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  »  New  Think Denk and op.106..  Op.9...  Musical Discussions  Forum     4  30927  11-29-2008
09-19-2005 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Boston, MA, US
Posts 298
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Post #: 1
Post ID: 1468
Reply to: 1468
What you folks got for Beethoven Piano Sonata sets?

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[This is a repost from Audio Asylum -- Music Lane] 

Not to mince words, I have five. And this from a guy who usually disdains such collections. But there are exceptions.

-- Schnabel. (Of course) But he can be overly fierce.

-- Claude Frank. He was Artur's pupil and the best modern exponent of that tradition.

-- Yves Nat. Nat's not a name that may come first to mind, or to mind at all, but this Frenchie has complete control of the early sonatas and does not flinch from the later ones. The CD box set is reasonably priced around $50.

-- Annie Fischer. She was my first choice until recently, with many exquisite performances and rarely a loser. The Hungaroton people let her come into the studio whenever she felt ready to record. The group of CDs are available only individually, at full price, from Qualiton. If pressed I could recommend the two or three best.

-- Dino Ciani. I know, *who*? Friends, this Italian fellow (who in 1970 died the Italian way, in a fast car on the via Flaminia outside Rome) is simply the greatest Beethoven pianist that ever lived. Every performance in this set is top-rank, several of them stupendously so. Time and again he plays things you've never actually heard before, and when he does, you exclaim, not Wow that Ciani! but Wow that Beethoven! Where has be *been* all my life!?

Cortot's star pupil, Ciani exalts the cantabile element in every sonata, yet when required unleashes thunder and lightning. Introspection is followed by exuberance, followed by pure song. This man is a master who *must* be heard by all.

And does he take chances? For an encore to the Hammerklavier, he chooses -- to repeat the last movement! And it's even better!

Only one problem. While the recordings are all live (Turin, late 1970), which is good, the pickup is from the audience. I've heard lots worse sound, but you have to be prepared for this. Believe me though, you'll hear right through that situation straight into the heart and mind of Beethoven.

Count ourselves blessed to have these documents, recently discovered and reissued. But perhaps the best news of all, I'll leave to the purchase-point description in the URL. You'll hardly believe your good fortune.


[The original appears at (Open in New Window)

[The original appears at http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/music/messages/129397.html and garnered some very unpleasant response, let me tell you. As a reply to that, I wrote another piece which I'll add here as a reply to this post.]

[By the way, the store above is in backorder mode for the set.]

09-19-2005 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Boston, MA, US
Posts 298
Joined on 06-02-2004

Post #: 2
Post ID: 1469
Reply to: 1468
"What is the best/your favorite performance of...?"


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One sees this question often posed, and I think rightly so. I've
been introduced to some fine music and performance by my friends and associates. In fact, they're better than reviewers!

So I was dismayed when I started off a post with a question to
everyone about Beethoven piano sonata sets, and name my own
favorites. Realize, please, I've been exploring this repertoire for
decades; my college graduation present to myself was the Schnabel
set. Many, many were the hours I spent with it; I accepted the
general view that it was the best, ditto his Schubert. Gradually
however I learned there was competition.

Twenty-five years ago I embarked upon a project of identifying
the greatest performances of the standard repertoire. While still a
practitioner of audio and highly interested in obtaining the best possible sound at my old Listening Studio (1980-2000, R.I.P.), at home it was just the music, never the sound. To my surprise, after ten or fifteen
years on the project I noticed that 80% of my choices were -- in mono! Huh!

Indeed the earlier eras provide us with superior musical insight,
if not execution, although never do I go for shoddy. Back
specifically to Beethoven (although I am preparing an article on
the greatest Schubert), I found a panoply of recordings whose
individual merits outweighed the Schnabel approach, in most cases.
Well, I reasoned, the problem must lie with the set mentality.

Although maybe not! Claude Frank turned out a set every bit as
wonderful as his teacher's. Then twenty years later I discovered
Yves Nat, whose early-fifties set was distinguished by terrific
performances of the earlier sonatas, where I feel Schnabel is weakest.
Soon afterwards, owing to her explosive Symphony Hall recitals, I
hooked onto the Annie Fischer set mon Hungaroton. Most were great,
and many of the sonatas (and/or movements within them) ranked top of the list. Guess sets can be OK!

But neither did I stop looking for individual performances. Thus I
encountered Glenn Gould, Anya Dorfman, Solomon, Firkusny, Tomsic,
Sherman, Haskil, Badura-Skoda, Gulda, Richter and (the first)
Brendel. Oddly, and with some chagrin, I have neglected Kempff and
Backhouse, for no visible reason; I'll get there! As for the later
Brendel, I find him too "academic"; Goode, overly personalized
(although his Pastoral is quite fine, especially Mvt.II). Still, I
have not heard them *all*.

Then two months ago I discovered Dino Ciani. The rest is Asylum history.

I was scorned, torched and humiliated -- by all the usual suspects.
Why? For expressing a definite opinion. One mustn't ever say, This is the best. One must pussyfoot so as not to disturb their feelings. Samples:

> Who, seriously, declares a 9 CD scratch and cough fest as "the
> greatest Beethoven Sonata cycle ever" -- AND discounts almost the
> entire canon of historic artists as footnotes? And you're defending
> him? Sheesh.

Hmm... This poster seems unable to separate noise from
music; one hopes he doesn't raise a hush at live concerts. Also,
while he's asserts that I have discounted "almost the
entire canon of historic artists as footnotes," another suspect
writes of "all of the obscure performances to which [Johnsen]
refers." Those would of course be the historical ones.

> When you are in your arrogant, self-pleasuring mode and decide to
> dismiss a pile of historically significant artists and recordings...

Oh will the calumny and misrepresentation never end!? But I do wish
you guys could get your case together better! Do I, or do I not,
dismiss the obscure and the historical?

> "Schnabel, Solomon, Kempff, Richter... they're all sooooo passé!"
Those are the words the gentleman falsely puts in my mouth. I
won't argue, I suppose he just can't resist prevarication.

As I said in my original post, I have an extensive list of great
performances (if that phrase may be allowed) and would share it
willingly. None of my antagonists were interested, exciting
themselves instead with personalities. Sad.

Yes, Schubert is upcoming and I can assure you there are no
recommended sets, as there are so few anyway. Walter Klien and Jeno
Jando are not bad, however. The "winners" may come as a surprise.

Also I have subjected Brahms to my loving ministry and I'll give a
hint of things to come. The greatest single Brahms piano record?
Glenn Gould doing the Ballads and Intermezzi. Incomparable!


[Post appeared originally at http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/music/messages/129654.html ]

09-19-2005 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat

Boston, MA
Posts 10,064
Joined on 05-27-2004

Post #: 3
Post ID: 1470
Reply to: 1468
Beethoven's Sonatas and Quartets

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Thanks, Clark, for posting these observations. My personal favorites…


did not cover some of your pianist and the CDs are in order. BTW, might I ask you about your take on the mid and late quartets of Beethoven? Is anything else out there  “interesting” beside the WWII Budapest Quartet, the Hollywood Quartet and the Busch Quartet?

Romy The Cat

"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
09-19-2005 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
guy sergeant
United Kingdom
Posts 260
Joined on 08-03-2004

Post #: 4
Post ID: 1472
Reply to: 1470
Re: Beethoven, a couple I like. (wincing all around!)

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I'm still enjoying my recently acquired Barenboim set recorded by EMI in the late 60's. I've been trying to get on with some of the Brendel work but I can't bring myself to like it enough yet. With regard to the string quartets I've been enjoying the Phillips Quartetto Italiano versions.

best regards

09-19-2005 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Boston, MA, US
Posts 298
Joined on 06-02-2004

Post #: 5
Post ID: 1473
Reply to: 1472
Re: Beethoven, a couple I like. (wincing all around!)

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The Barenboim's not so hot, while the Brendel is a decent starter set -- he gives you the right notes to learn. But there are many better.



09-19-2005 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Boston, MA, US
Posts 298
Joined on 06-02-2004

Post #: 6
Post ID: 1474
Reply to: 1470
Re: Beethoven's Sonatas and Quartets

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Many of those are excellent and rate highly on my list of individual performances. Note that I had been talking about sets.

As for quartets, there are many fine performances as well by the Pascals, the Bartoks and the Beethovens.

09-20-2005 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
guy sergeant
United Kingdom
Posts 260
Joined on 08-03-2004

Post #: 7
Post ID: 1475
Reply to: 1474
Re: Beethoven's Sonatas and Quartets

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thanks for the tip on the Ciani set. I'll try to get it. Should be an education!



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  »  New  Think Denk and op.106..  Op.9...  Musical Discussions  Forum     4  30927  11-29-2008
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