Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Piano Sonatas 1-32
Listening to His Voice
Christopher | Wengen-en-esprit | 03/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Seeing as how entire university courses are devoted to Beethoven's 32 sonatas, I feel I can come nowhere near writing a revelatory analysis of these works. But then, this should be a review of the recording of these sonatas. The two are entwined, however. To understand Ashkenazy's interpretations requires one's own faithful interpretation of the piece being played. I recommend any listener to purchase the published sonatas --the two-volume Dover edition is my choice -- and follow along to their favorite sonatas.
If you are here looking for the 10-disc collection of piano sonatas, you will find they are now distributed in a slimmer less expensive package, still released by PolyGram/London records. To view this order, search for the following title: "Beethoven: The Piano Concertos" which is slightly different from this page (which leaves out the word "the").
Any releases with Ashkenazy's recordings of the sonatas stem from his 1974 - 1982 sessions, all of which are compiled right here, sounding as if they were recorded all in the same week. The piano's texture is not too smooth, which is good. The levels are mixed well: the loud parts don't blow your speakers apart, and the quiet sections don't make you strain or turn the volume up, only to have the loud parts blow your speakers apart again. There is no info specifying where these pieces were recorded, on what type of piano, etc. I am sure, though, this can be found on separate recordings.
The tracks are in order of publication/opus number, which is standard for Beethoven's sonatas. There is some doubt as to when, exactly, Sonatas 19 and 20 (found on Disc 6) were written, and they supposedly have a similar style to the first couple of sonatas.
Vladimir Ashkenazy's renditions of the sonatas are well done. The first movement of the Moonlight sonata (track 1, Disc 5) has set the standard for what I deem as the proper interpretation. It's neither lethargic nor too quickly played.
And while many listeners will be acquainted with the "nicknamed" sonatas, e.g. the Tempest, Appassionata, and Pathétique, the compilation is a fantastic way to acquaint or re-acquaint one's self with sonatas in the same league...or better! While I would admit that several sonatas seem "ordinary" by today's standards, many of them have little gems hidden within the movements. One that particularly stands out in my mind is in the third movement of Sonata No. 3 (track 11, disc 1). The Scherzo is a pretty tune that is interrupted by the roller coaster, and somewhat exhilarating, Trio that Ashkenazy flies through brilliantly.
I could speak of the many sonatas and my favorites and how they are performed. However, I wish to keep the review short and conclude with the most touching sonatas written by LVB: the last three, simply referred to by their opus nos. 109, 110, and 111. These are by far the most profound and mature of his sonatas. And if you've listened to, and read about, his 32 sonatas in order, you will have heard his sonatas closely resemble the composer's spoken voice. It is in these last sonatas that you will hear Beethoven breathing.
And in the second, and last, movement of Op. 111 -- Arietta: Adagio molto, semplice e cantabile -- you will behold the very tears of Beethoven himself. It is as close to ascension as he has ever achieved with all his compositions."
Just an introduction, nothing more
Ryan Kouroukis | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 06/15/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"At first glance this set definetly catches the eye, but as soon as you start listening, one realizes that Mr. Ashkenazy doesn't live up to the challenge.
Not only is the sound qaulity below high grade standards for Decca (ie: dim levels), his playing doesn't capture the spiritual, emotional, and dramatic elements of this music. The only thing he does well are the slow movements, which are gorgeous.
However, after listening to so many exemplary Sonata sets like Artur Schnabel's, Annie Fischer's and Wilhelm Kempff's, I am left to wonder about Ashkenazy's. He seems to only concentrate on the quality and sound of the TONE...but nothing else (however beautiful it is). But there is no meaning behind his playing, no seriousness! And for me this is the most important in Beethoven.
For anyone serious about Beethoven, I cannot recommend this set to do full justice to these profound works. Sorry to be so harsh, but this is my personal opinion.