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4.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent historic cycle that must be heard
Having been totally sold on Kempff’s 1960s DGG stereo recordings of the Beethoven sonatas as a teenager I’ve admired them ever since. I have to admit that I didn’t know that he had previously issued a mono set in the 1950s. Regis has done us a huge favour by reissuing this cycle at a ridiculously low bargain price with very good documentation presented...
Published 2 months ago by JohnW

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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Whose remastering?
I bought this set, attracted by the reasonable price, and have been pleased by some of the sonatas. But there is a great variation in the quality and level of sound on these discs and I realised that the excellent reviews of the original DG release were not reflected in the quality of the Regis discs. These wonderful recordings do sound very bit as good as these reviews...
Published 22 months ago by Peter Hemsworth


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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Whose remastering?, 21 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas (Audio CD)
I bought this set, attracted by the reasonable price, and have been pleased by some of the sonatas. But there is a great variation in the quality and level of sound on these discs and I realised that the excellent reviews of the original DG release were not reflected in the quality of the Regis discs. These wonderful recordings do sound very bit as good as these reviews suggest - but only in the DG remastering. The original LPs are out of copyright and so can be converted to CD by anyone interested in doing so. The excellent DG remastering is copyrighted. So I suspect that the Regis set is derived from old records and not remastered anywhere near as well as the DG issue (maybe DG have access to exemplar discs?). I do not think that this is a release under licence so much as an independent and less well-done job. So at a price the Regis set gives you some good recordings, but the quality is inconsistent: I certainly regret not going straight for the more expensive, but beautiful sounding, DG set.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ONLY FOR THE CONNOISSEUR, 15 Sep 2012
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Allen Worcester (Westbury, Wiltshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas (Audio CD)
I was more than a little disappointed with this recording. This is nothing to do with Kempff's playing - you either like him or you don't. It's the sound quality that lets down this project of bringing back to the market a series of recordings that are described on the box as "legendary". Alas, the sound is so variable as to make it virtually impossible to set a satisfactory level on the volume control with the result that one is constantly fiddling with the controls to smooth over the remarkable variations in the audibility of his playing. Obviously it would be naive to expect mono recordings that are over 60 years old to sound the same as modern recordings, and one is prepared to make allowances, but this is the worst example of its kind I have come across. Accordingly I think this box set is really one for the connoisseurs, by which I mean either those who worship Kempff, or those who are simply fascinated with the history of bringing the complete Beethoven 32 to disc.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Shocking, 24 May 2014
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Mr. A. Murphy - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas (Audio CD)
I was foolish in not paying sufficient regard to the above reviews, and expected this CD version to be comparable with the original LPS, how wrong.This is the worst re-mastering I have ever heard,so much so that they are sonically painful to listen to...AVOID AT ALL COST, regardless of price.
This review is applicable to the Regis set and NOT DG''S re-mastering[s]. I managed to get a full refund.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent historic cycle that must be heard, 26 April 2014
This review is from: Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas (Audio CD)
Having been totally sold on Kempff’s 1960s DGG stereo recordings of the Beethoven sonatas as a teenager I’ve admired them ever since. I have to admit that I didn’t know that he had previously issued a mono set in the 1950s. Regis has done us a huge favour by reissuing this cycle at a ridiculously low bargain price with very good documentation presented in a sturdy box. The 9 CDs are also presented in order of composition starting with Sonatas 1 to 3 on CD1 and finishing with nos. 30 to 32 on CD9. This enables the listener – if he or she so wishes - to listen to Beethoven’s developing genius as he put this monumental cycle of sonatas down on paper.

The sound quality is variable from disc to disc as you would expect from a mono cycle recorded over a 6 year period. None of the recordings can be described as sounding particularly glamorous but to be fair the engineering never gets in the way of some remarkable musicianship. The piano sound is thin, recessed and light at the bottom end. The top can sound a bit clangy on occasion and in places there is a curious electronic feel to the upper register. There are also patches of wavering pitch. Putting this into context the early Brendel Vox bargain cycle, now in the Brilliant Classics catalogue, offers somewhat better (but also thin) stereo sound. This Kempff mono cycle will not be purchased by Hi Fi buffs. However, for Beethoven lovers with an interest in great music making, this set needs to be snapped up despite the sonic flaws. Even if you have 3 or 4 cycles on your shelves, please add this one as a supplement.

Having thoroughly enjoyed this Regis set, it’s abundantly clear that Kempff was very consistent in his Beethoven interpretations over the years. Nothing from his stereo cycle is markedly different to what he has to offer in these tapes from the 1950s. For anyone coming fresh to Kempff there needs to be a word or two of warning. He isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. I personally love his cultured playing but there’s certainly a nod towards Mozart and Schubert in everything he does. This style is perfect, in my opinion, for the sonatinas and early sonatas but I can also enjoy the “bigger” works such as the Appassionata played in this manner. Others can’t and they find his playing to be severely underpowered and unemotional. It’s analogous to some conductors being masters in the even numbered Beethoven symphonies but maybe lacking thrust and drive in 3, 5 and 7. I accept exactly where the Kempff critics are coming from and understand their point of view. If you are expecting barnstorming, earth shattering Beethoven then you really should stay away. If that’s what you are looking for then stick with Barenboim or maybe Ashkenazy.

So what exactly does Kempff offer in Beethoven? Well, to start with, every note is in place. The clarity and precision of his playing is second to none. This is obvious from the outset in his performances of the “easy” sonatas nos. 1 to 3 on the first CD. They may be easy (to professional pianists, that is!) but the level of articulation on show here is a joy. This same quality can be heard in the later sonatas. Others may hammer out the last movement of the Moonlight with panache and gusto but Kempff keeps everything firmly in control. The arpeggios and runs are immaculate. There’s never any sense of panic or being out of control. Another quality Kempff brings to the music is a sense of calmness and serenity in the slow movements. Some listeners just hear a coolness and a lack of passion that they find off putting. This is a very subjective, of course, but I don’t subscribe to this at all. What I hear is a thoughtful pianist who puts the music first and simply plays it in a way that communicates readily with his audience. There’s no playing to the gallery or hot headed pianism. In its place there is a clear headed sense of purity and a fastidious honesty to the printed text. Beethoven is the star, not the pianist.

There are a few bargain versions around. The much underrated, consistent Jando cycle on Naxos is good value and sonically superior to Kempff. I still have a soft spot for the previously mentioned Brendel/Brilliant Classics set and also for John Lill (also on Brilliant Classics) but there’s an easy answer when it comes to choice. There isn’t a pianist who holds all the answers. Buy 2 or 3 cycles including one by Kempff just to experience a different approach. You can either go for the higher priced, better sounding DGG stereo or this bargain Regis mono. You really can’t go far wrong with either of them.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Classic set marred by appalling and variable recorded sound!, 1 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas (Audio CD)
I totally agree with the previous reviewers. I bought this set on release earlier this year as I didn't want the outlay of the DG set. Big mistake. The first disc sounded very clear. Excellent mono sound, beautifully engineered. Successive discs had very poor fluttery sound. I should have returned these to Regis (usually so good with their remastering). Like the earlier reviewer I believe these were digitally recorded from poor LP sources. The DG set probably emanates from the 1950's master tapes. The performances are wonderful. Kempff was a master pianist and his Beethoven was inspirational (though heresy, I prefer Brendel and even the earlier Barenboim for some of the sonatas). Whatever you do don't waste your money on this set and either obtain the DG one or even the later stereo Kempff set ( not as exciting as the 1950's one I agree but not in bad sound).
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kempff supreme, 29 May 2012
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This review is from: Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas (Audio CD)
This is a reissue under licence from DG,the exceptional mono set from the 1950's,really superior in sound to the 60's remake,and also,I think,in performance.Regis are to be thanked for their enterprise in securing this set at a reasonable price,begging the question,if they can,why can't(or won't) the originators?Companies like Regis and Brilliant are supplying some remarkable bargains,and if,like me,you have expended much time,money,and thought in getting a really top end hi-fi,you want real cd's,giving real performance,not lesser systems of provision like downloads. Does this deserve a recommendation?
You bet,it has a coveted Penguin Guide Rosette,and although I question this publication on some matters,in this I am completely in agreement.
I pre-ordered mine,and got a better price,but Amazon are much cheaper than the specialist classical retailers ,so do yourself a favour,and get this while you can--licences do run out.
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