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Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas Box set

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Audio CD, Box set, July 12, 1991
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$40.62 $19.98

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Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas + Schubert: Piano Sonatas
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Product Details

  • Performer: Wilhelm Kempff
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (July 12, 1991)
  • Number of Discs: 9
  • 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: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B000001GCC
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,791 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Wilhelm Kempff was the premier German pianist of the postwar period, so it's no surprise that he was considered one of the supreme interpreters of Beethoven. He recorded complete sets of the sonatas and concertos twice, and just about all the rest of the chamber music with piano as well. Kempff was a classicist by nature, and his approach to Beethoven was clear and poised rather than impulsive, but it was never lacking in sheer power or virtuosity when necessary. His last cycle of Beethoven sonatas is rightly regarded as his musical testament. Even if the mono recordings offered a few more exciting moments in a couple of works, you can't go wrong here--there isn't a dud in the lot. --David Hurwitz

Customer Reviews

Among the great pianists who played Beethoven's sonatas, I love Kempff and Gilels most.
Listeners wanting to get to know this great body of work will find much to cherish in these performances by Wilhelm Kempff.
Robin Friedman
Furthermore, his playing is so inspired that it never fails to remind us of some transcending church music.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

112 of 119 people found the following review helpful By Hank Drake VINE VOICE on May 8, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Beethoven's piano sonatas were one of humanity's great achievements. They have been recorded by many pianists including Artur Schnabel, Alfred Brendel, Richard Goode, and John O'Connor--and nearly every pianist of note has recorded at least a few of the most popular sonatas.
What makes the Kempff set work best for me is the lack of a dogmatic, cookie cutter approach to the music. Kempff approaches each piece as a masterwork in its' own right. The tempos are more sensible than those adopted by most other pianists, particularly in the slower movements. For example, in the Hammerklavier Sonata, most pianists cannot resist the urge to play the Adagio almost as a Largo--ignoring the fact that such a tempo would have made the movement incomprehensible on a piano of Beethoven's time--which had a quick tonal decay. Speaking of tone, Kempff has an especially beautiful sound--a product of his 19th century training. The phrasing is more flexible than today's "red light, green light" stop and go approach, and Kempff, unlike so many of today's pianists, never lets musical point making get in the way of the big picture, structually.
Although Kempff was getting along in years when these recordings were made--the 1960s--he is fully up to the technical hurdles these sonatas contain. The only disappointment on this set is in the "Appassionata" Sonata, where Kempff's clear headed approach does not suit this rage filled piece. For that particular piece, it's best to go with Richter's RCA recording.
On the whole, this is the best set of Beethoven Sonatas currently available on CD--and it's at bargain price!
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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 17, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Beethoven's "Tagebuch" includes the following famous entry: "The starry heavens above, the moral law within -- Kant!" Beethoven was alluding to Kant's statement in the "Critique of Practical Reason" of the two things that filled him with awe. But, in a simple way, Beethoven's statement could be read to show two related ways of understanding his music: the first as heroic, heaven-storming, and outwardly directed, and the second as inward, reflective, and meditative. Some of Beethoven's music can be seen as occupying on or the other end of the polarity. Much of the music somehow occupies both ends.

The same holds true as a rough approach to the performance of Beethoven's music -- including the 32 piano sonatas. Some artists emphasize the dramatic, rugged and virtuosic characteristics of the sonatas while others focus upon the music's inward and introspective qualities. The great German pianist Wilhelm Kempff's classic recording of the complete piano sonatas is clearly within the latter approach. Kempff (1895 -- 1991) recorded the complete Beethoven sonata-cycle twice, the first time in the 1950s and the second time in the 1960s. I had the original version on LP and purchased the CD set when LPs became obsolete. I recently had the opportunity to relisten to Kempff's renditions of the sonatas in their entirety.

Kempff's readings of the sonatas are highly personal and introspective. His tempos tend to be slow and fluid, the pedal is used a great deal, phrasing is highly legato, and volume is, for the most part, subdued and restrained. He offers a metaphysical, thoughtful reading of Beethoven which probes within.
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59 of 63 people found the following review helpful By BLee on February 9, 2005
Format: Audio CD
For those who are not too familiar with Kempff, he is generally regarded as one of the most reputed Beethoven interpreter after Schnabel. Gulda was supposed to succeed them and was somehow stopped short. In Kempff, just like most pianists of the older generation, there is a strong element of improvisation, an element in the making of music which make him sound so fresh and spontaneous which left even Brendel way behind. Furthermore, his playing is so inspired that it never fails to remind us of some transcending church music.

Having said that, Kempff even in the 50s, was never quite as dynamic as Gulda; whereas some may instead find Schnabel's Beethoven even more instructive and not at all less inspired. But Schnabel's are all historic recordings. My no.1 choice for these sonatas is always Backhaus (Decca, in wonderful stereo sound), for some may find Arrau's early Beethoven sonatas boring and Gilel's (which is not exactly a whole cycle in any event) not soulful enough, however much conviction he had for them. And to be honest, I have never finished Brendel's and I have never even tried Ashkenazy's Beethoven except his piano trio with Perlman and Harell and somehow I just stopped there...

Roughly speaking, Kempff's 50s cycle is more energetic, fiery and forceful, wheras his 60s is more colourful, more sublime, and with more subtleties. But that doesn't mean he was off his peak or insufficiently fiery (unlike Schnabel whose first cycle is more preferable than his second cycle recorded in the 50s).
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