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Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas & Concertos [Box Set]
Claudio Arrau, Janos Starker, Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas & Concertos [Box Set]
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #4
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #5
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #6
  •  Track Listings (7) - Disc #7
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #8
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #9
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #10
  •  Track Listings (33) - Disc #11
  •  Track Listings (6) - Disc #12
  •  Track Listings (6) - Disc #13
  •  Track Listings (6) - Disc #14

Claudio Arrau played with seriousness of purpose that could make other pianists seem like dilettantes and with respect for the composer's score that bordered on veneration. He had nothing but scorn for pianists who played ...  more »


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Claudio Arrau played with seriousness of purpose that could make other pianists seem like dilettantes and with respect for the composer's score that bordered on veneration. He had nothing but scorn for pianists who played the opening of Beethoven's Opus 111 with two hands instead of one because there were fewer risks. If something was technically difficult, Arrau assumed that the composer had written it that way because the difficulties had an expressive value that it was the interpreter's duty to find. Arrau's devotion to Beethoven is memorialized by this budget-priced, 14-CD collection of his recordings, mostly from the 1960s, of the composer's 32 sonatas, five concertos (with Bernard Haitink conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam), and most important sets of variations. His Beethoven is not always successful. His sometimes ponderous seriousness keeps early works, such as the Sonata No. 3 and the Concerto No. 2, from smiling, and his lack of spontaneity makes the whimsy in Sonata No. 26 and the "Diabelli Variations" sound labored. But in the composer's weightiest works, Arrau can produce revelations. Certainly, no one plays Sonata No. 32 better. The first movement sounds like thunder that comes ever closer and the finale's chains of trills, played with exquisite finish and expressive perfection, transport the listener to a higher realm. If Arrau could be single-minded in his devotion to the composer's score, he also believed that music could encompass everything. When Arrau was at his best--as he frequently is in this set--it does. --Stephen Wigler

CD Reviews

One of many Beethoven 32+ you could call "The Best"
R. Lane | Tracy, CA USA | 04/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Great Music!" can sound equally stunning and magnificent in the hands of many diverse interpreters. Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas certainly make a good case to be classified as "Great Music!", and the variety of recordings of the entire 32 is more than ample evidence for such a classification. This set features recordings made in the 1960s by the Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau, and supplements the sonatas with the complete concertos and some variations. Arrau is very thought provoking and exploratory in his readings. This is not Beethoven for the light hearted. The readings feature a wide dynamic range and emotional expressiveness. You are ever aware that it is not just Beethoven's thoughts that are being expressed in the playing; Arrau's own feelings are as ever present as the composer's. I agree with one reviewer who finds Arrau a little lacking in the scherzos. But, I can easily dismiss the shortage of "playfulness" in some moments when I get interpretations that fathom some of the great depths this music has to it.
No one cycle of the 32, in my opinion, can lay claim to be superior over all others, even in any one of the sonatas. I would not want to be without this set. But then, I also would not want to be without Kempff, Brendel, Schnabel, or Gilels either. All have equal strong merit.So if you could only choose one, why might you choose this set? If you are a great fan of Schumann, Brahms, and perhaps Schubert, then you will likely find these performaces more fitting. They look forward to the future that Beethoven certainly paved the way for, a future that was more expressive and expansive. If you are a fan more of Mozart and Haydn, you may find the readings a bit heavy and introspective. Also, consider this set if you want one stop for the sonatas, concertos, and variations. The concertos, another genre of Beethoven's works deserving of the "Great Music!" designation, are given similarly unforgettable Arrau performances with Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra. I find myself listening to the Eroica variations in this box more than anything else. The audio recording is not of the demonstration-quality that the Gilels has, but Arrau plays with more herioc feeling and captures the sense of occasion in the work in a way Gilels seems to miss entirely.Philips has pulled off one of their best remastering jobs with this compliation. The boxed set was released shortly before Philips started their award-winning "Philips 50" series of reissues. The care taken with these Arrau remasterings makes me suspect they were a sort of "tune up" for the bigger and more publicized project that was to follow.The documentation is decent but not exhaustive. One minor quibble is with the box. It is just a wee bit too small for the disks and booklet to fit comfortably. The price is very low on a per disk basis."
Essential Arrau, essential Beethoven
R. Lane | 03/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have been living with the Arrau/Beethoven sonatas for over 30 years beginning with lp's pressed in the U.S., then imported from Holland, then the initial cd's & now this remastered cd box set. The latest technology brings additional life and timbre to Arrau's miraculous sound so I highly recommend this latest incarnation of what are indisputably great Beethoven recordings. As other reviewers have observed, not all of Arrau's treatments are equally inspired; but the overall level of playing & interpretation is so remarkable that there isn't much to quibble with. The primary complaint that one reads about Arrau is that he frequently played too slowly. (Conversely it can be said that Schnabel, the yardstick by which all Beethoven pianists have been measured for 75 years, often played too fast. His slow movements were divine, his fast movements could obliterate the music.) While Arrau did sometimes sound too deliberate in certain pieces of music which his temperament seemed ill-suited for (the Chopin waltzes come to mind), the fact remains that he was an enormously insightful and imaginative artist who often played with tremendous passion. Many of his interpretations include plenty of fireworks where appropriate, however others were so sublime that only experts were aware of how his gigantic technique was seemingly effortlessly employed in extremely difficult passages. (Contrary to one reviewer's statements that appear below, his playing was neither "messy" on disc nor in any of the numerous recitals I attended.)The supreme statements of Arrau's Beethoven can be heard in the Appassionata and the late sonatas, especially the Hammerklavier. The Funeral March, Pastoral, Les Adieux, Waldstein & Tempest sonatas are also outstanding as are the Eroica and C minor variations. Many of the early sonatas sparkle as well. Out of the 32 sonatas, only one is disappointing: the Moonlight whose final movement is curiously flat. Much comment has been made on Arrau's reading of op.111. I find that the opening bars which he positions with such grandeur almost border on overstatement, something which Arrau must have re-thought as his approach on a reading on a BBC dvd filmed ca. 1970 is tighter. My recollection of his performance in concert (1971-2) is that the opening statement was also somewhat less rhetorical but still very effective. In summary, the cd reading is one of overwhelming power.There are so many high points in these recordings (the fourth concerto is stupendous) that it would take far more words than are allotted by Amazon to cover them all. In short: immensely satisfying music that will lead the listener to a new appreciation for Beethoven."
Wade Nelson | Calgary, Alberta Canada | 07/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This set should be considered indispensable by all lovers of the piano and/or Beethoven. I won't bother anyone with a review of any particular performance. It is enough to list a few of the many virtues of this set.VALUE
It may seem like a lot of money but consider that you get over 1,000 minutes spread over 14 CD's.INTERPRETATION
In my view, Arrau was the greatest interpreter of Beethoven of his generation. I will never forget seeing him perform the Emperor. Some may object to the languid tempi but to my ear, they are just right. The arietta of op.111 is sublime.RECORDING
There is some faint background noise and hissing, but pay no attention. For the age of the recordings, the Philips' engineers have done an outstanding job.My only complaint (and it is very small) is that the liner notes do not do the set the treatment it deserves. Barely 5 pages with few insights seems odd, to be charitable about it.Nevertheless, a treasure to enjoy over and over again. Unreservedly recommended."