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5.0 out of 5 stars Artur Schnabel Plays the Beethoven Piano Sonatas, 12 Jan. 2013
This review is from: The Beethoven Piano Sonatas (MP3 Download)
Artur Schnabel (1882 -- 1951) is one of the legendary pianists, revered for both the thoughtfulness and emotive quality of his playing. Up until the early 1930's, Schnabel played a broad repertoire. Beginning with his departure from Germany, he concentrated on the music of Schubert, Mozart, and Beethoven. In 1935, Schnabel completed recording the 32 solo piano sonatas of Beethoven. Although the cycle has been recorded by many pianists since then, Schnabel's Beethoven cycle was rightly regarded as a herculanean accomplishment. His readings of the sonatas still set the standard against which other recordings are measured.

In these readings, Schnabel captures the individualized character of each work, from the familiar to the lesser known. Schnabel offers oustanding interpretations of famous pieces such as the "Sonata Pathetique" and the "Moonlight" sonata, but he also treats with insight music that some listeners may find unfamiliar, such as the opus 10, sonatas, opus, 7, opus 22, and opus 28, the "Hunt" sonata, opus 31 no. 3, among others. I was paticularly interested in hearing his readings of the B-flat major sonata, opus 22, and the A-flat major, "Funeral March" sonata, opus 26, because these are pieces that I have recently been attempting myself.

These recordings are not technically flawless, Schabel goes well beyond mere techinque in his understanding of the spirit of this music.

At its bargain price, this MP3 download is difficult to resist. The recording quality is not up to modern standards but does not interfere with understanding what Schnabel was about.

In addition to the sonatas, this compilation includes two addition works for solo piano: the g minor fantasia, opus 77, and the famous little bagatelle "Fur Elise". Unfortunately one of the 32 sonatas, no 31 in A flat major opus 110 is missing. This is disappointing as that late sonata is one of Beethoven's greatest works in the form. I still felt grateful for all the music that was included more than I felt disappointed by the ommission.

I posted this review early in December, 2012, on the United States site but thought it would also interest review readers here. I had planned to hear the sonatas in chronological order at the rate of 2 or 3 per day, beginnning with the two early works published as opus 49 and then proceeding numberically from opus 2 through the final sonata, opus 111, My plan was to review the set on December 16, Beethoven's birthday. I had been ill for the past several days, however, and used my sick time to play through the set, in the chronological order I had planned. This chronological approach to the sonatas will allow the listener to hear the development of Beethoven's piano style.

Schnabel's Beethoven cycle remains an inspiration and a classic recording. Listeners with a serious interest in the Beethoven piano sonatas will want to know and reflect upon Schnabel's Beethoven.

Robin Friedman
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Location: Washington, D.C. United States

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