof whisk(e)y  ;D

Online Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4146 on: May 09, 2019, 11:35:58 PM »

Now trying to decipher his liner notes does require some high proof whisk(e)y  ;D

Who wrote them?

What I have founds helps is "listening to them from afar" instead of honing on these things, with that frame of mind Sherman has some tremendous ideas.

That's sooooo hard to do.


with that frame of mind Sherman has some tremendous ideas.

An example, some talk through, would be much appreciated. I agree he's an interesting pianist in Beethoven
« Last Edit: May 09, 2019, 11:44:14 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline staxomega

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4147 on: May 10, 2019, 07:04:01 AM »
Who wrote them?

An example, some talk through, would be much appreciated. I agree he's an interesting pianist in Beethoven

Sherman and Gunther Schuller wrote the liner notes. It's Sherman's liner notes on the sonatas that are quite peculiar, not as abstruse as say Glenn Gould's but getting there.

The Pastoral Sonata is a real high point. Others are 10/3, an unusual Appassionata, 109 and Op 90 just off the top of my head are some I would suggest hearing.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2019, 07:06:13 AM by staxomega »

Offline Florestan

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4148 on: May 10, 2019, 08:58:32 AM »
"I compose music because I must give utterance to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts." --- Sergei Rachmaninoff

Online Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4149 on: May 10, 2019, 10:52:22 AM »
Why?

Because sometimes with this performer the embellishments are intrusive and can sound inorganic, so my attention is inevitably drawn to them.
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Online Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4150 on: May 10, 2019, 10:52:53 AM »
Sherman and Gunther Schuller wrote the liner notes. It's Sherman's liner notes on the sonatas that are quite peculiar, not as abstruse as say Glenn Gould's but getting there.

The Pastoral Sonata is a real high point. Others are 10/3, an unusual Appassionata, 109 and Op 90 just off the top of my head are some I would suggest hearing.

Thanks for that, I listened to the 109 and I agree it's rather good.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4151 on: May 10, 2019, 11:07:05 AM »
Because sometimes with this performer the embellishments are intrusive and can sound inorganic, so my attention is inevitably drawn to them.

Ah, I see. I thought you were talking in general.
"I compose music because I must give utterance to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts." --- Sergei Rachmaninoff

Online Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4152 on: May 10, 2019, 09:23:52 PM »
Robert Silverman has recorded a new cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas, you can buy it from here or indeed get most of it for free. He uses a modern concert grand of some kind, but it’s OK.

http://www.audiohigh.com/our-destination/wolf-subzero-2/
« Last Edit: May 10, 2019, 09:26:20 PM by Mandryka »
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Online George

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4153 on: May 11, 2019, 04:25:34 AM »
Robert Silverman has recorded a new cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas, you can buy it from here or indeed get most of it for free. He uses a modern concert grand of some kind, but it’s OK.

http://www.audiohigh.com/our-destination/wolf-subzero-2/

Have you listened to any of it yet? I found the sound on his first set difficult to get past. The miking on that one was odd.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4154 on: May 11, 2019, 04:53:21 AM »
Have you listened to any of it yet? I found the sound on his first set difficult to get past. The miking on that one was odd.


The Orpheum set was of a reproducing Bosendorfer recorded in a rich dude's foyer, so hardly ideal recording conditions.  The AudioHigh set is more standard.  The recordings are live, and on the close and dry side.  Performances are not up to the Orpheum set.   The best recorded Silverman Beethoven is the Rouvain label recording of the last three sonatas played on Steinway #500,000.


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Online Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4155 on: May 11, 2019, 05:29:48 AM »
Have you listened to any of it yet? I found the sound on his first set difficult to get past. The miking on that one was odd.

Just 109, it's listenable  -- but I found that the first was listenable even though it's not well engineered.

« Last Edit: May 11, 2019, 05:38:39 AM by Mandryka »
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Online George

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4156 on: May 11, 2019, 05:47:01 AM »
Thanks for the info, gents!  :)
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4157 on: May 11, 2019, 08:21:29 AM »
a rich dude's foyer, so hardly ideal recording conditions.

Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert -- they never knew, or cared about, ideal recording conditions --- yet they often played in a rich dude's foyer --- I say, claim and maintain that recordings have changed forever, yet not always for better, our experience of music, and I say, claim and maintain that people around 1800 honestly heard in their music things that we are honestly unable to hear in the same music.

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. --- L. P. Hartley
"I compose music because I must give utterance to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts." --- Sergei Rachmaninoff

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4158 on: May 11, 2019, 08:27:47 AM »
Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert -- they never knew, or cared about, ideal recording conditions --- yet they often played in a rich dude's foyer --- I say, claim and maintain that recordings have changed forever, yet not always for better, our experience of music, and I say, claim and maintain that people around 1800 honestly heard in their music things that we are honestly unable to hear in the same music.

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. --- L. P. Hartley

I say, claim and maintain that the Sun rises in the East.

Offline Florestan

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #4159 on: May 11, 2019, 08:36:47 AM »
I say, claim and maintain that the Sun rises in the East.

You're as wrong as it gets --- the Earth revolves around the Sun, not the other way around.  :laugh:

Still, I say, claim and maintain that recordings have changed forever, yet not automatically for the better, our experience of music.
"I compose music because I must give utterance to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts." --- Sergei Rachmaninoff