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Thread: Favorite recording of the Beethoven sonatas?

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    Senior Member Ravellian's Avatar
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    Default Favorite recording of the Beethoven sonatas?

    I would post this on the keyboard forum... but it's slow as hell. So..

    After having listened to many, many different notable pianists tackle the sonatas, including Alfred Brendel, Idil Biret, Richard Goode, and others, I have come to the conclusion that the ultimate interpreter of Beethoven's sonatas, to this day, is John O'Conor. Why?

    1. His technique is so impeccable that he makes everything, even the most difficult passages, sound incredibly easy. He'll never make you nervous-he has complete control over every section.
    2. The melodic line is ALWAYS incredibly clear and sweet. It's really beautiful how he always manages to make every line sound so perfect..
    3. His playing style is always appropriate to the individual piece. The anguished and energetic sonatas (Appassionata, Pathetique, Waldstein, Op. 111, etc) are intensely dramatic, and generally at fast tempos. The others are appropriately lyrical and relaxed ("Hunt", Pastoral, Op. 110, etc).
    4. It rarely gets thunderously loud. There's a tendency by many pianists to bang on the piano as hard as they can whenever there's a forte or fortissimo.. context counts, people. Plus, these sonatas were written for the fortepiano, a quieter instrument than the modern piano. O'Conor understands this and maintains an element of restraint throughout the piece, so that when the music really does require fff playing, the effect is extremely dramatic in contrast.

    So, if you haven't heard this guy (and most people I know haven't), definitely give him a try. I particularly recommend his performances of the "Appassionata" and the "Waldstein" to start with.

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    Senior Member Taneyev's Avatar
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    I choose Gulda for the earlies, Horowitz for the middles, and Solomon for the lasts.

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    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    Solomon and Sofronitsky all the way. Sofronitsky for the one's we do have of him (I'm not sure why, but he always pans out to be my favorite interpreter of every piece he plays). And Solomon for the rest.
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    Member Sorin Eushayson's Avatar
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    Paul Badura-Skoda. His original cycle (Astree label, long out of print) is the most consistent to these ears.
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    Senior Member SalieriIsInnocent's Avatar
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    Vladmir Ashkenazy - The Piano Sonatas
    Maria Pires and Augustin Dumay - The Violin Sonatas

    Recommend and love both sets. Augustin Dumay is one of the finest violinists of all time, without being to showy.

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    I love Emil Gilels' recordings of the piano sonatas.

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    Annie Fischer and Jeno Jando.
    Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur.

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    I love Brendel, Kempff, and Gulda. I would also second the Gilels recommendation.

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    I have several sets but rarely listen to any of them all the way through, as quite a few of individual sonatas don't interest me as much as they once used to. Among the more famous sonatas (all of which I do still like) I would be hard-pressed to pick out one "best" set. I reckon that the best versions are:
    Pathetique: Gilels
    Moonlight: Pletnev
    Pastoral: Goode
    Tempest: Gulda
    Die Jaqd: Schnabel
    Waldstein: Gilels
    Appasionata: Barenboim
    Fur Therese: Pollini
    Les Adieux: Pollini
    Hammerklavia: Solomon
    No 30: Ashkenazy
    No 31: Gulda
    No 32: Pollini
    I don't care for forte piano versions of these sonatas. Also, on the whole I don't care much for Brendel who I find is too plain-ordinary and contains no fire in any of it. Schnabel is extremely good (probably the best pianist overall) but the sound quality is not top notch.

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    Senior Member Conor71's Avatar
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    I own the complete sonatas by Barenboim on EMI, Brendel on Decca (digital recording) and have a disc of the "favourite" sonatas by Kempff - currently Brendel is my favourite: I like his approach and the sound on this recording .

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    Senior Member handlebar's Avatar
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    While no set is completely GREAT through and through, I do consider the Phillips set of Brendel as stunning. I listen to it more than my others. Solomon is great as an older set though. Gilels does well.

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by Artemis View Post
    I have several sets but rarely listen to any of them all the way through, as quite a few of individual sonatas don't interest me as much as they once used to. Among the more famous sonatas (all of which I do still like) I would be hard-pressed to pick out one "best" set. I reckon that the best versions are:
    Pathetique: Gilels
    Moonlight: Pletnev
    Pastoral: Goode
    Tempest: Gulda
    Die Jaqd: Schnabel
    Waldstein: Gilels
    Appasionata: Barenboim
    Fur Therese: Pollini
    Les Adieux: Pollini
    Hammerklavia: Solomon
    No 30: Ashkenazy
    No 31: Gulda
    No 32: Pollini
    I don't care for forte piano versions of these sonatas. Also, on the whole I don't care much for Brendel who I find is too plain-ordinary and contains no fire in any of it. Schnabel is extremely good (probably the best pianist overall) but the sound quality is not top notch.
    Yeh Schnabel. People did say he was the voice of Beethoven.

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    I only have the Andras Schiff set complete - the ones with the bizarre ink smears on the covers. I have other sonata recordings that are piecemeal, but the Schiff set offers a new clarity to my ears, not overly dramatized or bombastic, but still a bit quirky. He throws in a startling repeat of what most performers think of as mere introductory material in the Pathetique. It sounds so correct, one can never go back to hearing it the usual way.

    These mostly live recordings are a bit noisy however.

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    Andante
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    Quote Originally Posted by handlebar View Post
    While no set is completely GREAT through and through, I do consider the Phillips set of Brendel as stunning. I listen to it more than my others. Solomon is great as an older set though. Gilels does well.

    Jim
    Interesting to read your comments as I have just D/L the Brendel set I still have to burn to CD but am very keen to hear them, I have Ashkenazy full set and many other individuals, I also try to avoid complete sets as only a few will be great the rest ordinary.

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    It's a pity Pollini has never released a complete Beethoven, I have always felt that he's the greatest Beethoven interpreter of all, even for the piano concertos.

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