View Poll Results: Who is your favourite interpreter of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas?

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  • Arrau

    4 7.41%
  • Kempff

    7 12.96%
  • Gilels

    12 22.22%
  • Goode

    3 5.56%
  • Lewis

    2 3.70%
  • Brendel

    2 3.70%
  • Fischer

    1 1.85%
  • Barenboim

    1 1.85%
  • Backhaus

    1 1.85%
  • Schnabel

    1 1.85%
  • Kovacevich

    1 1.85%
  • Gulda

    4 7.41%
  • Serkin

    2 3.70%
  • Pollini

    4 7.41%
  • Other

    9 16.67%
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Thread: Who is your favourite interpreter of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas?

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by SearsPoncho View Post
    It's hard to pick just one. I like Gilels, Richter, and Arrau. Pollini is amazing in the last 5, and I haven't heard anyone that can touch his Hammerklavier. Kovacevich is very good but the audio engineering and production of his set is not, in my humble opinion. Occasionally I enjoy Schnabel. But if I had to pick only one, it's Annie Fischer. Her Beethoven has an electricity which is extremely exciting and intense. Annie's Beethoven always sounds new and fresh.

    By the way, is the Fischer in the poll Annie or Edwin?
    For an op. 106, Hammerklavier, that really outdoes everyone for me, look at the first Francois-Frederic Guy, before his complete set. He is the real deal and that sonata performance can not be bettered.

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  3. #32
    Senior Member advokat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    I decided to stick to the choices listed (mine was Kovacevich), but this poll is over a couple of decades out of date. It's heavily skewed to pre-2000 perfomers, and is missing any number of significant recent cycles by people like Schiff, Korstick, Goodyear, Buchbinder, Biss, Levit, Scherbakov, Tirimo, Lortie, Bavouzet, Guy, Brautigam, and no doubt others I've omitted.
    Agree. I voted Gilels (for some reason Annie Fisher was omitted). The new cycles that are attractive include Konstantin Scherbakov, Llyr Williams, Andrea Lucchesini and the second cycle by Irina Mezhueva
    Last edited by advokat; Aug-07-2021 at 21:03.

  4. #33
    Senior Member RogerWaters's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by advokat View Post
    Agree. I voted Gilels (for some reason Annie Fisher was omitted). The new cycles that are attractive include Konstantin Scherbakov, Llyr Williams, Andrea Lucchesini and the second cycle by Irina Mezhueva
    Yes many new cycles are omitted as polls are limited to 15 options, but I must admit I've never heard of the new cycles you mention here so I will investigate.

    Fischer was not omitted but I should have been clearer 'Fischer' meant Annie.

    I'm very surprised Arrau is not getting more love.

    His Tempest, Waldstein (panoramic where other pianists can use this sonata as a perfect opportunity use the keyboard to go 'bang'), Appasionata (see below), and his late sonatas (particularly 30-32) strike me as unrivelled.

    Gilels is currently my go to for a limited number of sonatas (14, 16, 18, 26 and 28, for example) but he strikes me as overly cool and detached in some of the later ones and idiosyncratic in some of the earlier ones (4, third movement; 5, first movement; 6, second movement; 11, first movement).
    Last edited by RogerWaters; Aug-08-2021 at 00:37.

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  6. #34
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    RogerWaters writes, "Criteria: Performance across the sonatas (or close to it, in the case of pianists who did not complete the full cycle), as opposed to magnificence in an isolated subset."

    Your poll offers a good, basic list of Beethoven pianists. I have no argument with your selections. But I can't accept your criteria because, unfortunately, it has been all too common for the greatest Beethoven pianists of the recorded era (IMO) not to finish their piano sonata cycles, just as composers tend to die after they've written a 9th Symphony. In other words, not only has there been a "Beethoven curse" for composers that don't reach or finish their 10th Symphony, but there has also been something of a 'curse' for many pianists that have attempted to record the "32" in their prime, or mature years. In addition, there are also a good number of truly remarkable Beethoven pianists that didn't attempt a cycle.

    So, if I'm going to choose from any list of great Beethoven pianists in the sonatas, that list of "top contenders" would have to include a bunch of pianists that achieved a "magnificence in an isolated subset." & for any such list not to include Sviatoslav Richter, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Bruno-Leonardo Gelber, and Solomon, for example, in favor of some of the more 'Gramophone endorsed' Beethoven pianists that you've chosen, who did finish their cycles--such as Barenboim, Goode, Lewis, & Kovacevich--is absurd and misguided, in my view.

    So, with that in mind, I will instead offer a list of the 32 Beethoven pianists whose playing I've most esteemed in the sonatas, & I'll rank them (roughly) in order of preference. As you'll see, the majority of them didn't complete a cycle, and many didn't get close to or even attempt a cycle--due to health reasons, or some other complications in their lives--such as Nazis, or drug use, or a fatal car accident, or their record label going out of business, or simply because they didn't want to play all 32, but instead chose to focus on only a subset (& IMO, played those sonatas better than most, as was the case with Michelangeli, R. Serkin, Haskil, Richter, Guller, etc.).

    However, for the purposes of this thread, if I were pressed to choose just one, well, okay, I'll pick Rudolf Serkin--who played 22 of the 32 sonatas over the course of his long career.

    I. My top ten (which includes only 3 pianists on your list),

    1. Rudolf Serkin--an unfinished cycle, with 10 sonatas missing. I should add that although Serkin was past his prime when he additionally recorded three of the late sonatas at Carnegie Hall for DG towards the end of his life, there was still a great deal to admire in his Beethoven playing. Here is Serkin at his best, IMO:

    --Moonlight Sonata: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDjK...uJS_W0lSva4HLM
    --Pathetique Sonata: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ2d_wgumfE
    --Les Adieux Sonata: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRs7ygU_oYs

    --Piano Sonata No. 30, Op. 109 ("Unreleased" Sony recordings)--one of the great Beethoven performances on record, in my estimation:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzeA91XNTz0
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETkGdprDQfc
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oedxUVw93jE

    --Piano Sonata No. 31, Op. 110 ("Unreleased" Sony recordings)--For me, Serkin's 1960 Op. 110 is another one of the great Beethoven sonata performance on record:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCd5ggGjwVQ
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJyp4gXPZ9Q
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2huC_L_324E

    --Piano Sonatas Nos. 30-32: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gdi...LZ8Sn2UKrhrZSE

    2. Sviatoslav Richter--another great Beethoven player, who played many of the sonatas, and recorded some multiple times over the course of his career, but, like Serkin, was never interested in recording all 32. Here is Richter at his best, IMO:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W284...ygU3O1H_z8vgzo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSazHYSvG8o
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqiI8gA69iI
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEU1noNlnCU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kai6Uff82iM

    3. Emil Gilels--a nearly finished cycle, as there are only 5 sonatas missing (by the way, one can complete Gilels' cycle with Richter's recordings). However, I tend to find Gilels' earlier analogue studio recordings for DG from the 1970s (see links below) and his live recital recordings (such as his two "Moonlight" sonatas: (1) live from Moscow in 1968 & (2) live from his famed Carnegie Hall concert in 1969, along with the Hammerklavier sonata from his final 1984 concert in Moscow) are often preferable to his later digital studio recordings for DG. Which is not to say that I don't like his later digital recordings for DG, as I do. Here is Gilels at his best, IMO:

    In the studio, for DG:

    --Piano Sonata No. 21, Op. 53 "Waldstein" (1973), DG (the Penquin Guide rated this performance as the greatest "Waldstein" sonata since Schnabel's): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb8HFK9Qv7M
    --Piano Sonata No. 27, Op. 90 (1974), DG: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARoXC9ITIco
    --Piano Sonata No. 23, Op. 57 "Appassionata" (1973), DG: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6otjqreCcNE
    --Piano Sonata No. 26, Op. 81a "Les Adieux" (1974), DG: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKHW0DSofUg
    --Piano Sonata No. 6, Op. 10, no. 2 (1973), DG: 1st movement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZjCMqSxDqA
    https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Son...604727&sr=8-26

    Gilels live in concert:

    --"Moonlight" Sonata--the following was recorded live in Moscow in 1968, & issued on Melodiya/Eurodisc & RCA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shfN-n1iW4c. As noted, there's also a "Moonlight" sonata from his famed Carnegie Hall concert, recorded a year later in 1969 (if interested, skip to 25:03 in the concert): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZAkCohFDSE. For the sake of comparison, here too is Gilels' later studio recording of the "Moonlight" from 1980, which I like, too, but his view of the work had changed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSDUG4rtQFo.

    --Piano Sonata No. 7, Op. 10, no. 3, Eroica Variations, Op. 35, Piano Sonata No. 25, Op. 79, and Piano Sonata No. 26, Op. 81a "Les Adieux, on Hänssler--this is a favorite disc of mine:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILhmhPp-wH4
    https://www.prestomusic.com/classica...iABEgKpc_D_BwE

    Sadly, Gilels was planning to record the Diabelli Variations when he suddenly & unexpectedly passed away in 1985, due to a doctor's error at a hospital in Moscow (at least, that was the rumor at the time). Sound-wise, and technically speaking, this is the boxed cycle to buy, IMO, despite that it isn't quite complete.

    4. Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli--another great Beethoven player, if only he'd given us more recordings!,

    --Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIv8Sun6I14
    --Piano Sonata No. 4, Op. 7, live, 1982: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IxSHL8sfQw
    --Piano Sonata No. 4, Op. 7, DG: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F74-...bBblV7&index=1
    --Piano Sonata No. 11, Op. 22, live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXnZu_yHd2g
    --Piano Sonata No. 12, Op. 26, live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K909...bBblV7&index=7
    --Piano Sonata No.32, Op. 111, live 1990--a great performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-csY9iuprg
    --Piano Sonata No. 32, Op. 111, in the studio, Decca--another great performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPhI...KLVJtu8PxNVQ0s
    --Piano Sonata No. 32, Op. 111: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTPg...bBblV7&index=9

    5. Solomon--an unfinished cycle. For me, Solomon was at his best in the Late Piano Sonatas Nos. 28-32, & the Moonlight Sonata:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=871s07JedVI.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HK__kS2R3-w

    However, on his last recordings, sadly, you can occasionally hear that his fingers had slightly stiffened due to a series of transient ischemic attacks, or "mini strokes" that the pianist had suffered, leading up to a major stroke in 1956 that would end his playing career & prevent him from finishing his Beethoven cycle (though he would live to 1988). There are also some finger slips in Op. 109 & Op. 110. But what a great Beethoven pianist! Walter Legge considered Solomon to be the 'heir apparent' to Artur Schnabel when Legge was looking for a pianist to record all 32 in better sonics than Schnabel's landmark set. & I agree. Among the pianists of his era, Solomon was a near ideal Beethoven interpreter.

    6. Arthur Schnabel--a complete mono cycle. For me (& many others, too), Schnabel's slow movements are as penetratingly beautiful as any pianist's, despite that he sometimes doesn't fare quite as well, technically, in the outer movements. Of course, today, his performances would be edited, and the imperfections erased. But it is Schnabel's consistently beautiful slow movements that have prompted me rank him at #6 on my list. I should also mention that Schnabel studied with Teodor Leschetizky, who studied with Carl Czerny in Vienna, who was a pupil of Beethoven's!

    7. Youra Guller--another great Beethoven player, but sadly, there isn't much available recording-wise, due to the difficult & strange life that Guller lived & endured (which included eight 'lost' years in China during her prime--rumored to be due to drug use, and later saving Clara Haskil and her sister in Marseilles from perishing at the hands of the Nazis). After the 1950s, Guller didn't play much due to illness, and was forgotten, that is, until a chance encounter led to her final recordings for Nimbus. It is likely only wishful thinking, but I hope that one day, a small cache of Beethoven Piano Sonata recordings from Guller's prime will be discovered. I consider her Beethoven for Nimbus to be extraordinary, despite that she was no longer in her prime. & I can only imagine what an incredible Beethoven pianist she must have been in her celebrated younger days, when she was greatly admired by the most renowned composers & musicians of her day. From my listening experience, very, very few pianists, if any, get close to the extraordinary beauty that Guller finds in the Op. 110 Sonata, interpretatively, and her Op. 111 is deeply insightful, too:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tftJwS9Z6bQ
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAucdaYcpvI

    8. Clara Haskil--another great Beethoven player, and again, it's too bad that Haskil only recorded two of his piano sonatas!--see my links below (although we do have her 10 Violin Sonatas with Grumiaux, along with the Piano Concertos 3 & 4). Nevertheless, as is often the case with Haskil's recordings, she plays these two sonatas as well as, if not better than anyone. & IMO, her two recordings offer exemplary Beethoven playing:

    --Piano Sonata no. 17, Op. 31, no. 2 "The Tempest": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9TlaDHQlTk
    --Piano Sonata no. 18, Op. 31, no. 3 "The Hunt": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pc29IeStnw

    9. Edwin Fischer--I'm not sure if Fischer ever intended to finish a cycle. It doesn't look like it because he only played 9 of their 32 Piano Sonatas throughout his career (plus, the Fantasy, Op. 77, & his own arrangement for piano of the Grosse Fuge, Op. 133); as well as making remarkable recordings of the Piano Concertos 1, 3, 4 & 5. But I do know that pianist Andras Schiff has said he greatly admires Fischer's Beethoven sonatas, and it's not difficult to understand why:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jwnh...ZA9ooM9gZdEuG8

    10. Sequeira Costa--Costa's excellent Beethoven cycle was recorded when the pianist was in his 70s. It isn't all that well known, perhaps because he relocated to the Kansas in the U.S.A in 1976 during his prime, where he taught at the University of Kansas for the rest of his life. Or, perhaps it may have something to do with critics like Jed Distler (at Classicstoday.com), who described Costa's cycle as "uneven" and only gave it a 5 out of 10 for "artistic quality", due to the "frequently slow and heavy-handed playing that dominates" the cycle. (Yet he calls Costa "a great pianist".) I agree that Costa tends to play more slowly at times, but what Distler doesn't seem to understand is that this slowness is due to Costa having studied with José Vianna da Motta in Lisbon, one of the last pupils of Franz Liszt, as well as Edwin Fischer, who studied with Martin Krause, who was Liszt's favorite last pupil. If Distler understood the Liszt 'legacy' better, which apparently he doesn't, he would know that Liszt's students played their teacher's music more slowly and less loudly than the "big virtuoso" pianists of the 20th century. Indeed both Claudio Arrau & Alfred Brendel--who likewise came out of this tradition, are on record saying that many pianists have "misunderstood" Liszt's music.

    Considering that Liszt studied with Carl Czerny, who studied with Beethoven, it appears that the tradition of playing Liszt's music more slowly & less loudly--that is, in a less showy & more reserved manner--may actually go directly back to Beethoven's teaching. Yet, on the other hand, Beethoven was almost certainly a more imaginative, nimble, and mercurial pianist than Costa was in his 70s; despite that Costa was still a virtuoso when he recorded his cycle. I should also add that due to this slowness, there are many details in Beethoven's scores that become more noticeable than is the case in faster, showier performances. (By the way, from what we know of Beethoven's metronome markings for his music, they can sometimes be surprisingly slower than expected--but yes, faster, too.) Distler also criticizes Costa for not playing as softly as Beethoven asks, at times. Yet, Costa had an "old school" piano touch that should be the envy of many pianists today (especially those that have a tendency to bludgeon the keys in Beethoven, such as Evgeny Kissin). In other words, he was capable of incredible delicacy at times, when need be, and yet still able to project the most hushed notes with a sufficient power. That is no small feat.

    So, on the one hand, Costa plays in a tradition that, more or less comes down directly from Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Czerny, & Liszt, while on the other hand, Distler may be partly right, Costa may have waited a bit too long to record his Beethoven cycle. Even so, Distler's dismal rating of only a 5 out of 10 seems an overly harsh & unfair assessment of the extraordinary level of pianism & artistry on display here. Personally, I find a great deal to admire about Costa's cycle (though, yes, he is too slow in his Hammerklavier, like so many pianists that ignore B's metronome markings), and would have given it a 9.0 to 9.5 out of 10 myself.

    --Costa's 32: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JRJ...oBOaWjIQIqeGeV

    II. My next eleven,

    11. Annie Fischer--a complete cycle on Hungaroton, as well as various other recordings, earlier for EMI, and live concerts--although it is generally best to avoid Fischer's later live recordings, where she could seldom get through a recital without making many mistakes, despite that she was still a great pianist interpretatively. Indeed I can recall that when she would make a mistake in recital she would grimace in a self-berating manner. Which relates to the one slight problem that I have with Fischer's Beethoven's cycle, and that is, it is very likely the most heavily edited Beethoven cycle ever recorded. I recall once reading that she had micromanaged every single note & phrase in minute detail, often recording short phrases over & over again until she felt she'd finally gotten exactly what she wanted. So, from the standpoint of Fischer being a perfectionist, I suppose that's a good thing (even though the cycle never actually received her final stamp of approval). But from the standpoint of a live performance, her sonatas can hardly be considered anything close to natural performances. I don't expect that even Glenn Gould edited his recordings to the same extent that Fischer did in her Beethoven set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DTY...-Ix2rSNJTnSKxh.

    As to whether the listener can actually hear the difference?, I'm not sure. I think I can at times. But you'd have to compare these recordings to her earlier less edited EMI recordings, & various live recordings, and I've never done that. Nevertheless, interpretatively, Fischer was a great Beethoven pianist, and this is one of the top cycles, IMO. (By the way, her 1950s DG recording of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3, with conductor Ferenc Fricsay & the Bavarian RSO, is a must hear 'classic' performance, IMO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17u3ecl6YTY.)

    12. Bruno-Leonardo Gelber--Yet another unfinished cycle! for Denon, plus an extraordinary earlier analogue recording for French EMI, which is well worth trying to track down. I'm not certain why Gelber didn't finish his Denon Beethoven cycle, except that the label stopped producing new recordings around that time, and then Gelber later re-emerged with a recording of the Eroica Variations for Orfeo. I've also heard that Gelber was having health problems around that time (which apparently stemmed from his having had polio as a child). So, I don't know if Gelber's poor health may have factored into why he has never finished the cycle.

    For those not familiar with Gelber's pianism, his teacher in Paris, the great pianist & pedagogue, Marguerite Long, once declared that Gelber would be her final student and her best! & she wasn't kidding. If Gelber had finished his Denon set, it would likely be one of my top digital era choices. Here are some good examples of Gelber's Beethoven--for EMI & Denon (though in the case of his Eroica Variations, I prefer Gilels' incredible live Hänssler account):

    Generally, I think Gelber's best Beethoven was for EMI, & it is truly remarkable,

    --Piano Sonata No. 23 "Appassionata" (EMI): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shbOpZHb0Oc
    --PianoSonata No. 26 "Les Adieux" (EMI): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUQDCJzF5j8
    --Piano Sonata No. 8, Op. 13 "Pathétique", and "Moonlight" sonata (EMI): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNlC...s-iO2w&index=4

    --His Denon cycle:

    --Piano Sonata No. 28, Op. 101: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XPLEt0Uf4s
    Vol. 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVaL...mYryNY-A7XdBW8
    Vol. 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tu9D...abtfOI&index=1
    Vol. 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHdH...Kg-b55ucgQ3T_A
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tu9D...2jT8mxH3abtfOI
    Vol. 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAPG...YFIXbM3jggVIdY

    Unfortunately, I've run out of space. I'll finish with nos. 13-32 in a later post (or two), if people here seem to be interested...
    Last edited by Josquin13; Aug-10-2021 at 01:20.

  7. #35
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    I have only heard a couple of the old Gelber on his EMI Rarissimes but I think the 5 or 6 Denon discs are worth seeking out, despite sometimes high prices or having to order from Japan. (And the EMI as well, of course, but found the Denon more distinctive and in better sound.)
    Some people find the sound to reverbrant but others considered the quality audiophile around 1990 when they came out. I never understood why it was never finished because Gelber had this health problem from childhood polio before and kept playing concerts afterwards. Despite Richter, Serkin, Gilels, it is maybe my favorite partial cycle (most missed are 106,109,110 but op.111 is very good and most of the other famous sonatas are included) and in very good modern sound. Special favorites of Gelber (I think included among both the EMI and the Denon) were "Les adieux" and the odd op.27/1 but the disc with op.53, 90 and 111 is also very good and might be better as a teaser because the pieces are more frequently recorded.
    Last edited by Kreisler jr; Aug-10-2021 at 11:53.

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  9. #36
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kreisler jr View Post
    I have only heard a couple of the old Gelber on his EMI Rarissimes but I think the 5 or 6 Denon discs are worth seeking out, despite sometimes high prices or having to order from Japan. (And the EMI as well, of course, but found the Denon more distinctive and in better sound.)
    I was lucky enough to find the Denon Gelber discs when they were still easy to find and cheap on the used market. Brilliant has picked up a number of Denon recordings - these recordings should receive the same treatment.

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    I had borrowed a couple of the Gelber Denon recordings from a friend about 30 years ago when they were new and thus they had been on my radar. I collected all 6 Denon Beethoven discs over several years (about 10-15 years ago, I think), hunting for bargains, and also got the EMI rarissimes when it was available.
    EMI should also collect their Gelber recordings. The stuff NOT in the Rarissimes, such as Schumann's 2nd sonata, Liszt sonata etc. is even harder to find (I don't have them, not sufficiently invested in the music) than the Denon discs.

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  13. #38
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kreisler jr View Post
    EMI should also collect their Gelber recordings. The stuff NOT in the Rarissimes, such as Schumann's 2nd sonata, Liszt sonata etc. is even harder to find (I don't have them, not sufficiently invested in the music) than the Denon discs.
    That would be a great set. Gelber recorded quite a bit for EMI, and most of it hasn't been available for decades.

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    Yes, I think I understand what you're saying about the reverberant sound quality on Gelber's Denon recordings. To my ears, the listener gets a bit too much resonance from the darker piano registers especially (as they seem a little out of whack, balance-wise). The resonance sounds like Gelber is striking the lower keys a bit harder, and maybe peddling a tad heavier? than is the case on his earlier EMI recordings (where his technique is immaculate). But I've never heard Gelber live in person, so I don't know what he sounds like in concert. However, here's a link to a live performance of the Waldstein sonata from 2000, which I like, and it doesn't sound like he's a big pounder on the keys, rather there is a lot of variety & subtlety; although yes, there's no denying that he's a highly emotive & expressive Beethoven player (& at times in the 'big virtuoso' mold). But, for the most part, in a good way I think. For me, this is a fine "Waldstein":



    In my view, Gelber doesn't over generalize the emotion in Beethoven's music, which is something I have a problem with in regards to certain other pianists (who basically run the gamut of two emotions in Beethoven, they either pound the keys heavily, or play softly & sometimes without enough projection--well, of course that's a big exaggeration, but do you know what I mean? Kissin, for example. I had to walk out of one of his concerts years ago. I just couldn't take his relentless slamming on the keys. Though he's undeniably talented.).

    I wish some pianists would understand that Beethoven cared deeply about his piano touch. All the reports of Beethoven pounding on the keys & breaking piano strings & piano legs! came later when he was deaf and trying desperately to HEAR what he was playing. As Anton Schindler said, it sounded great if you were outside of Beethoven's house and standing on the opposite side of the street...

    But I don't think Gelber's Denon recordings are badly recorded. They're decent & digital, and on a good stereo system they'd sound fine. Though I'd like to hear them on LP someday.

    Plus, Denon was such a great label back then for recording a slew of the finest (often younger) pianists of the day that had been lesser known or less well established but who deserved thriving careers, such as Deszo Ranki, Andras Schiff, Zoltan Kocsis, Maria Joao Pires, Valery Afanassiev, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Bruno-Leonardo Gelber, Jacques Rouvier, Helene Grimaud, etc. What a great label it was for jump starting those pianists' careers!

    By the way, here's a link to Gelber's Beethoven "Eroica Variations" on Orfeo, which I had to edit out of my previous post due to its length: though as I mentioned above, I prefer Emil Gilel's incredible live Eroica Variations recording on Hänssler (as well as Gilels' 32 Variations on EMI): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1vK...uzlv8bxQqLS2k8.

    P.S. I agree that Gelber deserves a box set devoted to his pianism, and one that includes ALL of his earliest recordings. As I can recall a very good early Brahms Handel Variations from him, too (recorded long before the Denon remake): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diFAvwtp_-M.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Aug-10-2021 at 22:07.

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    I am not an audiophile but I think the sound on the Gelber Beethoven is very good; I was surprised that some people disliked the sound, I don't expect the typical listener to be bothered by the sound but as I remembered some listeners taking issue with the reverberant sound I wanted to mention it, especially because the discs might be hard to get or expensive.

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    To continue from my previous post, here are my rankings of favorite Beethoven sonata pianists from Nos. 13-20. (Originally, I had placed Kempff ahead of Gelber at no. 12, & today I'm second guessing myself, but it's too late to change now.)

    13. Wilhelm Kempff--two complete cycles on DG, mono & stereo, however, I've placed Kempff at #13 largely for his earlier unfinished wartime & pre-wartime sonata cycle, now released by APR, where he recorded 16 sonatas; as well as, to a certain extent, his 1951-56 mono DG cycle, where he plays with more verve than on his later 1960s DG stereo cycle. Technically, Kempff's later playing isn't quite as nimble, or sometimes as inspired, IMO, as on his earlier mono recordings, & especially the APR ones (where his playing is dazzling). For me, a certain sedateness can occasionally creep into Kempff's later interpretations (such as his final Hammerklavier, for instance), which I don't overly care for, even though it is done with Kempff's usual taste and abundant clarity. However, I do appreciate that Kempff never pounds the keys in Beethoven, which is something that I dislike in many pianists' performances, even pianists that I can otherwise admire. (By the way, I also prefer Kempff's mono set of Beethoven Piano Concertos 1-5, with Paul van Kempen in Berlin, over his later stereo set with Ferdinand Leitner, as it is one of my top 3 or 4 favorite Beethoven Piano Concerto sets (& it helps that Kempen was a great Beethoven conductor, IMO): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuvK7WtQ4zA ) Here is Kempff at his best, IMO:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV5vkvosQ34
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvxbdN7_Lek
    https://www.prestomusic.com/classica...e-late-sonatas
    https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Com...s=music&sr=1-3
    --Kempff, mono DG cycle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6igN...pBk34YrWTZA7Gz

    --Kempff, stereo DG cycle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOQw...X2ACvyW9hdC_8w

    14. Claudio Arrau--Arrau is one of my top 2 or 3 picks in Beethoven's Piano Concertos 1-5 (which he recorded at least three times), but not so much in the 32 Piano Sonatas. Though Arrau, of course, as usual, has clearly thought deeply about these scores, & is certainly worth hearing in the sonatas. There are two (virtually) complete Arrau cycles for Philips, however, Arrau's 2nd digital cycle had to be patched with his earlier recordings of Op. 27/2 and Op. 106, since Arrau died before he could finish the set. I also feel that his technique wasn't quite as strong towards the end of his career, when he was making his digital era recordings for Philips (though it matters more in some works than others). Which is why I'd like to hear Arrau's early cycle that he started but didn't complete, with Walter Legge for Columbia between 1947 and 1960 (only 11 sonatas were recorded), and if I had, I expect that Arrau would figure higher on my list, since I often find his early playing to be phenomenal (such as his early Liszt).

    --Arrau's 1st Philips cycle, analogue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F__LuHDJko0

    15. Alfred Brendel--three complete cycles, the earliest for Vox Turnabout (which won a Grand Prix du Disque in 1965), then a 1970s analogue cycle for Philips, and lastly, a digital cycle for Philips. Like Kempff & Michelangeli, Brendel takes a more classical approach to Beethoven, in that he doesn't wallow in the more emotive, romantic elements, nor does he heavily pound on the keys (fortunately). For me, Brendel's more classically restrained Beethoven is fascinating & very beautiful. IMO, the middle Philips cycle is probably his best, but there is much to admire elsewhere, & I wouldn't discount his first Vox cycle, either, which some collectors still consider to be his finest cycle of the three. Here are some examples of Brendel at his best, IMO:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDzQnkIvCcg
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqaHP0FcJsU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_DIl_vmj0M
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z26dfRI9rqg
    Vox Turnabout, a selection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIEIAPp5Qcs
    The 1970s cycle, complete: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20rE...ZrSI_ZAIvlLrPG
    The 1990 cycle, complete: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ta9Y...Qgf0DSZU9kmuBI

    16. Wilhelm Backhaus--two complete cycles, in mono & stereo, but the 2nd stereo cycle had to be patched with an earlier recording to be completed. I've not heard his first mono cycle, but it is generally thought to be superior to the later stereo one. If I had, I might have ranked Backhaus higher on my list, because I've often most admired his earliest recordings. Nevertheless, there's much to admire here, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U726VrX-U0

    17. Yves Nat--an exceptional mono cycle, from an outstanding French pianist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBDN2sPRggk

    18. Zoltan Kocsis--While Kocsis was better known for his Debussy, Bartok, Rachmaninov, Mozart, etc., he was actually a great Beethoven pianist. Here for example:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3kHBpSQUiw
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7KDD5iKzkQ
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2yisYwsNqE
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NAswUusWeE
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuOj_vqpz70
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gfkIRFe6GQ
    https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Pia.../dp/B01K8LSHSC

    19. Mieczyslaw Horszowski. The elderly Horszowski didn't always have the technique to play the most difficult passages in Beethoven smoothly, yet he often understood the spirit & meaning of the music as well as anyone. Such as with his early 1990s recordings of the Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 2, no. 2, where he catches the whimsical & comically inventive spirit of this sonata better than most pianists I've heard, as well as the fun spirit & wit behind the Piano Sonata No. 6, Op. 10, no. 2. Although granted, technically speaking there are better pianists in both sonatas. Despite Horszowski's advanced years at the time of his Nonesuch recordings, I believe I can still hear glimpses of why Horszowski's teacher, Theodor Leschetizky, once said that "Mozart is in Horszowski's soul". So too was early Beethoven, in my view, indeed Leschitzky's high estimation should carry a lot of weight, considering that Leschetizky had performed with Mozart's son, Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart in 1841, and studied with Carl Czerny in Vienna, who, as noted, was a pupil of Beethoven's:

    Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 2, no. 2 (dedicated to Haydn):

    1. Allegro vivace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcAab_nwuh4
    2. Largo appassionato: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPzZtj57Obg
    3. Scherzo. Allegretto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mf3raAkEJfU
    4. Rondo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3d1tS7Ij_4

    Piano Sonata No. 6, Op. 10, No. 2:

    1. Allegro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQTYtZfjCsg
    2; Menuetto. Allegretto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAWzggdk01g
    3. Presto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4nDro7XpFk

    In addition, Horszowski played the Late Piano Sonatas, and his 1950s recordings for Vox are also partly why I've ranked him as high as #19, since, IMO, there is a considerable amount of depth to his interpretations of these works: which included a mono Hammerklavier sonata, Op. 106 from 1950, & the Sonatas Op. 109, Op. 110, and Op. 111 (along with a Diabelli Variations from 1952). In addition, there are live 1970s recordings of the Piano Sonatas No. 2, Op. 2, no. 2, No. 5/ Op. 10, no. 1, No. 10/ Op. 14, no. 2/, and No. 30, Op. 109 on the Arbiter label; as well as later live recordings on the Relief label, of the Piano Sonata No. 26 "Les Adieux", Op. 81a (coupled with the Diabelli Variations), and the Piano Sonatas Nos. 28, Op. 101 & 29 "Hammerklavier", Op. 106. (By the way, Horszowski's recordings of the complete Beethoven Cello Sonatas 1-5 with Pablo Casals, and "Archduke" Piano Trio No. 7 with Casals & violinist Sandor Vegh are likewise worth hearing, as Horszowski's remarkable piano playing stands out on these recordings.)

    --1951 Vox Sonata No. 30, Op. 109:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfJIPAul7p0
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDc1vf3nuQA
    --1950 Vox Hammerklavier sonata, Op. 106: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gthLeBXjzOs
    --Live 1977 Sonata No. 30, Op. 109 on Arbiter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-bVKA2CVlk
    --1958 Piano Trio No. 7, Op. 97 "Archduke", with Casals & Vegh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5aZ4UxSnr0

    20. Dame Myra Hess--at her best:

    --Piano Sonata No. 30, Op. 109:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKo-xDYqCEY
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XToN11gfgHo
    --Piano Sonata No. 31, Op. 110: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx8QvIzsyew

    For my next & final post, I'll cover my favorite Beethoven sonata pianists from Nos. 21-32...
    Last edited by Josquin13; Aug-11-2021 at 20:16.

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    Josquin13: But what do you think of Arrau's remarkable complete set he recorded from 1962-65 in Amsterdam? It's on the Decca label.
    Last edited by SearsPoncho; Aug-11-2021 at 23:01.
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    Josquin13, I like your approach, taking the original question and digging deeply. And Myra Hess's Op. 109 is one of the most sublime recordings of any LvB sonata, so I'm with you there.

    I couldn't do what you're doing, though. In my long love affair with these sonatas, I've come to a stage when several accounts of any particular sonata move me; my favorite depends on which one of a group of favorite pianists I'm listening to at the moment. Right now, I'm reveling in Craig Sheppard's live performances.
    “If they cut off both hands, I will compose music anyway holding the pen in my teeth.” (Dmitri Shostakovich)

    “Whereas other modern composers are engaged in manufacturing cocktails of every hue and description, I offer the public cold spring water.” (Jean Sibelius)

    “Once down is no battle.” (Alan Furst)

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    Quote Originally Posted by SearsPoncho View Post
    Josquin13: But what do you think of Arrau's remarkable complete set he recorded from 1962-65 in Amsterdam? It's on the Decca label.
    If you're not talking about Arrau's 1st Philips cycle (which I believe has been reissued by Decca), I don't know it. Was it a live set, or made in the studio? If it's not the Philips cycle, it would greatly interest me, because, as mentioned, I tend to prefer Arrau's playing earlier in his career.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Aug-12-2021 at 02:59.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnP View Post
    Josquin13, I like your approach, taking the original question and digging deeply. And Myra Hess's Op. 109 is one of the most sublime recordings of any LvB sonata, so I'm with you there.

    I couldn't do what you're doing, though. In my long love affair with these sonatas, I've come to a stage when several accounts of any particular sonata move me; my favorite depends on which one of a group of favorite pianists I'm listening to at the moment. Right now, I'm reveling in Craig Sheppard's live performances.
    Yes, I would have placed Myra Hess higher on my list if I'd heard more Beethoven from her. But I agree, she's remarkable in Op. 109. However, she has some formidable competition in Op. 109 from the likes of Serkin, Richter, Fischer, & Solomon, and from Serkin & Guller in Op. 110 (see my above links for the specific performances, if interested)...

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