I love the way Rubinstein plays these Beethoven sonatas. His playing may not be as gripping as Richter or Gilels, but it has noble grace and wonderful delicacy. Piano sounds surprisingly natural in this early stereo recording.
Whether you are either just starting a collection of Beethoven piano sonatas or a seasoned collector of many different performances this album is for you. Both performances and sound put it in the front ranks, perhaps at the very top, of sonata performances. I must have at least a dozen performances of each of these sonatas, but usually reach for this one, the Schnabel not withstanding because of its dated sound, when I want to hear them. There is also a companion album for which this is true. Since the label is Vanguard and might become unavailable at any time act quickly or regret at your leisure.
I have a number of these sonatas performed by different pianists . This was the first CD of these works that I had , but although very good performances , I think they have been surpassed by others over the years .Stephen Kovacevich particularly is terrific , but in my opinion the best of the lot are by Wilhelm Kempff ( 8,14,21,23 - DG 1965 ) .The overall "feel" , lightness of touch , and absolute precision whilst still maintaining the musical integrity of the pieces , are really something to behold. Upon hearing the two back to back , the Rubinstein performances are not quite up to the same standard - close , but no cigar.
Referring to the sonic of this SACD only (not the way it is interpreted...)
The transfer to digital here has a sever "bleeding" to the right. This "bleeding" has the sound emanating more from the right speaker and only the last sonata (Appassionata - recorded 1963) has more or less the correct balance.
Thru-out the whole recording - the piano tone is distorted in the sense that it sounds like it was recorded from behind two curtains not one curtain only... This is not the way a Steinway piano sounds like, not in a large studio and not in a concert hall. For superb piano recording one is advised to turn to (any) Decca recording. Fortunately, we have the same repertoire as presented on this SACD, a recording made by Decca, with Radu Lupu (ADD recording).