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Amazon.com: HASH(0x979362a8) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96c1c6fc) out of 5 stars A performance of the highest artistry imaginable 1 Nov. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Where to start? I purchased this set on the recommendation of the manager of the classical CD department at a local CD store. We chat often about CDs, and this particular day, the conversation turned to the Beethoven piano sonatas, and he told me "You have to try this set. It's not like anything you've ever heard." Intrigued, I gave it a try.
Upon getting home to listen, I chose a familiar middle-period sonata to get my bearings - I chose the Apassionata. Within the first minute of the first movement I was transfixed in enjoyment and amazement. There are so many great performances of this piece, but this was indeed different from anything I had ever heard. I kept waiting for the usual problems I hear in most performances. Minor problems for sure, but always there nonetheless, such as too much pause after a phrase, or a tendency towards becoming mechanical and clangorous in the dense sections. But it never happened. The piece just kept pouring out with the most intricate passages seeming to stand still before me. To me, the performance seemed to transcend the usual adjectives one hears in reference to the Beethoven sonatas, such as "warm" and "lyrical" on one hand, or "granite-like" on the other. Rather it was as if all artificial coloration had been stripped away, and what was left was pure music, the perfect expression of the soul of the music. Kuerti plays from an utterly centered place, from which he uses supernatural control of articulation, dynamics, phrasing, to bring out music that is crystal clear and beyond words.
My next stop was the last movement of the Hammerklavier - the fugue. The Hammerklavier is one of my favorite pieces of music in the entire literature, but not the last movement in particular, because I'd never heard it performed well. I've only heard it in performances that are too harsh to enjoy. I've always felt there was a way to play it right - to bring it out correctly, but that I'd never heard a performance that achieved this. From the opening bars, my jaw dropped at Kuerti's performance. This movement opens with a number of short "episodes" before the main fugue is joined. These episodes usally sound like a "warmup" before the artist gets to the main show. In Kuerti's hands I was immediately transported to another world. There was a spirituality and profound peace that was palpable. It felt like Beethoven was in the room with me and Kuerti. (More on what I mean by this at the end!)
This experience of Kuerti's interpretations completely transcending anything I've previously heard was repeated again and again. Case in point - the Diabelli Variations. I purchased Pollini's CD a while back with high hopes. But I listened only once, and it has not come off the shelf since. But just a few minutes of Kuerti's performance, and I was entranced and immensly enjoying the music.

Everything in this set is a revelation! The feeling I get time and again when listening to these performances, especially the late sonatas, is that Beethoven is in the room. It's not that Kuerti disappears, and I hear Beethoven playing. It's more a feeling of Kuerti playing, me listening, and Beethoven is in the room, standing next to the piano, head bowed in concentration, smiling to himself, thinking that "this, finally, is right - this is how I meant it."
To me, these are performances of the highest artistry imagineable. If you love Beethoven's piano sonatas, and you're always searching for something more than what you've heard, you owe it to yourself to hear these performances!
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x970e67a4) out of 5 stars Kuerti - Plays Beethoven Sonatas with Rare Fantasy & Fire 7 Aug. 2002
By drdanfee - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
If you are a devoted fan of the Beethoven piano sonatas, these Kuerti performances of all 32 will go right to the top of your wish list. Because he has played mostly in Canada for the past several decades, perhaps Anton Kuerti is less well-known than the other big names you can get in the USA who play this repertoire. No matter, because Mr. Kuerti brings his own brand of rhythmic joi de vivre to LvB. Here is a recording whose perennially fresh sort of vital energy seems nourished by deep, probing roots into the rational-yet-mystical ways of some Unseen Whole. Each round of repeat play of these CD's will only further convince you of Mr. Kuerti's uncommon intelligence & magisterial musicality. Keen observors will be quick to note that Mr. K has also done the complete piano concertos, a top-drawer companion set, even in a distinguished and crowded field of worthy alternatives. Mr. K's Beethoven combines a lean, muscular tone with a swiftness of inflected rhythm, all balanced in a seemingly effortless manner with a singing line that shapes musical phrases to winning lyrical or dramatic effect. Some listeners may fault him for not having the luscious, bottomless tone of say, Claudio Arrau, or the careening wild bacchante spirit occasionally displayed by the likes of Martha Argerich. No doubt, others may play Beethoven, equally well though differently. Still the listener who forgoes Kuerti is depriving him or herself of performances which sparkle, radiate warmth, and ever remind us that Beethoven was a ready enough, rough wit; and a committed humanist (in the Enlightenment sense of those words); as well as a grand master. Can you ask a recorded performance to do more? These are highly recommended, well nigh indispensable performances.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x970e6ee8) out of 5 stars A real discovery 28 Aug. 2000
By Peter Halter - Published on Amazon.com
Kuerti's complete set of Beethoven sonatas is extraordinary. Very powerful in the dramatic passages, without ever becoming loud or shrill, with a wonderful control of the tempi. Brilliant sforzati, remarkable use of agogics (is this the word? English is not my mother tongue). Kuerti also never neglects the playful and (in his wonderful comprehensive notes on the sonatas) makes you aware of how much humour there is to be found in many of them. The lyrical passages are also remarkable, with the only reservation that some of the slow movements are altogether too slow. I'm sure that, played like this, they are wonderful in the concert hall but on CD Kuerti asks much of his listeners in terms of concentration. But all in all the playing is difficult to surpass. I go back to these recordings time and again, full of admiration. The sound, by the way, is at times a bit on the dry side but it brings out the nuances of Kuerti's masterful playing much better than many of the later digital recordings whose sound is not only too harsh but also electronically blown up.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x970e6630) out of 5 stars Best, most extensive notes of any set 1 Feb. 2010
By David Alt. - Published on Amazon.com
I have recently begun to explore these sonatas in earnest, now owning and listening to 9 complete sets. Kuerti's set includes some 50 pages of his own non-technical descriptions of each sonata and Diabelli Variations. They are so readable, amusing, and sensitive that they open up these marvelous works for the novice in a way that no other set does. I have books on Beethoven and his works that are far less useful and fascinating than this set's booklet.
As romantic and downright fun as many of these performances are, this set is worth it for the booklet alone. This is also true of his set of Schubert sonatas, which includes Kuerti's excellent observations as well.
The recorded sound is quite good, but there is no getting around that they were recorded in the 70's. Generally, Kuerti's tempi are on the slow side, but not too much so. He goes for character and charm rather than display, but he is dramatic enough and he always holds my interest.
I recommend this set very highly, and suggest listening to each sonata before reading Kuerti's descriptions in the booklet. You will enjoy his experienced observations all the more that way.
4 stars for the sound, 4.5 for the performances, 5+ for that marvelous booklet.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97136c18) out of 5 stars This is the ultimate Beethoven Sonatas cycle avaliable! 25 Oct. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Kuerti plays with complete mastery of the keyboard, has subtle control of the pedal, and one can think only of Beethoven when one hears Kuerti's very personal interpretation. Beethoven the mighty, Beethoven the poet, Beethoven the visionary, and Beethoven the mystic are perfectly blended in this wonderful recording.
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