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Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas Box set

4.9 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, January 1, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Acclaimed by TIME magazine and all major trade journals when first released on LPs, this set has been a Music & Arts international bestseller since its CD release in 1990. It has been unavailable during most of 2008 and has just been reissued. It will make an ideal Christmas present.
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Product Details

  • Performer: Claude Frank
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (January 1, 2006)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • 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: Music & Arts Programs
  • ASIN: B000063DK9
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,098 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Beethoven's Piano Sonatas are one category in classical music brimming with an abundance of quality choices - both historic and modern - and begs the obvious question, "Which set to chose?" One can spend hours and hours comparing performers and recordings work-by-work and still not really have a solid feel for which one is "the best" - at least for you. And in doing so, the focus can become overly weighted on the finding the elusive ideal recording that one can miss the importance of just sitting down with one of the many great recordings available and revelling in the depths of Beethoven's piano music.

So, if you are looking for your FIRST complete set of the 32 masterpieces, consider the complete cycles from Bernard Roberts (Nimbus) or Claude Frank here - both of which are offered at a "super budget" price below $60 brand new ($20-30 "used"). Other sets will cost $100 and up typically. Both performers give compelling, musically rich and interpretatively balanced readings. As so, such readings form a solid reference point to understand and appreciate the other historic performer's interpretive artistry (as most connoisseurs have several sets eventually). Claude Frank orginally recorded this cycle in the 60's to great fanfare. The analog tapes were remastered in 1990 and this set of 10 CD's re-released in 2002 on the "Music & Arts" label. Of course, if you are a fan of the great pianists who have recorded these works (Arrau, Brendel, Backhaus, Kovecevich, Annie Fischer, Schnabel, Goode, Gilels, Perl, Kempff, O'Conor etc) by all means get those if you like them and can afford them (although not all are complete cycles).
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I purchased Claude Frank's Beethoven sonatas three decades ago on RCA Victrola LPs. Unforunately, RCA's discs of that era were abominably badly manufactured. The company made a big deal about how you could bend their discs into pretzels and they'd still snap back into their original shape. The problem was that their original shape wasn't anywhere near flat. In addition, the surfaces were noisy and the production was sloppy, with stitched grooves, pre-echo, overload, etc. So I returned the set to the store as defective, and RCA deservedly had to eat it.

Now, luckily, we have these fine performances on CD. Frank is thoroughly in the Schnabel tradition: deep respect for the music, but not fear of it; obvious delight in exuberant music-making; and willingness to produce pianistic effects unintended by the composer and possibly even foreign to his conception of music.

That said, the Frank set is indispensable. There are several valid traditions of Beethoven performance, and Frank's is the best of its kind. Yes, better than Schnabel's great but uneven set (Schnabel's Appassionata is weak, his Opus 111 transcendental). Frank's art is more uniformly high, he consistently hits the right notes, and the recorded sound is wonderful (far better than the old LPs, which might have been equalized without modern high fidelity systems in mind).

Schnabel's set is of course historically important and certainly worth purchasing. Those seeking that collection should be very careful, however, as several incarnations exist with great variation in sound and production quality.

I don't believe one can own too many complete sets of the "New Testament of piano music.
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Format: Audio CD
Claude Frank recorded these sonatas in, if memory serves, the late 1960s and when they first came out they were greeted with much praise. Not only that, they were mid-priced even back then. They were the first complete Beethoven sonatas recorded by an American. Now they appear on CD and are budget-priced. Frank, who studied with Artur Schnabel (as well as being father of violinist Pamela Frank and husband of the late pianist Lilian Kallir) is one whose technique does not call attention to itself. What one hears in this set are closely studied performances that do not try to grab one's attention by odd dynamics, tempi or phrasing. They are, in fact, rather close in approach to that of Schnabel, but without the ancient sound and missed notes. His approach is rather gentler than some; he seems attuned to Beethoven's lyricism more than some. When the music calls for dramatic outbursts as in, say, the finale of the 'Appassionata,' he remains a bit too moderate for my taste. Still, there is something to say for a player whose playing doesn't shout.

At this price this set is a real bargain, both financially and musically. I certainly wouldn't want it to be my only Beethoven sonata set, but I'm glad I have it. I suspect that a music lover coming to these sonatas for the first time, but with limited funds, this would be a good investment.

8 CDs=10hrs, 23 mins.

Scott Morrison
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I first heard Claude Frank in 1972 when he played Schubert's last Sonata, D960 in B flat at the Aspen Festival in an afternoon concert. These were free events and I sat in the front row watching the man sing, stomp on the pedal for effect and generally go into a spiritual trance unlike others with similar tendencies. I've never forgotten the performance. When I returned from Aspen I quickly bought my first full set of Beethoven Sonatas on RCA's budget Victrola label. I believe that Frank probably produced these recordings himself, RCA had other pianists at this time, but the big names were fading - Cliburn was falling away from his young triumphs, Horowitz was not yet back, and Rubinstein was almost finished. Having a complete Beethoven Cycle should have been a top priority for RCA, but they never advertised it and I assume it sold rather poorly against Kempff's DGG versions. By the way, the Victrola discs were not yet so thin they were like wafers and the sound was solid if not particularly winning. More on that later.
Frank plays every sonata of Beethoven with a real point of view - he is NOT sight reading. A lot of complete versions of the sonatas of any composer are not performed with this sense of dedication depending on the pianist. Sadly, as an example of this Alicia De Larrocha was ill served when BMG coaxed her into recording all the Mozart sonatas for the 200th anniverary of the composer's death. She was paid very well, but her manager, the late Herbert Breslin, was the driving force behind this mess and he is totally to blame for putting her on the spot. Many of those early sonatas she'd never played at all and the poor producer had dozens of takes to choose from with none of them very convincing. He did a good job, but Ms.
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