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Thread: Beethoven late sonatas-- Your favorite interpreters

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    Alfred Brendel is underappreciated in general. I consider his performances very rubust and technically skillful if not especially novel.

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    Senior Member AfterHours's Avatar
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    I've heard a gazillion renditions, but these are the ones that stand out to me as the very best of the best. I listed them in order of my favorite Beethoven sonatas until I'd included each of the late ones. If I kept going, I'd have to include several other sonatas, of course:

    Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor (1822) / Claudio Arrau (1960)
    Spotify: http://static.qobuz.com/images/cover...551220_600.jpg

    Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor "Appassionata" (1805) / Claudio Arrau (1960s???)
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tdg-DT8rTUQ

    Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major - Ludwig van Beethoven (1820) / Claudio Arrau (1960s???)
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koqAdGcty3k

    Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major "Hammerklavier" (1818) / Annie Fischer (1977-1978)
    Spotify: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....1NwD5T3-SL.jpg
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBlg0RL9a1Q

    Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major (1821) / Claudio Arrau (1960)
    Spotify: http://static.qobuz.com/images/cover...551220_600.jpg
    Youtube - 1st Mov: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYJgvrH6FpU
    Youtube - 2nd Mov: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ky_YNLkg66o
    Youtube - 3rd Mov, Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CKpM3q5_g8
    Youtube - 3rd Mov, Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEXcB1WX_ME

    Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor "Pathetique" (1798) / Emil Gilels (1980)
    Spotify: https://images.shazam.com/coverart/t...78542_s400.jpg
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9ftbVi28TU

    Piano Sonata No. 21 in C Major "Waldstein" (1804) / Annie Fischer (1977-1978)
    Spotify: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....1NwD5T3-SL.jpg
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoOP1uTuZzA

    Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor "Quasi una fantasia" (aka, "Moonlight") (1801) / Annie Fischer (1977-1978)
    Spotify: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....1NwD5T3-SL.jpg
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPsS-b-sCb0

    Piano Sonata No. 28 in A Major (1816) / Wilhelm Kempff (1964)
    Spotify: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....PL._SY355_.jpg
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdQASEfdPrk

    Piano Sonata No. 27 in E Minor (1814) / Ivan Moravec (1964)
    Spotify: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....TL._SX425_.jpg
    "We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time." -- T.S. Eliot

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  5. #93
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    Quote Originally Posted by AfterHours View Post
    I've heard a gazillion renditions, but these are the ones that stand out to me as the very best of the best. I listed them in order of my favorite Beethoven sonatas until I'd included each of the late ones. If I kept going, I'd have to include several other sonatas, of course:

    Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor (1822) / Claudio Arrau (1960)
    Spotify: http://static.qobuz.com/images/cover...551220_600.jpg

    Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor "Appassionata" (1805) / Claudio Arrau (1960s???)
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tdg-DT8rTUQ

    Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major - Ludwig van Beethoven (1820) / Claudio Arrau (1960s???)
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koqAdGcty3k

    Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major "Hammerklavier" (1818) / Annie Fischer (1977-1978)
    Spotify: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....1NwD5T3-SL.jpg
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBlg0RL9a1Q

    Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major (1821) / Claudio Arrau (1960)
    Spotify: http://static.qobuz.com/images/cover...551220_600.jpg
    Youtube - 1st Mov: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYJgvrH6FpU
    Youtube - 2nd Mov: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ky_YNLkg66o
    Youtube - 3rd Mov, Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CKpM3q5_g8
    Youtube - 3rd Mov, Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEXcB1WX_ME

    Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor "Pathetique" (1798) / Emil Gilels (1980)
    Spotify: https://images.shazam.com/coverart/t...78542_s400.jpg
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9ftbVi28TU

    Piano Sonata No. 21 in C Major "Waldstein" (1804) / Annie Fischer (1977-1978)
    Spotify: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....1NwD5T3-SL.jpg
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoOP1uTuZzA

    Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor "Quasi una fantasia" (aka, "Moonlight") (1801) / Annie Fischer (1977-1978)
    Spotify: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....1NwD5T3-SL.jpg
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPsS-b-sCb0

    Piano Sonata No. 28 in A Major (1816) / Wilhelm Kempff (1964)
    Spotify: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....PL._SY355_.jpg
    Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdQASEfdPrk

    Piano Sonata No. 27 in E Minor (1814) / Ivan Moravec (1964)
    Spotify: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....TL._SX425_.jpg
    Arrau's Appassionata is really special, a lot of these picks are very good I think.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Since this thread specifies late sonatas, I'll put in a plug for Igor Levit, very fine performances that I have only liked better since they were released four years ago. Levit is just 30 this year!

    Last edited by KenOC; Nov-09-2017 at 23:07.


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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    Since this thread specifies late sonatas, I'll put in a plug for Igor Levit, very fine performances that I have only liked better since they were released four years ago.

    Has it really been four years? Seems like just a couple to me; time keeps moving faster.

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    Senior Member AfterHours's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Arrau's Appassionata is really special, a lot of these picks are very good I think.
    Arrau is the greatest interpreter of Beethoven's sonatas. Fischer is the only pianist that can compare.

    Arrau, beyond anyone else, in his peak interpretations:

    (1) Has superior thrust and strength of hands -- each finger! -- necessary to relay the emotional conviction in the most powerful passages
    (2) Has the depth of tone -- not so dependent on the "reverberation" of the piano itself, but by strength of hand and pressure (beyond anyone else, save perhaps Fischer), necessary to relay the full measure of impact and the profound poetry of Beethoven's lyricism, in each stroke throughout the entire composition.
    (3) Plays as if his life depends on it. His technique is very formidable but not so "automatic" and "effortless" as to lose most of the tension! Many of today's top pianists are technically "perfect" but one of the biggest factors to successfully relaying Beethoven is to relay struggle/emotional conflict/the tension between different keys and parts of the composition/the duality of man! The tension Arrau builds is unbelievable and without peer (save only perhaps Fischer's greatest interpretations).
    (4) He plays "architecturally", building the notes and passages, one on top or after the other, giving the work an emotional and conceptual momentum, breadth and scope like no one else before or sense (save perhaps Richter's greatest interpretations), particularly when combined with the inimitable qualities and combination of (1), (2) and (3). It is as if he is discovering the composition newly and building it as it is unfolding in front of us, causing a "cognitive domino effect" to play out. This gives each passage a sense that it is being communicated anew, that each is an epiphany, as if Beethoven himself is unveiling it for the first time.
    Last edited by AfterHours; Nov-10-2017 at 00:08.
    "We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time." -- T.S. Eliot

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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    Since this thread specifies late sonatas, I'll put in a plug for Igor Levit, very fine performances that I have only liked better since they were released four years ago. Levit is just 30 this year!

    I've not heard the recordings, at least not attentively, I saw him do a Beethoven cycle in London. It was full of contrasts, very exaggerated contrasts, especially dynamic, a friend of mine, a pianist, thinks that's a natural way to play Beethoven. If anyone played Mozart like that - Bezuidenhout maybe in his first CD, the one called Sturm und Drang - I'd say it was immature. I have to say I'm glad I saw him. The thing that makes me think that he's a pianist to watch is that occasionally there would be very light and playful moments, impish, the sort of thing you expect to hear more in Mendelssohn or Prokofiev than in Beethoven, I caught a glimpse of something fresh there.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Nov-11-2017 at 18:28.

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    Senior Member arnerich's Avatar
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    Vladimir Feltsman's op 111 is my choice.
    Find all my latest compositions here!

    Listen to my Sonata for Violin, Cello and Piano

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    Senior Member AfterHours's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arnerich View Post
    Vladimir Feltsman's op 111 is my choice.
    Don't think I've heard that one. Will have to check it out. Arrau's op 111 is the summit imo (especially the one listed above), with Pollini's (from his complete set) Kempff's (from his complete DG set), and possibly 1970s Brendel following... I also like Goode's and Paul Lewis and Igor Levit's renditions quite a lot. Dozens of others are very good-to-great. Always looking for more to add to my top recommendations :-)
    "We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time." -- T.S. Eliot

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    Senior Member AfterHours's Avatar
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    Oh yeah, I might include Stewart Goodyear's op. 111 with the above top choices
    "We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time." -- T.S. Eliot

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    I haven't heard it for a long time, because her renditions are not in my collection, but I also rated Fischer's op. 111 at the top, only surpassed, IMHO, by Katchen.
    I have not heard him in other Beethoven Late Sonatas but in that one, one of my favorite works for piano solo, he's tops.
    Gulda's is also a very good rendition.
    Pollini is very good in all the late sonatas, as most seem to agree.

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  20. #102
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    Your post makes me want to hear Arrau again in the Beethoven Sonatas.
    Was not lucky enough to hear them all by him but he was at the top in several for me and less so in some others.
    Perhaps, now, when my listening skills and listening experience have matured somewhat, I would better appreciate them.
    Thanks for pointing out salient features.
    This was a replyto After Hous
    Last edited by Donna Elvira; Nov-12-2017 at 15:30. Reason: was supposed to be a reply to AfterHours

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    Quote Originally Posted by Donna Elvira View Post
    Your post makes me want to hear Arrau again in the Beethoven Sonatas.
    Was not lucky enough to hear them all by him but he was at the top in several for me and less so in some others.
    Perhaps, now, when my listening skills and listening experience have matured somewhat, I would better appreciate them.
    Thanks for pointing out salient features.
    This was a replyto After Hous
    You're welcome
    "We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time." -- T.S. Eliot

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    Rudolf Serkin (especially in Sonatas nos. 30 & 31 from his 'unreleased' studio recordings on Sony), Emil Gilels (especially live, such as his final 1984 performance of the Hammerclavier in Moscow), Sviatoslav Richter, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (what little can be found--his Op. 111), Solomon, Bruno-Leonardo Gelber, & Annie Fischer are all favorites of mine in Beethoven's Late Piano Sonatas (& in the sonata cycle in general). Miecyslaw Horszowski can be very interesting too, along with Alfred Brendel and Claude Frank, and the early recordings of Vladimir Ashkenazy--though not Ashkenazy's later digital ones, which I find strangely uninterpreted and lacking in content. (I dislike Richard Goode's late Beethoven for the same reason.) Personally, I prefer Claudio Arrau more in the Piano Concertos 1-5 than in the sonatas, especially Arrau's 'benchmark' recordings with Haitink & Galliera, but also parts of his later PC set with Davis in Dresden.

    Although, with that said, I have a problem with pianists that play the opening movement of the Hammerklavier contrary to Beethoven's metronome markings, i.e., too slowly. Other than Artur Schnabel, who at least tried, most of the older pianists seem to follow Wilhelm Kempff's example, who said that the deaf Beethoven could not have possibly known what he was asking for. There is an excellent, illuminating lecture/demonstration on the subject by pianist Andras Schiff on You Tube that is very recommendable, and should change people's understanding of the first movement. I consider it essential viewing for Beethoven fans. If memory serves, Igor Levit gets close to Beethoven's markings in this movement, as does Stewart Goodyear (who I've not heard), & I gather Schiff as well, among today's pianists. (Oddly enough, I've not overly liked what I've heard of Schiff's Beethoven sonatas so far, despite that he's very good in the PCs with Haitink & the Staatskapelle Dresden, and that his lectures on the sonatas are terrific.)

    On a historical piano, which allows for pianists to find a crucial clarity in the complex fugue of the Hammerklavier--a movement that too often sounds unwieldy & overly resonance on a modern grand--i.e., it can become a clangorous mess (except with Levit & several others)--I've enjoyed Ronald Brautigam. I've also liked Penelope Crawford in the late sonatas, however, I've not heard any other period specialists.

    Last week, I ordered Jean Müller's live Beethoven cycle, which has been reissued at a bargain price (about $20 including shipping), and am looking forward to hearing what he does with the late sonatas. Judging from Müller's recent Bach, I expect he'll be able to pull off the fugue in the Hammerklavier with greater clarity than most.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Nov-13-2017 at 23:24.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Josquin13 View Post
    Rudolf Serkin (especially in Sonatas nos. 30 & 31 from his 'unreleased' studio recordings on Sony), Emil Gilels (especially live, such as his final 1984 performance of the Hammerclavier in Moscow), Sviatoslav Richter, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (what little can be found--his Op. 111), Solomon, Bruno-Leonardo Gelber, & Annie Fischer are all favorites of mine in Beethoven's Late Piano Sonatas (& in the sonata cycle in general). Miecyslaw Horszowski can be very interesting too, along with Alfred Brendel and Claude Frank, and the early recordings of Vladimir Ashkenazy--though not Ashkenazy's later digital ones, which I find strangely uninterpreted and lacking in content. (I dislike Richard Goode's late Beethoven for the same reason.) Personally, I prefer Claudio Arrau more in the Piano Concertos 1-5 than in the sonatas, especially Arrau's 'benchmark' recordings with Haitink & Galliera, but also parts of his later PC set with Davis in Dresden.

    Although, with that said, I have a problem with pianists that play the opening movement of the Hammerklavier contrary to Beethoven's metronome markings, i.e., too slowly. Other than Artur Schnabel, who at least tried, most of the older pianists seem to follow Wilhelm Kempff's example, who said that the deaf Beethoven could not have possibly known what he was asking for. There is an excellent, illuminating lecture/demonstration on the subject by pianist Andras Schiff on You Tube that is very recommendable, and should change people's understanding of the first movement. I consider it essential viewing for Beethoven fans. If memory serves, Igor Levit gets close to Beethoven's markings in this movement, as does Stewart Goodyear (who I've not heard), & I gather Schiff as well, among today's pianists. (Oddly enough, I've not overly liked what I've heard of Schiff's Beethoven sonatas so far, despite that he's very good in the PCs with Haitink & the Staatskapelle Dresden, and that his lectures on the sonatas are terrific.)

    On a historical piano, which allows for pianists to find a crucial clarity in the complex fugue of the Hammerklavier--a movement that too often sounds unwieldy & overly resonance on a modern grand--i.e., it can become a clangorous mess (except with Levit & several others)--I've enjoyed Ronald Brautigam. I've also liked Penelope Crawford in the late sonatas, however, I've not heard any other period specialists.

    Last week, I ordered Jean Müller's live Beethoven cycle, which has been reissued at a bargain price (about $20 including shipping), and am looking forward to hearing what he does with the late sonatas. Judging from Müller's recent Bach, I expect he'll be able to pull off the fugue in the Hammerklavier with greater clarity than most.
    I like all the choices you mention quite a bit. And Arrau/Davis (especially) in the Beethoven concertos, are extraordinary.

    Goodyear does indeed meet Beethoven's metronome markings on the Hammerklavier -- cleanly and impressively -- and it is an excellent rendition. I'd probably place it around the 3rd tier (something like that) of great recordings. That said, Annie Fischer's blows it out of the water and will probably never be surpassed. Nobody -- not even Arrau -- has equaled Fischer's intensity. She comes pretty darn close to the metronome mark anyway, but far more importantly, her frantic, seething, exasperated, angular strikes and the passion and tension she captures (not to mention the overwhelming profundity of the Adagio) is so astonishing that I don't think there is any other rendition that needs to be heard -- all comparisons fall by the wayside (and I say that, having myself heard many, many versions). Arrau's, imo, does approach it in various respects (maybe even surpassing Fischer's Adagio, and approaching or perhaps matching her last movement), but I don't think even he matches her overall. I don't think Gilels, Schnabel, et al, can seriously be considered in relation to hers, even though they are great in their own right and well worth hearing. Fischer, in this sonata, is just on a completely different level than anyone else.

    Anyway, the main thing I was really trying to say is that Fischer's, because it builds such momentous intensity, does not necessarily sound slower than those such as Goodyear that are technically closer to the metronome mark. Tempo could be argued to be really made by both speed and conviction/ferocity, especially in these works.
    Last edited by AfterHours; Nov-14-2017 at 01:47.
    "We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time." -- T.S. Eliot

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