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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Complete Piano Sonatas
Alfred Brendel (piano)
rec. Austria, 1961-1966
Complete track-listing at end of review
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94075 [9 CDs: 67:39 + 68:20 + 73:49 + 75:21 + 73:23 + 71:20 + 74:47 + 72:55 + 36:51]

Experience Classicsonline


 
Poor old Alfred Brendel. When he retired from the concert stage in 2007, one of the long-postponed projects he turned his attentions to was the promotion of his more recent recordings, in the hope that his legacy would not be judged purely on the basis of his earlier discs. If ever he had control of the rights to his earliest recordings - which is highly doubtful - they are now well and truly under the control of record execs, whose only apparent interest is to wring every last possible penny of profit from them.
 
So, here we have yet another re-issue of Brendel's 1960s Turnabout/Vox Beethoven Sonata cycle; this one in truly gruesome generic packaging. Looking on the bright side though, this presumably means it is being sold for next to nothing, and while the pianist undoubtedly achieved far greater things with his second and third cycles, there is still some great playing here. So if you can see past the lobster-hued packaging, or rather if you can bring yourself to allow it in the house, this set is surely a bargain.
 
Brendel certainly evolved as an artist over the course of his long career, yet there are aspects of his playing that were as apparent in 1962 as they were in 2007. His focus on the detail of the music is already very much apparent. So, just as in his later years he was able to both represent every detail of Beethoven's notated articulations and dynamics, but more importantly to fit them into coherent interpretations and show why each of them matters. The accuracy of Brendel's playing was a hallmark of his mature years, and while he does trip over his fingers once or twice in some of the fastest passages here, the general impression is of masterly technical competency.
 
These Beethoven Sonatas are very good, while his Philips recordings are truly great. So what's missing here that he later added to his interpretations? Well, many of the sonatas, and the later sonatas in particular, lack depth. It is quite difficult to pin down exactly what that amounts to, but there is a sense of poise in his later recordings that you don't quite get here. On the technical side, the gradation of dynamics is not as subtle. There is less weight in the bass too, but that is probably a result of the earlier sound recording. And in the later recordings, Brendel is always able to make the most of the surprises, those sforzandos and things that, even though you know they are coming, still startle when performed by the greatest players.
 
So perhaps it is a feeling for the drama of the music that he developed in the 1970s and 1980s that is missing here. But it is only the later sonatas that rely on the theatrical for their structure and musical logic. As a result, the best playing on this cycle is to be found in the earlier sonatas. The way that Brendel can present often quite generic 18th century textures without affectation and always avoiding cliché, that's a real gift and it makes these early recordings of Beethoven's early sonatas something really special.
 
And the later sonatas are well worth hearing too, just so long as we give Brendel the benefit of the doubt, and bear in mind that, while he hadn't managed it in the early 1960s, he would go on to become one of the greatest Beethoven interpreters of the 20th century. The audio isn't bad for its time, although as I say, the bass lacks weight - a real shame with Brendel - and the upper frequencies are lacking too.
 
If it wasn't for Alfred Brendel's own protestations in support of his later work, I'd happily recommend this box, especially given the price. I can recommend it as a historical document, in that it was this set that first put Brendel on the road to international recognition. Listening to it, you can tell why that is. Everything on it speaks of the immense potential of the performer. We are now in the fortunate position of being able to hear what happened when that potential was realised. Those later recordings will cost you a lot more money, but if you hear this set without hearing Brendel's later work, you're really only getting half the story.
 
Gavin Dixon
 

 

Track-Listing
CD 1 [67:39]
1. Piano Sonata No.29 In B Flat Op.106 ‘Hammerklavier’ I. Allegro 11:06
2. Piano Sonata No.29 In B Flat Op.106 ‘Hammerklavier’ Ii. Scherzo: Assai Vivace 2:34
3. Piano Sonata No.29 In B Flat Op.106 ‘Hammerklavier’ Iii. Adagio Sostenuto 16:47
4. Piano Sonata No.29 In B Flat Op.106 ‘Hammerklavier’ Iv. Largo – Allegro Risoluto 12:31
5. Piano Sonata No.32 In C Minor Op.111 I. Maestoso – Allegro Con Brio E Appassionato 8:28
6. Piano Sonata No.32 In C Minor Op.111 Arietta: Adagio Molto, Semplice E Cantabile 15:47
CD 2 [68:20]
1. Piano Sonata No.28 In A Op.101 I. Allegretto Ma Non Troppo 3:18
2. Piano Sonata No.28 In A Op.101 Ii. Vivace Alla Marcia 6:12
3. Piano Sonata No.28 In A Op.101 Iii. Adagio Ma Non Troppo Con Affetto – Presto 9:57
4. Piano Sonata No.30 In E Op.109 I. Vivace Ma Non Troppo – Adagio Espressivo 3:20
5. Piano Sonata No.30 In E Op.109 Ii. Prestissimo 2:22
6. Piano Sonata No.30 In E Op.109 Iii. Tema Con Variazioni 11:33
7. Piano Sonata No.31 In A Flat Op.110 I. Moderato Cantabile, Molto Espressivo 5:31
8. Piano Sonata No.31 In A Flat Op.110 Ii. Allegro Molto – Iii. Adagio Ma Non Troppo – 5:56
9. Piano Sonata No.31 In A Flat Op.110 Fuga. Allegro Ma Non Troppo 6:31
10. Piano Sonata No.27 In E Minor Op.90 I. Mit Lebhaftigkeit Und Durchaus Mit Empfindung Und Ausdruck 5:26
11. Piano Sonata No.27 In E Minor Op.90 Ii. Nicht Zu Geschwind Und Sehr Singbar Vorzutragen 7:38
CD 3 [73:49]
1. Piano Sonata No.23 In F Minor Op.57 ‘Appassionata’ I. Allegro Assai 9:41
2. Piano Sonata No.23 In F Minor Op.57 ‘Appassionata’ Ii. Andante Con Moto 6:15
3. Piano Sonata No.23 In F Minor Op.57 ‘Appassionata’ Iii. Allegro Ma Non Troppo 8:08
4. Piano Sonata No.22 In F Op.54 I. In Tempo D’un Menuetto 5:47
5. Piano Sonata No.22 In F Op.54 Ii. Allegretto 6:15
6. Piano Sonata No.26 In E Flat Op.81a ‘Les Adieux’ I. Les Adieux: Adagio – Allegro 6:14
7. Piano Sonata No.26 In E Flat Op.81a ‘Les Adieux’ Ii. L’absence: Andante Espressivo 3:09
8. Piano Sonata No.26 In E Flat Op.81a ‘Les Adieux’ Iii. Le Retour: Vivacissimamente 5:37
9. Piano Sonata No.16 In G Op.31 No.1 I. Allegro Vivace 6:26
10. Piano Sonata No.16 In G Op.31 No.1 Ii. Adagio Grazioso 9:53
11. Piano Sonata No.16 In G Op.31 No.1 Iii. Rondo: Allegretto 6:20
CD 4 [75:21]
1. Piano Sonata No.17 In D Minor Op.31 No.2 ‘Tempest’ I. Largo – Allegro – Adagio 7:47
2. Piano Sonata No.17 In D Minor Op.31 No.2 ‘Tempest’ Ii. Adagio 7:45
3. Piano Sonata No.17 In D Minor Op.31 No.2 ‘Tempest’ Iii. Allegretto 5:53
4. Piano Sonata No.18 In E Flat Op.31 No.3 I. Allegro 8:07
5. Piano Sonata No.18 In E Flat Op.31 No.3 Ii. Scherzo: Allegretto Vivace 4:52
6. Piano Sonata No.18 In E Flat Op.31 No.3 Iii. Menuetto: Moderato E Grazioso 3:36
7. Piano Sonata No.18 In E Flat Op.31 No.3 Iv. Presto Con Fuoco 4:57
8. Piano Sonata No.21 In C Op.53 ‘Waldstein’ I. Allegro Con Brio 11:10
9. Piano Sonata No.21 In C Op.53 ‘Waldstein’ Ii. Introduzione: Adagio Molto 3:43
10. Piano Sonata No.21 In C Op.53 ‘Waldstein’ Iii. Rondo: Allegretto Moderato – Prestissimo 9:50
11. Piano Sonata No.19 In G Minor Op.49 No.1 I. Andante 3:57
12. Piano Sonata No.19 In G Minor Op.49 No.1 Ii. Rondo: Allegro 3:39
CD 5 [73:23]
1. Piano Sonata No.1 In F Minor Op.2 No.1 I. Allegro 4:06
2. Piano Sonata No.1 In F Minor Op.2 No.1 Ii. Adagio 4:13
3. Piano Sonata No.1 In F Minor Op.2 No.1 Iii. Menuetto: Allegretto – Trio 3:28
4. Piano Sonata No.1 In F Minor Op.2 No.1 Iv. Prestissimo 5:21
5. Piano Sonata No.25 In G Op.79 I. Presto Alla Tedesca 4:59
6. Piano Sonata No.25 In G Op.79 Ii. Andante 2:29
7. Piano Sonata No.25 In G Op.79 Iii. Vivace 2:01
8. Piano Sonata No.5 In C Minor Op.10 No.1 I. Allegro Molto E Con Brio 6:08
9. Piano Sonata No.5 In C Minor Op.10 No.1 Ii. Adagio Molto 8:37
10. Piano Sonata No.5 In C Minor Op.10 No.1 Iii. Finale: Prestissimo 4:08
11. Piano Sonata No.6 In F Op.10 No.2 I. Allegro 5:21
12. Piano Sonata No.6 In F Op.10 No.2 Ii. Allegretto 4:21
13. Piano Sonata No.6 In F Op.10 No.2 Iii. Presto 4:16
14. Piano Sonata No.9 In E Op.14 No.1 I. Allegro 7:01
15. Piano Sonata No.9 In E Op.14 No.1 Ii. Allegretto 3:33
16. Piano Sonata No.9 In E Op.14 No.1 Iii. Rondo: Allegro Comodo 3:14
CD 6 [71:20]
1. Piano Sonata No.10 In G Op.14 No.2 I. Allegro 7:08
2. Piano Sonata No.10 In G Op.14 No.2 Ii. Andante 3:40
3. Piano Sonata No.10 In G Op.14 No.2 Iii. Scherzo: Allegro Assai 3:47
4. Piano Sonata No.13 In E Flat Op.27 No.1 I. Andante – Allegro – Andante 4:26
5. Piano Sonata No.13 In E Flat Op.27 No.1 Ii. Allegro Molto E Vivace 2:00
6. Piano Sonata No.13 In E Flat Op.27 No.1 Iii. Adagio Con Espressione 3:12
7. Piano Sonata No.13 In E Flat Op.27 No.1 Iv. Finale: Allegro Vivace 6:06
8. Piano Sonata No.14 In C Sharp Minor Op.27 No.2 ‘Moonlight’ I. Adagio Sostenuto 6:01
9. Piano Sonata No.14 In C Sharp Minor Op.27 No.2 ‘Moonlight’ Ii. Allegretto 2:18
10. Piano Sonata No.14 In C Sharp Minor Op.27 No.2 ‘Moonlight’ Iii. Presto Agitato 7:47
11. Piano Sonata No.15 In D Op.28 ‘Pastoral’ I. Allegro 9:55
12. Piano Sonata No.15 In D Op.28 ‘Pastoral’ Ii. Andante 7:30
13. Piano Sonata No.15 In D Op.28 ‘Pastoral’ Iii. Scherzo: Allegro Vivace – Trio - Iv Rondo: Allegro Ma Non Troppo 7:26
CD 7 [74:47]
1. Piano Sonata No.7 In D Op.10 No.3 I. Presto 6:51
2. Piano Sonata No.7 In D Op.10 No.3 Ii. Largo E Mesto 10:10
3. Piano Sonata No.7 In D Op.10 No.3 Iii. Menuetto: Allegro 2:52
4. Piano Sonata No.7 In D Op.10 No.3 Iv. Rondo: Allegro 3:40
5. Piano Sonata No.2 In A Op.2 No.2 I. Allegro Vivace 7:06
6. Piano Sonata No.2 In A Op.2 No.2 Ii. Largo Appassionato 6:34
7. Piano Sonata No.2 In A Op.2 No.2 Iii. Scherzo: Allegretto – Trio 3:29
8. Piano Sonata No.2 In A Op.2 No.2 Iv. Rondo: Grazioso 6:35
9. Piano Sonata No.3 In C Op.2 No.3 I. Allegro Con Brio 10:28
10. Piano Sonata No.3 In C Op.2 No.3 Ii. Adagio 7:52
11. Piano Sonata No.3 In C Op.2 No.3 Iii. Scherzo: Allegro – Trio 3:20
12. Piano Sonata No.3 In C Op.2 No.3 Iv. Allegro Assai 5:31
CD 8 [72:55]
1. Piano Sonata No.8 In C Minor Op.13 ‘Pathétique’ I. Grave – Allegro Di Molto E Con Brio 9:08
2. Piano Sonata No.8 In C Minor Op.13 ‘Pathétique’ Ii. Adagio Cantabile 5:44
3. Piano Sonata No.8 In C Minor Op.13 ‘Pathétique’ Iii. Rondo: Allegro 4:16
4. Piano Sonata No.11 In B Flat Op.22 I. Allegro Con Brio 7:53
5. Piano Sonata No.11 In B Flat Op.22 Ii. Adagio Con Molto Espressione 6:38
6. Piano Sonata No.11 In B Flat Op.22 Iii. Menuetto 3:37
7. Piano Sonata No.11 In B Flat Op.22 Iv. Rondo: Allegretto 6:29
8. Piano Sonata No.12 In A Flat Op.26 ‘Funeral March’ I. Andante Con Variazioni 7:53
9. Piano Sonata No.12 In A Flat Op.26 ‘Funeral March’ Ii. Scherzo: Allegro Molto – Trio 2:57
10. Piano Sonata No.12 In A Flat Op.26 ‘Funeral March’ Iii. Maestoso Andante ‘Marcia Funebre Sulla Morte D’une Eroe’ 5:40
11. Piano Sonata No.12 In A Flat Op.26 ‘Funeral March’ Iv. Allegro 3:04
12. Piano Sonata No.24 In F Sharp Op.78 I. Adagio Cantabile – Allegro Ma Non Troppo 7:02
13. Piano Sonata No.24 In F Sharp Op.78 Ii. Allegro Vivace 2:44
CD 9 [36:51]
1. Piano Sonata No.4 In E Flat Op.7 I. Allegro Molto E Con Brio 8:11
2. Piano Sonata No.4 In E Flat Op.7 Ii. Largo Con Gran Espressione 8:20
3. Piano Sonata No.4 In E Flat Op.7 Iii. Allegro 5:06
4. Piano Sonata No.4 In E Flat Op.7 Iv. Rondo: Poco Allegretto E Grazioso 7:11
5. Piano Sonata No.20 In G Op.49 No.2 I. Allegro Ma Non Troppo 4:31
6. Piano Sonata No.20 In G Op.49 No.2 Ii. Tempo Di Menuetto 3:32

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 


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