Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider

 


WATCH LIVE: the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra & Kent Nagano 6 sept 2.30 PM GMT+1.


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

REVIEW



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

Availability (CD & Download)
Volume 1 ~ Volume 2 ~ Volume 3 ~ Volume 4
Volume 5
~ Volume 6 ~ Volume 7 ~ Volume 8

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Complete Piano Sonatas
Wilhelm Backhaus (piano)
rec. 1950-54, Victoria Hall, Geneva. Mono
Track-listing below
Only available separately
PRISTINE AUDIO PAKM 051-058 [8 CDs: 9:00:00]

Experience Classicsonline


Given that Backhaus re-recorded the Beethoven sonatas in stereo - with one exception, the Hammerklavier - his earlier mono set might be thought to be supplanted, at least sonically. That was the intention when the later set was made, and the mono set has been very much the lesser known quantity. If you have the sonata cycle by Backhaus it’s more likely than not that you’ll have the stereo set, whereas with Wilhelm Kempff’s two cycles it’s not quite so simple and it’s as likely that you’ll have the outstanding and frequently available mono as the stereo. Now that Pristine Audio has restored this mono set, as well as Backhaus’s Beethoven concerto cycle, there is far greater choice in these matters than before.
 
One reason the mono set was so soon supplanted was perhaps the then ineradicable nature of some of its purely technical and acoustic problems. The later set was a very much more effective one from these standpoints. That, too, will have had some bearing on the lack of subsequent LP and CD re-releases of this set, though there was an Italian production some years ago, to which I’ve not had access and which, in any case, is no longer available in conventional disc form, and I don’t think it’s available as a download either.
 
What follows is a brief pointer as to some of the performances, their strengths and limitations, and some of those technical problems.
 
Both Op.22 and Op.26, the Funeral March, are highly elevated examples of Backhaus’s art. In both there are examples of rubati that may be thought obtrusive, but this seems of little account when the playing is projected so thoughtfully, and sensitively. Op.26 is a particularly good place to start in the Backhaus pilgrimage. The Moonlight is no-nonsense, direct and rather heavy in places, and not always rhythmically tight enough, whilst the Pastoral adopts a rather smoothed out, but tersely rough approach which will certainly appeal to some. The Op.49 duo are small scale but attractively dispatched. The Waldstein is extremely fine; he always played this resourcefully, energetically and successfully, even emphatically in places.
 
The Appassionata is a success in Backhaus’s own terms, which are those of technical accomplishment and a certain intensity without, in the slow movement, any prettifying. This last quality, Beethovenian beautification, was not one in Backhaus’s arsenal, and nor would he have wished it to have been; any more than Arrau was - his word - ‘lacy’ in Beethoven or any other composer, come to that. In their different ways these two pianists approached Beethoven with total integrity.
 
Les Adieux is rather dry-eyed, though this relatively formal, almost objectified account is not without expressive - or modified expressive - interest. He certainly emphasises some of the rough-hewn quality embedded in the music, even if not all the structural solutions he finds seem wholly convincing. Op.90 in E minor is taken with considerable romantic latitude in places, where Backhaus’s rubato - always a contentious interpretative area - can seem structurally dangerous.
 
The Hammerklavier, which served both cycles, is a monumentally authoritative, direct and technically imposing reading drawing on all his long years of experience. Some find it rather dour but it has a remarkable ability to concentrate attention and listening to this April 1952 performance reminds one, yet again, of his technical excellence. Live recordings given far later than this studio one, a few of which I’ve reviewed here, bear out the point. He was exceptionally well prepared in any circumstance.
 
Op.109 is direct, shorn of artifice but sometimes rather stolid. It lacks the philosophical elevation of Wührer, and the intense concentration of Solomon. Op.110 is decidedly more impressive, indeed one of the most sheerly impressive and commanding performances in this set. His acute awareness of structure is not, here, derailed by imposed rubati; his tone remains rounded and full, and the performance is cumulatively very moving.
 
Andrew Rose has applied his interventionist technology to attempt to ameliorate some of the more grievous problems inherent in this Decca series. Prominent seems to have been terrible pitch problems. I can certainly hear something of the acoustic deficiencies that bedevilled parts of the cycle, but I can also see that these have been dealt with sensitively, even though sterner listeners may suggest that the intervention level on the acoustic matter - as opposed to pitching, where we should all be agreed - is perhaps excessive. That’s a personal matter and I would suggest that it’s been successfully done.
 
This review has only scratched the surface of the cycle. The most important point to note is that it is now available, whereas before it was hard to source. One can endlessly compare and contrast this earlier set with the later one, as well as contrasting Backhaus with such widely divergent stylists as Schnabel, Arrau and Kempff - just for a start - which should keep one, if so inclined, busy for a considerable amount of time.
 
Jonathan Woolf  

see also review of Decca release of the later (1952-69) Backhaus complete set of sonatas by Ian Bailey

Masterwork Index: Beethoven piano sonatas
 
Track-listing 
CD 1 [79:27]
Piano Sonata in F minor, Op.2 No. 1 (1795) [14:41]
Piano Sonata in A major, Op.2 No. 2 (1795) [19:27]
Piano Sonata in C major, Op.2 No. 3 (1795) [22:02]
Piano Sonata in E flat major, Op. 7 (1796-7) [23:20]
PRISTINE AUDIO PAKM 051[79:27]
 
CD 2 [70:08]
Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 10 No. 1 (1796-8) [14:01]
Piano Sonata in F major, Op, 10 No. 2 (1796-8) [10:15]
Piano Sonata in D major, Op. 10 No. 3 (1796-98) [19:07]
Piano Sonata in C minor Op. 13, Grande Sonate Pathétique (1798-99) [15:55]
Piano Sonata in E major, Op. 14 No. 1 (1798-99) [10:51]
PRISTINE AUDIO PAKM 052 [70:08]
 
CD 3 [66:40]
Piano Sonata in G major, Op. 14 No. 2 (1798-99) [12:57]
Piano Sonata in B flat major, Op. 22 (1799-1800) [21:13]
Piano Sonata in A flat major, Op. 26 (1800-01) [18:38]
Piano Sonata in E flat major, Op. 27 No.1 Sonata quasi una Fantasia (1800-01) [13:52]
PRISTINE AUDIO PAKM 053 [66:40]
 
CD 4 [75:27]
Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 Sonata quasi una Fantasia, Moonlight (1801) [15:10]
Piano Sonata in D major, Op. 28, Pastorale (1801) [19:26]
Piano Sonata in G major, Op. 31 No. 1 (1801-02) [19:23]
Piano Sonata in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2 The Tempest (1801-02) [21:23]
PRISTINE AUDIO PAKM 054 [75:27]
 
CD 5 [64:29]
Piano Sonata in E flat major, Op. 31 No. 3 (1801-02) [18:46]
Piano Sonata in G minor, Op. 49 No. 1 (1795-98) [6:54]
Piano Sonata in G major, Op. 49 No. 2 (1795-96) [7:28]
Piano Sonata in C major, Op. 53 Waldstein (1803-04) [21:29]
Piano Sonata in F major, Op. 54 (1804) [9:43]
PRISTINE AUDIO PAKM 055 [64:29]
 
CD 6 [55:41]
Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 57, Appassionata (1804-05) [20:17]
Piano Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 78 (1809) [9:50]
Piano Sonata in G major, Op. 79 (1809) [9:27]
Piano Sonata in E flat major, Op. 81a, Das Lebwohl (Les Adieux) (1809-10) [16:06]
PRISTINE AUDIO PAKM 056 [55:41]
 
CD 7 [71:01]
Piano Sonata in E minor, Op. 90 (1814) [12:08]
Piano Sonata in A major, Op. 101 (1816) [17:27]
Piano Sonata in B flat major, Op. 106. Für das Hammerklavier (1817-18) [41:23]
PRISTINE AUDIO PAKM 057 [71:01] 
CD 8 [56:26]
Piano Sonata in E major, Op. 109 (1820) [17:33]
Piano Sonata in A flat major, Op. 110 (1821) [17:15]
Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 111 (1821-22) [21:39]
PRISTINE AUDIO PAKM 058 [56:26] 

 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.