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Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas Box set

4.3 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, November 19, 1996
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Product Details

  • Performer: Alfred Brendel
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (November 19, 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 10
  • 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: Philips
  • ASIN: B0000041DZ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,732 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bryan Pfaffenberger on July 9, 1999
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This collection is one of the finest possessions that any lover of music--classical or otherwise-- could possibly own. Alfred Brendel's interpretation of Beethoven's serious, probing piano works is in my opinion among the greatest interpretive achievements of the 20th century, and these recordings capture Brendel's performance in a luminous, ambient sonic wonderland that I find all but overwhelming. You will be drawn into a poetic and reflective space that will astound, enchant, and disturb you... consider Brendel's statement about the slow movement of the Moonlight Sonata, hideously sentimentalized by most artists: in Brendel's words, it's "a mystic realm of awe and shuddering." Think about this, and listen to Brendel's interpretation, and you'll have a great start on this rich, deep, expansive collection of total artistry. Avoiding bombast, Brendel lays bare the incredible architecture that underlies Beethoven's work, and in so doing Brendel fully unleashes Beethoven's artistic and emotional power, a world of musical romance and argumentation that begins to speak to you with an eloquence ranging far beyond the complexities of speech. With Brendel as your guide, you are ushered into a world in which you fully perceive Beethoven's creative genius; before you opens a world of depth and insight and enchantment and meaning. This recording belongs in the library of any serious lover of classical music--and indeed, of any person who believes that music and its performance speak with eloquence of something that is inexpressably deep and meaningful about human existence, something that only music can fully describe. It's very hard to put into words... just listen.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Brendel is not the flashiest of pianists: generally, he eschews bombast. There are those who will prefer a greater sense of physical excitement, especially in movements like the finale of the Hammerklavier Sonata (Op. 106). But there is never any exaggeration, or excessive underlining of points: one gets the feeling listening to these that there is no-one standing between yourself and the music.
The piano sound is, generally, very successfully captured, and Brendel's tone and clarity of line are exquisite. He gives the early sonatas their proper weight (listen, for instance, to the tragic intensity of the slow movement of Op. 10 No. 3); gives an absolutely sensational performance of - amongst others - the Pastoral Sonata (Op. 28); and as for those visionary late sonatas... there are several great recordings of these, but none more satisfying than these.
The liner notes, incidentally, are by the distinguished Beethoven scholar William Kinderman, and are excellent. If I were forced to live with only one item from my CD collection, this box would be it.
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There can be no serious doubt that these are among the distinguished performances by any musician on disk. Brendel recorded this cycle early in his career for Vox, then once again for Philips in the 80's; this last cycle, very likely the last he will ever record, exhibits Brendel, a magisterial musician, at the zenith of his genius. Comparisons with other great cycles, while inevitable, do little to point up the particular maturities of these readings. There are, of course, many ways of doing these sonatas. Schnabel is electrifying if a bit rushed on occasion, and often somewhat approximate in his fingerwork. Richard Goode has, perhaps, more rhythmic urgency, flexibility, and (where appropriate, particularly in the opus 2 sonatas) wit. Brendel's forte is in the elegant intellectual clarity of his playing, the sonic beauty, and a respect for the music that communicates itself instantly in the attention he gives to voicing, balance within a chord, to the shaping of phrase, and (most impressively perhaps) to the overall architecture of a movement. The clarity of his playing is nearly unexampled even among the very greatest Beethoven pianists (Backhaus, Arrau, Solomon, Ashekenazy). Goode alone among contemporary pianists gives as much attention to clarity (if not beauty) of tone, separation of voices, lucidity, intellectual and emotional meaning. The more intelligent the listener, the less apt he or she is to seek to stand above and evaluate these radiantly beautiful performances, and more apt, by concentrated listening, to absorb their beauty and learn from them.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I'm fond of Alfred Brendel's Schubert, Haydn and Mozart so when I had the opportunity to pick up this newly reissued set of Beethoven sonatas for just over $30 from an Amazon reseller, I grabbed it. Since I've spent thirty-plus years with the Arrau cycle, starting with the LP's, and also had the Schnabel set in my library, I admit that I have fairly fixed ideas about what the Beethoven sonatas should sound like. Arrau, born in Chile but for the most part trained in Germany, is often called cold, detached and analytical (i.e. "Germanic") in the studio; but I think this is dead wrong. His identification with the mythic-heroic elements in Beethoven is reflected in his playing, which is full of emotional depth - sometimes so much so that it is almost difficult to listen to. Brendel, too, is often referred to as an intellectual pianist, which I suppose implies that his playing lacks emotional depth; but after listening to his survey of Beethoven sonatas, I think this assessment is also wrong. It's true that Brendel may not project the same level of suffering that Arrau sometimes finds in these scores (and this may be a relief at times), nor does he reach the celestial heights scaled by Arrau; he instead, however, favors structure and the working out of various ideas, which doesn't make him any less Beethovenian. Perhaps the best way to differentiate the two is to describe Arrau's orientation as "Romantic" whereas Brendel is more of a "Classicist."

There are many moments in these sonatas where Brendel's playing seems scaled down compared to Arrau's and you often end up thinking he's missed an opportunity to make a statement. Arrau, on the other hand, has often been accused of excessive point-making; and while Brendel too can belabor a point, he doesn't often go to Arrau's length.
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