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Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas Box set

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Audio CD, Box set, March 15, 1991
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$35.99 $18.49

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Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas + Beethoven: The Late String Quartets
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Product Details

  • Performer: Artur Schnabel
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (March 15, 1991)
  • Number of Discs: 8
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Warner Classics
  • ASIN: B000002S29
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,860 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Dating from 1932-35, this was the first complete cycle of Beethoven's piano sonatas ever recorded. It has remained available almost continuously since it was first issued, a testimonial to the staying power of these legendary performances. Other pianists may have approached Beethoven with more secure technique, and there are certainly other conceptions of this music that deserve our attention. But the intellectual comprehension and--especially!--the intense emotional projection of Artur Schnabel's performances will remain treasures as long as listeners love Beethoven's music. Competing editions of these recordings on other labels generally cost more and don't improve on EMI's transfers. Treat yourself to this set, ignore some technical struggles in the late sonatas, and you're in for a great voyage of Beethoven discovery. --Leslie Gerber

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Lipscomb on May 1, 2004
Format: Audio CD
I first bought Schnabel's complete Beethoven Sonatas in a big Angel LP box set back in 1963 - paying for it with the proceeds from many a high school lawn mowing allowance. Later on I got the mono Kempff set from the 1950's on DG - which I still have. Then came the Phillips set by Arrau - these three sets gave me many hours of fascinating comparisons, with the Schnabel my over-all favorite.
When I decided to get the Schnabel set on CD, I first did a few comparisons. I was frankly appalled when I heard this EMI set - it is distinctly inferior even to my Angel LP's (which in turn I suspect were inferior to the earlier RCA LPs). Then I had an opportunity to hear the Pearl set. In the main I found the Pearls to be "plain Jane," unfiltered transfers from pretty noisy 78's. Then I chanced to come across the 14-disc Dante set, which also includes all the miscellaneous Beethoven piano music recorded by Schnabel (bagatelles, variations, etc.) PLUS the 5 concertoes with Malcolm Sargent AND the later Emperor with Galliera. I was lucky: the 14-disc set was selling as a discontinued remainder item for just $28. The sound is superb - vastly superior to anything else I have heard.
Schnabel's interpretations are inspired, even when his fingers are hitting a few wrong notes (most notably in the Hammerklavier Sonata - and even there, his Adagio is simply unequalled in my experience). I also treasure a CD box set of the complete sonatas recorded in the 1950's for EMI by French pianist Yves Nat, some of whose performances I even prefer to Schnabel's. These two box sets are the cornerstone of my Beethoven piano collection - they are supplemented by many individual sonatas from the likes of Richter, Levy, Renard, Hungerford, and Gieseking.
My advice: Schnabel's Beethoven Sonata recordings belong in any serious piano collection. However, I would definitely avoid this EMI set and explore the alternatives. My choice is the Dante set.
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55 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Kouroukis on October 10, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I had this set and was completely satisfied with it for the longest time, until I wanted more Schanbel playing Beethoven. I did some research on the net and found a set on ebay that not only contained the complete Sonatas but had all the Concertos, Variations and Bagatells that Schnabel did! Let me tell you again. THE COMPLETE SOLO PIANO AND CONCERTO RECORDINGS OF BEETHOVEN BY SCHNABEL!!! This was too good to be true, so I went out on a limb and ordered it. When I got it, I was holding gold my friend! 14 CD's in a slim case boxed set! Okay, so I'm happy eh, but now for the transfer test...I compared the EMI tranfers to the transfers this French label called DANTE did. Absolutely unbelievable! I'm listening to the Dante versions and I hear clarity, volume and depth, and hardly any hiss! I put on the EMI versions and I hear large hiss, muffled clarity and hardly any piano depth from the recordings. I was astounded! I immediatly sold the EMI. Now, I also noticed that in the EMI, they don't always give each movement its own track, they sometimes link 2 movements together in 1 track (weird). But in the Dante they give each movement its own track and present the sonatas in complete chronological order, whereas in the EMI the order of the sonatas are mixed up a bit (which doesnt matter anyway). But I'm just letting you know. The Pearl transfers are better than EMI, and the Naxos are not bad too, except for the full hiss. but these are all available as singles pretty much right now. If you invested in all of these, you'd wind up with no more room in your collection!

If you want "the" Schnabel set, spend the time to look for the DANTE 14 CD slim box set, remember I found it on ebay. I paid full price though, but it's been the best purchase I ever made in my life! (I would still recommend the EMI set to anybody, just because it's Schnabel playing Beethoven).

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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 1, 2001
Format: Audio CD
First off, the EMI release of these recordings has very dull, lifeless, muffled sound when compared with the 5 volume reissue on Pearl Records, under the title "Schnabel Plays Beethoven". The engineers on the Pearl series give you all the sound that was captured on the records, while the EMI engineers amputate the color of the piano along with the surface noise. In regards to the music contained herein, Schnabel's performances are simply magical. I like to lie down and close my eyes while listening to them, and Schnabel evokes a myriad of images and un-nameable essences that dance through my subconscious. I have to be careful when I sometimes want to hear just a sample of a piece, because Schnabel draws me in and I end up stopping whatever I was doing, and listen to the whole piece. My one irritation with Schnabel is that he habitually rushes his runs, and I am a fanatic about rhythm. But Schnabel playing Beethoven shows why, among all the composers who have ever lived, it is Beethoven who reaches deepest into inner reaches of the imagination.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. F. Laurson on January 7, 2006
Format: Audio CD
"Schnabel is the greatest Beethoven interpreter" or something like that you will be told along the way. "Seminal" and "belonging in every serious collection".

I bought into that - listened to them - was appalled - gave my set away. I reconsidered - listened to them - and finally was ready to grasp what might be great about them.

Schnabel's is _not_ a set for those who are looking for an intro to Beethoven and is not for those who demand perfect playing or good sound. The sound in none of the many transfers of these performances can be called 'good'. They merely vary between 'god-awful' and 'acceptable'. And that, too, differs according to your predilections.

If you want insight into Beethoven performance practice; want to hear Schnabel play these works; are prepared to leave the Maurizio-Pollini-standard-of-technical-perfection far, far behind you and if you don't mind sound that reminds you of war-reels, you ought to hear Schnabel in this.

That being established (or not, as it were), the question comes up as to which transfer of these performances. The first answer can easily be had: NOT the EMI transfers. They are probably the worst(except for some excerpts on a Philips collection of these pieces) I have heard. Neither really clean nor realistic, they will offend most anyone.

If you can't stand surface noise, hiss, hickups and speckle you will be best off with the DANTE transfers. Very little noise but also rather thin... some will argue that the life has been sucked out of them. But on the surface (literally), they are the least offensive.

If you rather have general hiss, noise and whatnot... but can't stand a 'veil' over the playing and want to hear the fullest piano sound (apart from that white noise)... i.e.
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