Free the Beethoven 32!!

Discussion in 'Music' started by Dennis Nicholls, Jul 12, 2004.

  1. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    I just was informed of this freebie:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/classical/pizarro/

    All 32 Beethoven piano sonatas performed by Pizarro. I'm at work and haven't been able to listen to them, but will sample a few later today.

    Hey the price is right.
     
  2. Andrew Chong

    Andrew Chong Supporting Actor

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    That is a really nice gesture all around. I'm not keen on 'real audio' however.

    Somewhat on topic, I've heard that there hasn't been one artist who has yet managed to do all 32 sonatas justice in recorded form. One artist may be magnificent with a handful, another artist, a different mix of sonatas. Am I off base here? I dream of seeing a collection or volume of the complete Beethoven sonatas performed splendidly on all counts.
     
  3. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    There are a number of excellent complete sets, such as Brendel, Goode, Kempff, Arrau and Schnabel.
     
  4. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    I have the early Brendel and the Schnabel recordings, both very nice in their own ways. I just posted this so the pop music fans may give these freebies a try. They otherwise may never hear this music.
     
  5. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    At first I was tempted to suggest that we need to keep politics out of the forum. [​IMG]
     
  6. Steve Y

    Steve Y Supporting Actor

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    The only "sure thing" is that Beethoven sonata interpretation (or that of any other music) whittles down to personal taste, which will vary from person to person. I know this sounds like "very obvious talk" but in the world of music critique, classical music critique specifically, there seems to be an unspoken (occasionally spoken) rule that you need a music science degree and/or fifty recordings of "sonata X" to truly know what is good, what is bad. That of course is simple hogwash.

    To some, the perfect/ultimate collection consists of one artist's interpretation; to others, it's a hodge-podge.
    Many people like Schnabel because he was such an early visionary in terms of his (some say overly) academic research on the sonatas (some of his footnotes ARE unintentionally hilarious), but as the times change so do his recordings. Some might call them quaint today (I would not go so far; I like Schnabel, and I believe it's the poor quality of his recordings that most people seem to find "quaint").

    Rubato-laden interpretations that would be dismissed with a casual wave today were all the vogue over a hundred years ago, and the reverse would also be true... the mid-century drying-out of tone and metrical lines would be unthinkable in Lizst's time.

    There's this constant striving for a middle ground with tempo, especially in the later sonatas like the hammerklavier. That one in particular is so large in thematic scope, like a symphony, that you find people really experiment with speed, as they have with large symphonic works by later-century composers.

    I find most recordings try things that I appreciate (especially recording staccato and tempo) but they're not always to my taste. I, like everyone else, have an "ideal recording" in my head against which every recording I hear has to "compete".

    The abovementioned interpreters are great starts. The Richard Goode set, which I acquired for a measly $30 about six years ago, is a nice starter set. I find it very "even"; in other words, Goode is very consistent and somewhat conservative in his vision through all of the 32, so you can more easily make up your mind about which ones you like (and don't), and HOW you want them played (and don't).

    It's mostly about emotional resonance (furthermore: life context, or "what you were doing when you first heard it") ... my favorite recording of the appassionata is still a cheesy budget RCA recording from the eighties by Claude Frank that I listened endlessly in high school (missed notes and all!).

    As with other things we could mention, it's often "all about the first". [​IMG]

    ~s
     
  7. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Can't get 'em on my Mac [​IMG]
     
  8. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    Well I listed to Pizarro's "Waldstein" which for me is a touchstone. It demands both lyrical playing of the counterpoint at the same time as "banging on the piano" so it's damned difficult to pull off right. Pizarro tries for too much terrace dynamics and rubato. Sounds like he can't decided whether he's playing Scarlatti or Listz... I like the way that Brendel pulls off the Waldstein.


    Yes you can. Download a free real player.
     
  9. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Oh yeah....duh [​IMG]
     
  10. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    I'm impressed. I've now listened to Nos. 1-3, 8, 14 and 29 (sorry, couldn't resist). I haven't poked around the BBC site much; is this commercially available?
     
  11. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    I agree. His playing in the other sonatas I've sampled is excessively aggressive and fast.
     
  12. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    OK. Made it through all of 'em. Overall, I enjoyed them. I agree that his playing is aggressive. Excessive? Maybe. I enjoyed his comments as well, particularly his advice on tackling "Hammerklavier."

    On a whim, I recently picked up the "bargain-basement" version of the sonatas, Jeno Jando (Naxos label) performing. Not bad at all. This would make a good gift selection for someone whom you'd like to introduce to the sonatas.
     
  13. Steve Y

    Steve Y Supporting Actor

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    I agree with you guys, the allegro and allegretto on the Pizarro Waldstein feel too "rushed". I prefer things a bit slower and less aggressive. You can usually tell right away from the opening chords of this sonata whether or not the pianist is going to "bang 'em out quickly" in a wall of sound or state the chords succinctly with just the right amount of strike and release... this being no easy task with such thick chords.

    I like Claudio Arrau's recording on Phillips. He can "fumble" a bit but the soul is there, and he's not rushing. The recapitulation of the allegro in particular is far more powerful when delivered with moderation.

    Pizarro's rubato/legato is a little out of control in the adagio, but it's not bad. This is a really easy movement note-wise but the dynamics are a killer.

    ~s
     
  14. andrew markworthy

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    Yes and no. You'll find that it's a cliche amongst music critics that there is no 'perfect' recital of the 32. This can lead you into the impression that e.g. performer X does sonatas 1-16 really well, and then plays 17-32 badly. It's not that at all. In objective terms, performance of all the sonatas may be excellent. However, given that practically all the great pianists have tackled the 32, the law of averages states that someone must have done some of the sonatas better.

    I think it's also worth reiterating that what suits one ear won't suit another. For example, I know a lot of people who swear by the Schnabel cycle. I can see its virtues, especially the 'musicality', but I get put off by the wrong notes and the old recording (personal reaction). Personally I like the Jando cycle done for Naxos. It's unshowy, very unfussily recorded (I love the faint sound of birdsong in some of the performances - the recordings were made in a country church) but to me its simplicity is appealing. However, not everyone will like it.

    Getting back on topic, I agree with the comments. To me it's not ideal, but it's far from awful.
     
  15. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    I've now listened to parts of this several times more and I like it quite a bit.
     
  16. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    I don't see there being any real burning need for anyone to own all 32 sonatas. While about 10 of them are among the finest solo keyboard works, about half are rightfully not performed and recorded as much as the other half.
     
  17. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Personally, I own all of them, but I've found it much more rewarding to have purchased, enjoyed and compared multiple versions of my favorites. I would modified Seth's statement by encouraging folks to look beyond the "greatest hits" (patheqtique, moonlight, hammerklavier, etc) and explore some of the other wonderful stuff, like nos. 1-3, op. 2 and nos. 30 and 31. So, I do think it's worthwhile to sample the whole thing at least once and then start to build a library of your favorites, picking multiple excellent records of many, from different eras.
     
  18. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    Yes. The best approach is something like Serkin's 5 disc set that covers all the major ones (and at budget price).
     
  19. Andrew Chong

    Andrew Chong Supporting Actor

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    Thanks one and all for your insights on this most interesting musical subject. I, for one, have enjoyed reading all of your thoughts. To date, the most complete form that I have the 32 in is in two volumes of books from Dover Publications. Some time I'll study those that I haven't (which is most of them [​IMG]).
     

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