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Thread: Ludwig van Beethoven: The 32 sonatas for piano

  1. #31
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    One truly does need a fine set of the Beethoven 32.

    I have the Annie Fischer set. Also the fortepiano set by Ronald Brautigham. Both sets, extremely fine.

    I have 5 CDs of the Garrick Ohlsson set but got bored with his Chopin-like interpretations, so it will remain incomplete.
    Facts don't care about your feelings.

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  3. #32
    Senior Member AH music's Avatar
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    Is anyone else familiar with the set by Bernard Roberts? Hardly a star name, and he gets mixed reviews (negatives for sound and some reported errors in the long takes, rather than interpretation) - but I like them (although I have not done a lot of comparative listening). I have favourites from all the periods, but especially like the three last ones and the Op 31 set. They certainly repay concentrated listening and the effort to get to know and appreciate the ones that don't seem so easily accessible. Like some others, I still struggle with the Hammerklavier.

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    Senior Member Blake's Avatar
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    Paul Lewis is one of the newer cycles that's pretty sweet.

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    Senior Member shangoyal's Avatar
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    Usually, I listen to Claudio Arrau for the later, more serious sonatas and Wilhelm Kempff for the early and lighter sonatas. But Arrau is great in almost all, while Kempff is brilliant in some while being average in others (like the Moonlight). Haven't really tried any other pianist.

  7. #35
    Senior Member Selby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vesuvius View Post
    Paul Lewis is one of the newer cycles that's pretty sweet.
    I like it. I'm not won by it, but then again, I've yet to be won by an single performer's cycle yet.
    "I propose to create a heroic, monumental style of composition simple enough to inspire all people; completely free from fads, artificial mannerisms and false sophistications; direct, forceful, sincere, always original but never unnatural." -Alan Hovhaness

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    Senior Member Selby's Avatar
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    I read that Murray Perahia's current project is the Beethoven cycle. I am definitely interested.
    (Although I'd prefer he would spend his time contributing to his Schubert repertoire
    Last edited by Selby; Apr-06-2014 at 00:13.
    "I propose to create a heroic, monumental style of composition simple enough to inspire all people; completely free from fads, artificial mannerisms and false sophistications; direct, forceful, sincere, always original but never unnatural." -Alan Hovhaness

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    LvB's Op. 2 would be a career for many. Once into Op. 7, the artistry is becoming something unusual.

    Performance-wise the G's seem to have it. Gulda, Gilels, GG.
    Last edited by Vaneyes; Apr-06-2014 at 02:35.

  10. #38
    Senior Member (Ret) Alypius's Avatar
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    Let me recommend a new set: Igor Levit, Beethoven: The Late Piano Sonatas (Sony, 2013). Not a complete cycle -- at least not yet, but worth exploring.



    I'm still absorbing it, but I find it a truly remarkable achievement. It's hard to believe that this is Levit's debut recording -- he's still in his 20s. Where do you go after this? It initially went out of print very quickly -- probably because of the buzz it was getting, not only in reviews, but via word-of-mouth. I suspect that Sony was taken aback by the surge in sales, and it took a while for them to get it available again, but I see that Amazon again has it. Here's some sample reviews:

    "Those who are searching for perfection can stop here. I have praised many sets of the last five Beethoven Piano Sonatas, and I wouldn't want to withdraw any of the plaudits I have given them, but this set, the first solo recording from Russo-German pianist Igor Levit, sets a new standard that will be very difficult to surpass…Revelatory experiences like this don’t come often in a lifetime.”
    --Michael Tanner, BBC Music Magazine
    “Imagine, if you will, the intellectual rigor of Brendel, the clarity of articulation of Pollini, combined with – excuse the pun – the wisdom of Solomon, and then you get an idea of the extraordinary combination of gifts that one finds fused here. Without supplanting any of those three (or, in my top five, Richard Goode and Schnabel), this set earns its place firmly alongside them. This is the finest release to have crossed my path this year.”
    --Nicholas Salwey, International Record Review
    "All of the positive attention and high praise that 26-year-old pianist Igor Levit has garnered in Europe is thoroughly justified by his Sony Classical debut release encompassing Beethoven’s last five sonatas. Levit’s affinity for the composer’s essentially linear style and intense expressivity borders on clairvoyance, if you’ll forgive the cliché. You notice this immediately in Op. 101’s first and third movements, where thoughtful voice leading and flexible lyricism mesh into a single entity. Impressive pianistic poise and thoughtful dynamic scaling give clarity and meaning to the Scherzo’s obsessive march rhythms and difficult register leaps as well as to the Fugue’s knotty textures. Levit takes the “Hammerklavier” first-movement Allegro at a tempo close to the composer’s admittedly optimistic metronome marking, yet the music ebbs and flows with characterful assurance. The Scherzo also takes bracing wing; it features biting cross-rhythmic accents and a ferocious ascending F major scale from bottom to top. You might describe Levit’s masterful Adagio sostenuto as a fusion of Rudolf Serkin’s classical reserve and Claudio Arrau’s depth of tone and vocally oriented inflection. In the finale’s introductory Largo, Levit piles into the jazzy broken-chord accelerando with shattering abandon, and brings plenty of drama, dynamic contrast, and varied articulations to the fugue. Following Op. 109’s eloquently shaped Vivace, Levit’s well sprung and sharply detailed second movement is one of the few on disc to make Beethoven’s detached and legato phrasings audible to the point where the music sounds faster than it actually is performed. Levit’s heartfelt, beautifully sung out, and assiduously unified third-movement variations easily measure up to the catalog’s finest versions. Op. 110 also stands out for Levit’s brilliant synthesis of personal poetry and scrupulous detail, while Op. 111 matches Mauruzio Pollini’s extraordinary exactitude (the first movement’s driving 16th-note sequences impeccably in place, the Arietta’s dotted rhythms’ spot-on accuracy and inner “swing”) with an extra hint of cantabile warmth. In short, this is Beethoven playing of the highest distinction, not to be missed."
    -- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com. Rating: 10 (of possible 10) Artistic Quality / 10 (of possible 10) Sound Quality
    Last edited by Alypius; Apr-06-2014 at 05:45.

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  12. #39
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    For the adventurous, I recommend Ronald Brautigam's fine fortepiano set of the 32.

    Excellent performances played on reconstructions of pianofortes available in Beethoven's day.

    Very refreshing to hear this music on instruments it was intended for.
    Facts don't care about your feelings.

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  14. #40
    Senior Member Selby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alypius View Post
    Let me recommend a new set: Igor Levit, Beethoven: The Late Piano Sonatas (Sony, 2013). Not a complete cycle -- at least not yet, but worth exploring.



    I'm still absorbing it, but I find it a truly remarkable achievement. It's hard to believe that this is Levit's debut recording -- he's still in his 20s. Where do you go after this? It initially went out of print very quickly -- probably because of the buzz it was getting, not only in reviews, but via word-of-mouth. I suspect that Sony was taken aback by the surge in sales, and it took a while for them to get it available again, but I see that Amazon again has it. Here's some sample reviews:
    I have been accused of not appreciating Beethoven as much as I should, especially considering solo keyboard and string quartet are the two genres of music I listen to most.

    I like Gilels Op. 106. I used to be very fond of Schiff's Op. 109. I like Hough's and Denk's Op. 111. I am fond of the Pollini collection. I am not enthusiastic about any single performers tackling of these 5 sonatas.

    In general, I firmly believe in supporting new artists.

    Upon your review I just bought this. I will update in a couple of days.

    cheers.
    Last edited by Selby; Apr-07-2014 at 03:57.
    "I propose to create a heroic, monumental style of composition simple enough to inspire all people; completely free from fads, artificial mannerisms and false sophistications; direct, forceful, sincere, always original but never unnatural." -Alan Hovhaness

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  16. #41
    Senior Member (Ret) Alypius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mitchell View Post
    I have been accused of not appreciating Beethoven as much as I should, especially considering solo keyboard and string quartet are the two genres of music I listen to most.

    I like Gilels Op. 106. I used to be very fond of Schiff's Op. 109. I like Hough's and Denk's Op. 111. I am fond of the Pollini collection. I am not enthusiastic about any single performers tackling of these 5 sonatas.

    In general, I firmly believe in supporting new artists.

    Upon your review I just bought this. I will update in a couple of days.

    cheers.
    I too think it important to support new artists. Glad I'm not alone in this. Gilels is, for me, the most consistent overall, but I enjoy Brendel and Lewis (and wish that Denk would consider doing more). It is clear that Levit has something to say -- nothing idiosyncratic, just doing the works with verve and heart and entering into it all with singular focus and warmth. I look forward to hearing how you find it. All the best.

  17. #42
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    Re: Levit

    At first I was surprised by the tempo he set with the opening of Op. 106, when the adagio came, I was in heaven. One of the most introspective and beautiful third movements I've heard for this sonata.

    I like the opening of the Op. 110, which is often a good judge of what's to come.

    I'm not sure what to think of his close of the Op. 111. I'm going to listen to it again today. I'm intrigued, but my initial reaction is "I prefer the Hough."

    On the whole I find the interpretation valid, emotional, sincere, and worthwhile. I love, love, love hearing young artist take on these great works of existential inquiry. If the rest of you are like me, my greatest time of existential dread was my teenage years. In my thirties I am much more 'meh' and easy-going when twenty years ago I used to feel everything so deeply. I think we forget this as we age. I dislike how there is often this culture in classical that thinks the "deep" pieces need six or seven decades to give their due. Levit is a prime example of this.

    I have so many cycles of these sonatas. The most recent full cycles I've bought were the Schiff and Lewis, but I have the Brendel and Kepmff and Barenboim and so on and so on. Never was totally grabbed.

    I recommend this collection.
    Last edited by Selby; Apr-07-2014 at 18:04.
    "I propose to create a heroic, monumental style of composition simple enough to inspire all people; completely free from fads, artificial mannerisms and false sophistications; direct, forceful, sincere, always original but never unnatural." -Alan Hovhaness

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  19. #43
    Senior Member julianoq's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alypius View Post
    Let me recommend a new set: Igor Levit, Beethoven: The Late Piano Sonatas (Sony, 2013). Not a complete cycle -- at least not yet, but worth exploring.



    I'm still absorbing it, but I find it a truly remarkable achievement. It's hard to believe that this is Levit's debut recording -- he's still in his 20s. Where do you go after this? It initially went out of print very quickly -- probably because of the buzz it was getting, not only in reviews, but via word-of-mouth. I suspect that Sony was taken aback by the surge in sales, and it took a while for them to get it available again, but I see that Amazon again has it. Here's some sample reviews:
    Thanks for recommending this. Listening to the Op.109 and enjoying his style, very impressive for a musician that young. It reminded me a little of Brendel's playing, with more energy and freshness but still not exagerating. I will be listening to the other sonatas next.
    Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine. (Ludwig van Beethoven)

  20. #44
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    On the subject of recent Beethoven sonata recordings, here's an interesting review from Musicweb:

    http://www.musicweb-international.co...ata_survey.htm

  21. #45
    Senior Member (Ret) Alypius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mitchell View Post
    Re: Levit

    At first I was surprised by the tempo he set with the opening of Op. 106, when the adagio came, I was in heaven. One of the most introspective and beautiful third movements I've heard for this sonata.

    I like the opening of the Op. 110, which is often a good judge of what's to come.

    I'm not sure what to think of his close of the Op. 111. I'm going to listen to it again today. I'm intrigued, but my initial reaction is "I prefer the Hough."

    On the whole I find the interpretation valid, emotional, sincere, and worthwhile. I love, love, love hearing young artist take on these great works of existential inquiry. If the rest of you are like me, my greatest time of existential dread was my teenage years. In my thirties I am much more 'meh' and easy-going when twenty years ago I used to feel everything so deeply. I think we forget this as we age. I dislike how there is often this culture in classical that thinks the "deep" pieces need six or seven decades to give their due. Levit is a prime example of this.

    I have so many cycles of these sonatas. The most recent full cycles I've bought were the Schiff and Lewis, but I have the Brendel and Kepmff and Barenboim and so on and so on. Never was totally grabbed.

    I recommend this collection.
    Mitchell, Thanks for the review. I'm glad to hear that my recommendation proved worthwhile.

    I've never studied the score of the Hammerklavier but I gather that the metronome marking is very fast and usually ignored. One of the comments that I read that Levit is unusual conscientious in adhering to Beethoven's tempo markings. If you (and any others) know the score and can comment, I would appreciate it. But, yes, it's the fastest opening I've ever heard -- but I find that it works. The architecture leaps into focus in a way it can get blurred by slower tempi.

    I'm not sure that I know your reference to "the Hough" -- do you mean Stephen Hough the pianist? If so, has he done a notable cycle? I have his Chopin and his Rachmaninov, but have never heard any Beethoven by him.

    Back to Levit: I love his accounts of #30 - #32. (I'm listening to his boogie-woogie in the #32, Arietta at the moment -- wonderfully spirited, brilliant shifts in volume through that latter half -- though I'm very fond of Jeremy Denk's recent account of this). Sonata #30 (op. 109) may be my favorite solo piano work, and I enjoy his casting of the shimmerings of the latter third of the opening movement.

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