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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas 27, 28, 32

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (27 Feb. 2001)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: EMI Classical
  • ASIN: B00000DNRM
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 388,714 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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By A Customer on 7 Dec. 2000
Format: Audio CD
This CD mark the first CD of an integral set of recording of Beethoven's piano sonatas by Kovacevich. Kovacevich recorded some of the sonatas when he was working with Philips. Now, in this EMI recording, he surpassed himself. He brings you to the very heart of Beethoven third period composition.
From the first note of the Op.90 sonata, you can already sense this is a masterful performance. Everything is sensitively shaped. Kovacevich brings out the "contest between head and heart".
The gentle Op.101 sonata, said to saved Dorothea von Ertmann from insanity, is equally impressive. One really makes you think that this piece has some sort of magical power to heal people.
The Op. 111, the last sonata that Beethoven wrote, opens with fire and anger. Yet, he didn't sacrifies clarity. Everything is translucent and just right. The variations are played to perfection.
I'm sure that the cycle will become a milestone in the classical music industry.
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Format: Audio CD
First, a complaint: why couldn't we, in 1991 and 1992, have the kind of sound that Sony could give Perahia or Decca could give Radu Lupu? Not that it's terrible, and Opp. 90 and 101 are a bit better than Op. 111 in this regard, but there was better sound to be had, and these performances deserve it. To a relatively uninformed listener like myself, Beethoven in these late sonatas seems to be reinventing the piano sonata as he goes along. In the Op. 90, I was thinking of anticipations of Schubert, especially in the second (and final) movement, but in the later two, he has gone beyond that into weirder regions that make even Schumann and Brahms sound conservative. The middle two movements of Op. 101 are riveting, and they stand oddly in sequence, although they contain their inner surprises too. You're always being kept slightly off balance, but the material is so engaging that your ear is led along. As for the Op.111, it does seem indeed a kind of terminus: where does one go with the piano after this? Both movements have a very varied character, and if the first (once you get into the allegro part, seems full of odd hesitations that alternate with something like brashness, the long second movement, that starts as if it's going to be a slightly unusual theme-and-variations (because the arietta theme is unusual) turns into something much weirder and more wonderful, moving into expressive regions where no music up to that time had come close to. Kovacevich plays it all wonderfully -- he is attuned to the wildness of the imagination here, though I doubt that there can be any "definitive" version of material as inventive as this. On to Brendel and Arrau!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x90940534) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90ab38f4) out of 5 stars A Great Opus 111 30 Oct. 2001
By Meath Man - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is one of the finest Late Beethoven performances I've heard. Of more than ten recordings of Op. 111, (including renditions by Schnabel, Horszowski, Serkin, Kempff, Backhaus, Arrau, Badura-Skoda, Michaelangeli), the Kovacevich is
my clear favorite. The first movement is solid, granitic, powerful, sonorous, and the technical demands are well met. The Arietta is the real jewel on this disk, however. Overall, this interpretation exceeds even the wonderful 1940's Schnabel recording that was released in Phillips Great Pianists series. It's near-impossible to describe this music, so I won't try. But this is a great way to hear it.
The other sonatas on this disk also are wonderfully performed. The first mov't of Op. 101 is an especially lyrical, sensitive, well-balanced interpretation. But I still enjoy Serkin's more granitic approach, and Kempff's sparkling performance of Op. 101 as well.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x914f22c4) out of 5 stars A sublime performance of Beethoven's most profound Sonata 31 Mar. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I was pleasantly surprised to read the other reviews in which the listeners unanimously praised Kovacevich's performance of the great Sonata No. 32, Op.111, especially the Arietta. No one can express in words the profound, mystical beauty of this movement. Previously, my favorite performance was by Kempff, but the sound quality of this 60's recording leaves a lot to be desired now. I feel that I've been waiting impatiently for 40 years for someone to record this sublime masterpiece with contemporary recording technology in a way that does it justice as perhaps the most mind-boggling piece of piano music ever written. I'd like to add that every recording by Kovacevich of this nearly-complete collection of the 32 Sonatas has been extremely beautiful. (I think there are six left to go, including Les Adieux.) If you want to own a complete set of the Beethoven Sonatas, this is the one to buy.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90c71f3c) out of 5 stars A great performance 2 Jan. 2002
By Kurt Randerath - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is a wonderful and exciting performance of three of the greatest works in the piano repertoire. I have never heard the beautiful Arietta, last movement of Beethoven's last piano sonata op. 111, played in such a precise -every note can be heard- yet highly expressive way. One of the best records in my collection.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90eba5fc) out of 5 stars What to say when rating is ridiculous 14 Oct. 2011
By Jurgen Lawrenz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Test case: op. 111 1st mvt. Kovacevich comes down rather heavily on the top of the arpeggiated chord right at the beginning. It sounds mannered and messy; Beethoven wrote "cres" over it, not sforzato. In the Allegro, 26 seconds into Track 2, Beethoven writes "poco ritenente", but Kovacevich fails to adjust the repeated phrase, which now sounds clumsy, like a mistake by the composer. That's discouraging, so early in the piece. And details like this affect one's own responses. One gets a little anxious over what's coming next.
Others reviewers on this forum give us little beyond "I like it" for their 5 stars, leaving a reader in the lurch about what exactly is so great about them. This is my fourth album of the pianist's Beethoven. My feeling about Kovacevich is, on the contrary, that he is overly conscious of entering an immensely competitive field and somewhat unsure of himself. It never impairs the overall soundness of his readings, but nevertheless such irksome moments become irritants on repeated listening. A reviewer is obliged to notice these things and not rush to a review after one hearing.
Kovacevich's mastery is not in question, though it is scarcely the comprehensive "view from the peak" of such performers as Backhaus, Gilels or Pollini. His Opus 90, which does not pose huge interpretive problems, is well discharged. Opus 101 also offers a well-rounded perspective, although I would say he is hardly in the same league as the names I just mentioned. No more details now because I am just about to speak of a feature of this album that redeems everything, and which I have left to last for this reason.
You will note that I have not said a word about the Arietta of Opus 111. But after all the doubts I have expressed, you and I would both expect that more of the same critical comments must follow. However, things change in this last track of the album.
When the stormy clamour of the first movement subsides, something quite extraordinary unfolds in this performance. From the moment that the first 3 notes sound, you are enveloped in an atmosphere which I can only describe as utterly enchanted: and what follows is a spiritual argosy so evocative that one's critical faculties are calmly put out of action to surrender to the magic of a profound and emotionally transporting musical meditation. The savagery of the central "boogie woogie" section is all the more terrifying, the balm of consolation which ends proceedings all the more affecting because in these 17-odd minutes Kovacevich seems at last to have found a way to tap his inner resources that longed for an outlet through this music.
I think it would be shameful to cry out "the greatest". This kind of music making does not need silly apostrophes of this sort. All the same, comparisons are revealing, if you now go back to other interpretations that seemed "deep" on previous hearings. E.g. Barenboim sounds positively ponderous now, and prosaically literal, as if he was feeling his way into a terrain he had never traversed before; also the treble of his piano has a biting clangy sound. Literalness is also a word that seems apt for Oppitz, who approaches the movement in a cool, detached manner, as if he was wishing to avoid depths that maybe he can't handle (that was also Kempff's way with this music, and Oppitz studied with him). The closest approach to the kind of magic Kovacevich evokes is struck by Eschenbach, although the feel and temper here is almost as if an ineffable pain afflicted his soul and seeks redemption in extremely slow, prayerful utterance (his reading takes 22 minutes!). Pollini's account is "difficult" to place here because of his truly classical mastery. When you live with it for years, you begin to understand the reticence, the desire to let the composer speak without deliberate searching; and similar considerations apply to Backhaus. I mention these two only because they represent the top of the bracket for the whole century; and the whole point of this highly selective comparison is to stress just how exceptional a place Kovacevich's reading of the Arietta may claim in this roster.
What is my conclusion and recommendation at the end? Very simply this: you must buy this album for the Arietta. Even if you feel that my criticisms are fair and just, this movements wipes them away. I would not normally recommend buying a whole album for half a sonata. But this is so exceptional a reading that it is worth the price of admission. Despite 50 years of collecting, I've come across rare issues like this less often than I can count on the fingers of my hands. And on those occasions, accept what is given and maintain silence over what is lacking.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x914d9af8) out of 5 stars Following Schnabel's path? 19 April 2001
By Patrick Pierre-Louis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This performance by Kovacevich announced the spirit of the other records that were to follow. Sonata No. 27 is exquisite and the first movement of Sonata No. 28 is a miracle of emotion (con intissimo sentimento). Second and fourth movements, on the contrary, suffer from a lack of nervosity and motricity (Pollini's interpretation is still the reference) As to No. 32, Kovacevich offers a combination of Youra Guller' sonority and Pollini's articulation while sensitivity is always present. In this repertoire, I prefer Kovacevich to, say, Kempf, Arrau, Richter and to Pogorelich who suprisingly gave a superb rendering of this masterpiece. Kovacevich has developed a coherent conception of these sonatas and his interpretation is to be considered as a cornerstone . When all the sonatas will be recorded (if this spirit is preserved), we might have an actualisation of Schnabel's legacy.
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