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Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas Box set
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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.
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).
GOOD LUCK and ENJOY!
Pearl's approach is to focus on getting as natural a sound as possible and surface noise be damned. Their transfers feature very good piano sound with very audible hiss. After a while your ear adjusts, but nevertheless it's like listening to an old 78 that has seen better days.
EMI has the least surface noise, but you loose some of the sparkle especially in the upper range. The sound is a bit flatter, but it's still enjoyable to my ear. Those who find it totally unacceptable are more demanding than I.
Naxos has easily the best sound, in my opinion. They have managed to reduce the surface noise to a very low level (perhaps not quite as much as EMI) while retaining wonderful sound throughout the full range. They also left that low level of surface noise between tracks, so the ear does not have to readjust as each track begins.
Grammophono 2000 is an Italian label that, like Pearl, specializes in historical performances. According to their liner notes Grammaphono remastered using the Cedar noise reduction system. I found the results to be very pleasing, comparable to Naxos.
Based on sound, I would choose Naxos first, with Grammophono second, then Pearl and EMI in a dead heat depending on your tolerance for surface noise vs. narrowed dynamics.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had been hesitant to purchase these cds based upon the negative ratings regarding the sound of the recordings on EMI. Read morePublished on January 31, 2014 by Stephen Schroth
Received the CD box set recently. What I have listened to so far I am very pleased with. I like his style of playing. I need more time to comment further.Published on September 15, 2013 by Golfmad
I had read so much about Schnabel being "essential"...so I acquired the many different versions (EMI, Pearl, etc.). Read morePublished on June 29, 2012 by Stephen
Simply stated Schnabel's Beethoven cycle is widely regarded as a classic. There are two primary schools of classical piano training. Read morePublished on April 1, 2011 by Robert A. Grossman
This Schnabel set of Beethoven's Sonatas is essential to any fan of the works but equally important is finding a version with decent sound quality. Read morePublished on April 6, 2009 by Suzanne
I bought this set of CD's and wish I hadn't. My wife says the sound is so bad she won't play it again. She is very fond of Beethoven sonatas, but finds this set unacceptable.Published on March 10, 2009 by salsa fan
...Because, simply put, it is enough that the recording exists. No one plays piano today like the greats did. To hear Schnabel, Richter, Gould, Horowitz, Friedman, et. al. Read morePublished on June 8, 2006 by S. W. Lewis
"Schnabel is the greatest Beethoven interpreter" or something like that you will be told along the way. "Seminal" and "belonging in every serious collection". Read morePublished on January 7, 2006 by J. F. Laurson
Maybe I'm alone in this, but I am supremely pleased with this EMI set. I've owned the Pearl for many years and could no longer put up with the "authentic" sizzle of the 78s burying... Read morePublished on October 29, 2005 by Les Goe