Author Topic: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas  (Read 751742 times)

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George

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #140 on: December 17, 2007, 02:47:56 PM »
Over the weekend I had some time to kill (in-laws in the house  ;D ), so I ripped some fairly modern Beethoven sonata sets (Goode, Kovacevich, Brendel III, Barenboim DG) for my iPod, there to reside with Kempff, Gilels, & the usual suspects.  Which prompted me to ask:

What is your favorite sonata set recorded in the last 20 years, and why? 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (pun not intended), I will paste the review I posted on amazon.com:
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I happen to know for a fact that there are a number of you out there who are finding it hard to decide to pay the asking price for this set. Therefore, I shall try to explain why you should do so, immediately.

First of all, I will say that I own complete cyles by Gulda, Fischer, Schnabel, Kempff (mono), Kovacevich and Backhaus (stereo). Of these, Annie's is my favorite complete set. Easily. I also own single/double discs by Serkin, Richter, Moravec, Horowitz, Gilels, Goode, O'Conor, Pollini, Kempff (stereo), Arrau, Brendel, Jando and Rubinstein. Annie also trumps many of these as well.

Secondly, I must say that Annie's cycle is remarkably consistent, I think she does excellent or superb on 25 of the 32. In the others, she is fair or good. In my experience, this is no small feat, in fact only Gulda equals her in consistency, though not in quality. Gulda tends to rush through these works, a which doesn't always come off well and even when it does, he still lack's Fischer's depth. Schnabel's legendary set, now available on Naxos from European sellers with excellent transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn, is of course very consistent and superbly played. However, many will likely pass on this set due to the historical sound. Kempff plays these works on a smaller scale that doesn't always work for me, though few can match his tone and beauty. Backhaus's more masculine approach is more to my liking, though his fast slow movements, like Gulda, lack depth. Kovacevich's set is more agressive than even Annie's, who is surprisingly agressive when needed and deeply touching and sensitive when appropriate. She handles all three of the main periods of Lvb's works with equal achievement, an incredible feat.

Third, the quality of her playing simply has to be heard to be believed. The opening to her Appassionata sonata dispels all worries that you might have that she isn't up the job. You can listen here at Amazon on the page that hold the single disc from this set. It sounds like thunder from the heavens, as does the finale here and in the Moonlight Sonata. She finds young energy in the early works and confident strength and power in the heroic middle sonatas. Her Op. 31 is easily my favorite, combining a great sense of rythm, drama and beauty. Her Late Sonatas are incrdibly profound and gorgeous. Without resorting to some of the more extreme tempo choices others have made, she finds a style all her own that works magnificently. In fact, her tempo choices are almost always just right, never rushing, nor letting the tempo sag.

Fourth, when compared to her closest rivals, Schnabel, Gulda, and Kempff, her set has superior sound. She plays a gorgeously dark sounding Bosendorfer that was recorded remarkably well. Her recordings were made in the 70's and 80's and the close miking arccurately conveys her sweet tone and powerful fortes. Sure, Goode and Kovacevich may have better sound, but IMO they don't play at her level. Goode's interpretations lack excitement at times, while Kovacevich seems to focus a bit too much on excitement.

Fifth, you will notice that the price changes from time to time by some of the marketplace sellers, buying it now saves you from paying more for it later. More importantly, there may not even be a later, for this set is hard to find as it is. This can certainly suggest that it may not stay in print. With talent like this, why gamble? This is mostly a matter of taste of course, I suggest that you listen to the samples here and compare for yourself. I really don't think that you'll be sorry if you choose Annie, though! 

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If you have listened to many sets (Hi Todd & George!), do you think that the level of Beethoven interpretation, on average, has improved over time?  Gotten worse?  Are there any trends? Ie, are most of your personal top 10 by pianists who have long since shuffled off the mortal coil?

Hey jwinter!  :) To answer this question, I need to check a few things when I get home tonight or tomorrow morning. I'll post more then.

Offline Todd

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #141 on: December 17, 2007, 04:04:03 PM »
Annie Fischer's cycle was recorded mostly in the 70s with some touch up work thereafter.  I thought jwinter was basically asking about digital sets, not older analog sets.
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Mark

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #142 on: December 17, 2007, 04:36:01 PM »
Wasn't the Annie set never intended for release? And is it true that it's made up from multiple edits recorded across a large number of sessions?

George

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #143 on: December 17, 2007, 04:37:39 PM »
If you have listened to many sets (Hi Todd & George!), do you think that the level of Beethoven interpretation, on average, has improved over time?  Gotten worse?  Are there any trends? Ie, are most of your personal top 10 by pianists who have long since shuffled off the mortal coil?

My personal top 10:

Annie Fischer
Rudolf Serkin
Sviatoslav Richter
Emil Gilels
Friedrich Gulda
Wilhelm Backhaus
Artur Schnabel
Wilhelm Kempff
Maria Yudina
Bruce Hungerford
 
Other than Annie, none of these (I am not sure about Hungerford) were either alive or at their peak in the last 20 years. So no, things haven't improved IMO.

Offline Todd

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #144 on: December 17, 2007, 05:16:51 PM »
That's not true


I’m well aware of what the liner notes say – I’ve had the cycle far longer than you have, and I’ve done some investigation of the cycle.  Every sonata displays analog hiss more or less throughout (if you can identify the ones that don’t, let me know which ones they are), and Hungaroton moved to all digital in the early 80s.  This very clearly demonstrates that very little of the cycle was recorded in the last 15-20 years.  Beyond that, other sources have more or less stated the same thing I did – that most of the recordings were made in the 70s, with touch-ups and some minor retakes being made thereafter.  Her other playing from the 80s does not display the same technical command as in the studio cycle, and some of those are live-in-studio recordings, indicating that she could have and most likely did use multiple takes even then.  I suppose you can include her Hungaroton cycle in those from the last 20 years, but I find that lazy and disingenuous.  It is one of the greatest of cycles, but it’s not a modern cycle.




No, they were, but Annie was "reluctant" about releasing them.


That is partially true, or partially incorrect, depending on how one looks at it.  Fischer apparently “approved” certain takes on the sonatas, or so the liner notes say, but the recordings were never released during her lifetime.  One can attribute that to "reluctance," I suppose, but given that she approved other recordings at other times, I’m not completely sold on the official story in the liner notes.  It appears to be another case of a label capitalizing on an artist against the artist’s wish, though I’m glad they did.  (Revised)
« Last Edit: December 17, 2007, 05:25:11 PM by Todd »
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Offline Todd

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #145 on: December 17, 2007, 05:56:34 PM »
Thanks for your observations, but I'm going with what the liner notes say on this one. Maybe someday I'll find out from her 3rd cousin that they were recorded in 1963?


If you want to be lazy and disingenuous, believe liner notes so wholeheartedly, and don’t want to actually back up your de facto assertion that some of the recordings are modern (ie, digital), fine.  But claiming a cycle that started in the 70s is modern is ridiculous.  And note that I didn’t write about the sound being limited – though it is a bit harsh at times – just that it is clearly analog.  There’s quite a bit of difference there.



Do people go into studios and record entire sets of sonatas for other reasons than for them to be released?


Alfred Cortot apparently did.  Michelangeli and Pollini have left recordings unreleased in DG’s vaults.  Other artists have made other recordings that never got released.  It has happened quite a bit.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

George

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #146 on: December 18, 2007, 09:42:44 PM »
I probably listen to Beethoven Sonatas less often than most of other posters in this thread but been listening to this one lately and quite liking it.



For me there are two highlights, first being first movement of Waldstein - it's pure and simple joy listening to pianist who can play at these speeds without slightest compromise of articulation or lost in beauty of tone for a single moment. The other and absolute highlight of the disc is arioso dolente of op.110, so achingly beautiful, sad but more melancholy than despair, with phrasing that sounds perfectly right, gets me wobbly in the knees everytime. Actually all of op.110 is stunning. First movement floats effortlessly, fast second with sharp dynamic contrasts, both fugues flawless, crescendo towards the end is mighty without becoming bangy  (his tone never hardens). This one has becoming quickly my preferred version within my modest collection.

Which brings me to the point, wanted to add couple more recordings of op.110 to ones I already have (Kempff, Solomon, Richter, Freire). Decided on Gieseking and Fischer but there is the question - which transfer for Fischer? APR has more appealing couplings than Pearl but I generally like Pearl transfers. Does anyone have both? Or how is APR sounding?

Fischer is Edwin.

Check PM.  ;)

Offline Don Isler

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #147 on: December 18, 2007, 10:34:32 PM »
The 22 sonatas done by Hungerford were recorded between 1968 and 1976. He died in 1977 without completing the rest of the cycle. No one I know of ever heard him play the Hammerklavier (some of the sonatas he never performed before recording them, others he'd played many times) but visitors to his studio on the afternoon after which he was killed in an auto accident found the score of Op. 106 open on the piano.

Op. 110 was a speciality of his, and his tempo for the first movement of the Waldstein was breathtaking, faster, as an interviewer once pointed out to him, than Horowitz.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2007, 10:42:03 PM by Don Isler »

Offline Holden

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #148 on: December 18, 2007, 11:28:03 PM »
The 22 sonatas done by Hungerford were recorded between 1968 and 1976. He died in 1977 without completing the rest of the cycle. No one I know of ever heard him play the Hammerklavier (some of the sonatas he never performed before recording them, others he'd played many times) but visitors to his studio on the afternoon after which he was killed in an auto accident found the score of Op. 106 open on the piano.

Op. 110 was a speciality of his, and his tempo for the first movement of the Waldstein was breathtaking, faster, as an interviewer once pointed out to him, than Horowitz.

Don - did he ever have the Appassionata in his repertoire?
Cheers

Holden

Offline jwinter

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #149 on: December 19, 2007, 06:58:39 AM »
*pokes head out of foxhole*

"That Annie Fischer is OK, but she's no Lang Lang."

*pokes head back into foxhole, and reaches for K-Ration popcorn*


 ;D
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.

-- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

George

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #150 on: December 19, 2007, 07:06:43 AM »
"That Annie Fischer is OK, but she's no Lang Lang."

 ;D


Offline Don Isler

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #151 on: December 19, 2007, 08:11:41 AM »
No Ric, he didn't.

The sonatas Hungerford didn't live to record, and, I'm pretty sure, never performed are:

Op. 2, No.3
Op. 22
Op. 28
Op. 31, No. 1
Op. 54
Op. 57
Op. 81a
Op. 90.
Op. 101
Op. 106

Unlike Claude Frank and Daniel Barenboim, who recorded their 32 sonata cycles within a fairly short time for the Beethoven Bi-Centennial year (1970) (there is an interesting article in a 1969 edition of High Fidelity Magazine about these three pianists' cycles) the Hungerford cycle, even in its uncompleted form, was spread out over eight years. Something that didn't speed up the process was that he sometimes did what everyone else (at the recording sessions) considered perfectly fine takes of everything, then rejected his own concept, and insisted on doing another round of sessions, which, in the end, produced even better results!

bassio

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #152 on: December 20, 2007, 11:12:33 AM »
Hey guys, I am new here. How are you doing? I am an amateur pianist. You may find some info about me in the Introduction forum.

I noticed the marathonic survey by George and everyone. And I would like to share, but I will have to relisten to give you my judgement.

But the ones I remember where my preferences:

Op.2 No.1 - Arrau
Op.2 No.3 - Richter (Prague)
Op.10 No.3 - Kempff (mono) - definitive
Pathetique - Brendel (70s maybe not sure) - Horowitz
Moonlight - Difficult to say - but I remember Arrau did quiet a fine job
Appassionata - Brendel
Op.111 - Arrau (definitive)

Serkin is a great contender too - I only listened to 3 sonatas by him.
I wish to listen more.

Not my type: Rubinstein (avoid) - Kovachevic (EMI I guess)

Have not listened to Fischer, Frank, although I read good things about them.  :D

But wait for me relistening - careful listening may take days. Details may follow.  ;)

George

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #153 on: December 20, 2007, 11:33:21 AM »
Hey guys, I am new here. How are you doing?


Welcome!  :)

longears

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #154 on: December 21, 2007, 03:55:47 PM »
Not my type: Rubinstein (avoid)
:o Oy!

Welcome anyway, bassio!

bassio

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #155 on: December 21, 2007, 06:09:09 PM »
:o Oy!

Welcome anyway, bassio!


Hey, wait a minute  :o .. I only meant his Beethoven.

Also to avoid: Horowitz's Beethoven .. except for a very good Pathetique and a reasonable Moonlight (as my memory serves)

Some also say the Emperor but I have not heard that.

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #156 on: December 21, 2007, 06:20:21 PM »
Emil Gilels (everything)

Vladimir Feltsman (late sonatas)

Ivan Moravec (Moonlight, Pathetique, Appassionata)

Stephen Kovacevich (late sonatas and Diabelli only)

I wish Krystian Zimerman would do a complete set, before he kicks the bucket that is (why Gilels, why?!??).

Offline Holden

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #157 on: December 21, 2007, 07:25:16 PM »
Hey, wait a minute  :o .. I only meant his Beethoven.

Also to avoid: Horowitz's Beethoven .. except for a very good Pathetique and a reasonable Moonlight (as my memory serves)

Some also say the Emperor but I have not heard that.

I actually like Rubinstein in Beethoven though I am willing to admit that there is the odd dud recording of his out there. His Appassionata from 1945 is just jaw dropping and you can get an idea of how it was by watching the Stage 6 recording that was posted. Remember that AR was 80 when this was recorded so imagine him 35 years younger. I also like his approach to Op 13 and his Op 31/3 is very good indeed. Then you get to the concertos and his way with the G major 4th is a favourite of mine.
Cheers

Holden

Offline op.110

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #158 on: May 29, 2008, 10:33:19 PM »
I'm sure there have already been tons of posts on the topic; could someone kindly guide me in the right direction?

If not (which I highly doubt), post away your suggestions. And if you have nothing better to do, or want to repeat yourselves, feel free to help out.

springrite

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #159 on: May 29, 2008, 10:37:06 PM »
Most people (me included) would suggest that for optimal results, get them individually. But the one set I am very happy about is Annie Fischer's on Hungariton.