This is the only volume of the Russell Sherman performances of the Beethoven Piano Sonatas I currently own. Based on this volume, I am eager to listen to the rest of them. His first volume was chosen by Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe as one of the top 10 classical recordings of the year (1996), and I believe this volume is of the same caliber.
Unlike other collections, Mr. Sherman organizes the sonatas by having one early, one middle period and one late representative on each disc. This ordering encourages immediate comparisons between Beethoven's different periods. One is surprised to hear some of the innovations of his later works reflected in his earlier works, and this ordering facilitates that discovery.
Russell Sherman is a deeply thoughtful interpreter of this music. He is also a very thoughtful commentator. Mr. Sherman was educated in the humanities, graduating Columbia University while still in his teens. He draws from a deep well of insight as he approaches this music, and his liner notes convey some of his process. I have never read more interesting liner notes.
I chose this volume because I wanted to hear Mr. Sherman play a couple of my favorite late sonatas, Op. 101 and Op. 110. I was pleased to discover that it also had one of my favorite early sonatas, Sonata in D major Op. 10, No. 3 and "The Tempest" (Sonata in D minor Op. 31, No. 2). His recording of the late sonatas are very satisfying. His recordings of the D major sonata and "The Tempest" are my current favorites. All the sonatas on this disc are thoughtfully played and beautifully recorded.
I have many other recordings of these sonatas (including complete collections by Richard Goode, Alfred Brendel and Bernard Roberts, and individual performances by Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, Emil Gilels, Vladimir Horowitz, Steven Kovacevich, Louis Lortie, Sviatoslav Richter, and Dubravka Tomsic.) Although it would be difficult to rank performances, I would very likely reach for Russell Sherman's performance because they are beautifully played and the ordering of the music on the disc allows for an engaging musical experience.
In summary, I highly recommend this volume and I believe it is worth investing in the entire set.