1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:Schnabel's fascinating approach to Beethoven, December 25, 2004
Schnabel was probably the only pianist of his era who played the piano in a manner reminiscent of Glenn Gould. He preferred an instrument with a lean tone, used the sustain pedal very rarely, and worked very hard to bring out inner voices, counterpoint, fugues and canons. He played all of the fast movements at Beethoven's written tempi, even when his flawed technique was not up to the task (the worst example being the first movement of the "Hammerklavier"), and all of the slow movements slower than written. In many of these he was able to bring out a "spiritual" quality that went straight to the heart of those Beethoven-lovers who saw his music in this vein. Yet in relistening to his complete set, modern ears hear more problems in the later sonatas (22-32) than our forebears probably heard: inaccurate playing of syncopated rhythms, for example in Sonata No. 29, and sometimes clumsy handling of some of those slow movements (i.e., the first movement of Sonata No. 12). In many other sonatas, however-including the Op. 49 pair, which were, after all, very early sonatas simply published in the middle of the series-his approach was nonpareil and still remains an object-lesson for aspiring Beethoven pianists.
O'Conor, by contrast, uses a rich-toned Steinway, is a master technician and a master of pedal effects. His Beethoven does not always follow the written dynamic contrasts, especially in most of the early sonatas (1-11), because, as he told me, "the fortepianos of Beethoven's time were incapable of them." Historically accurate, but not necessarily the composer's intentions. We know that he was delighted when more powerful pianos appeared, shortly before he lost his hearing for good (around 1805), and that he stated to friends that he thought of all his sonatas being played on that kind of instrument.
Yet, paradoxically, O'Conor's more legato phrasing and singing tone often brings out the very best in Beethoven, particularly in sonatas 22-32 but also in numbers 12, 14 ("Moonlight") and 16, where he scores many points in continuity over Schnabel. Moreover, he, too, brings out many of the inner voices whenever contrapuntal effects are called for, and combined with his sterling technique and "binding" of phrases, this can create a mesmerizing effect. I therefore feel that the best of both pianist's sets can combine to make a very satisfying set of the 32 sonatas.
Your choice between them will, of course, be a matter of personal taste, but I can assure you that EMI's remastering of the Schnabel recordings is nothing less than miraculous. Only rarely does one hear even the merest swish of the old 78-rpm records. They are noiseless, bringing out the very finest nuance of Schnabel's playing. And the O'Conor set is, of course, digital, though I find that boosting the treble is sometimes necessary as Telarc has always tended to prefer somewhat dull sound.
|the ecstasy and the agony, December 11, 2004|
EMI's transfers of these legendary recordings 0/10 - worthless rubbish - my deaf cat could do a better job.
Go for the Naxos - they know what they are doing...
Unfortunately I am unable to give this no stars - how much it is deserved!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:The rhytm is the form in movement!, July 31, 2004
The set has however peaks and some lows . Let 's name the peaks : The 1 to 7 , 10 ,17 , 20 , 27 , 28 sonatas , Les adieux have no equals .
You may find an astonishing 27 in Egon Petri version for instance . Forget about the Tempest sonata , Schnabel stole it for himself amd made from its own . The 28 was the first Sonata that I listened with Schnabel in 1970 and I really don ' t know about another performance .
In the last sonatas , I think Schnabel is not in his top form . The 31 Sonata has a performer : Daniel Barenboim in the eighties , the Waldstein Sonata has to me (three unforgettable versions : Frau Carreno (1905) , Ely Ney (1950) and Paul Badura Skoda (1971) ) .
The Hammerklavier finds his ideal performer in Wilhelm Kempff (the fifties mono recordings ).
The 32 and has with Badura Skoda (1973) his esential performer. The Apassionata Badura Skoda (1978) , Barenboim (eighties in a video recording) and Rudolf Serkin fifties.
In the Diabelli I rather prefer the Tatiana Nikolayeva version . And I miss a great reading of the Patethique of Edwin Fisher from the fifties and a superb version of William Murdoch from the thirties.
Solomon gives an interesting Hammerklavier and 30 too .
But this set as a whole is a must for you .
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:Seek out the Dante set, May 2, 2004
When I decided to get the Schnabel set on CD, I first did a few comparisons. I was frankly appalled when I heard this EMI set - it is distinctly inferior even to my Angel LP's (which in turn I suspect were inferior to the earlier RCA LPs). Then I had an opportunity to hear the Pearl set. In the main I found the Pearls to be "plain Jane," unfiltered transfers from pretty noisy 78's. Then I chanced to come across the 14-disc Dante set, which also includes all the miscellaneous Beethoven piano music recorded by Schnabel (bagatelles, variations, etc.) PLUS the 5 concertoes with Malcolm Sargent AND the later Emperor with Galliera. I was lucky: the 14-disc set was selling as a discontinued remainder item for just $28. The sound is superb - vastly superior to anything else I have heard.
Schnabel's interpretations are inspired, even when his fingers are hitting a few wrong notes (most notably in the Hammerklavier Sonata - and even there, his Adagio is simply unequalled in my experience). I also treasure a CD box set of the complete sonatas recorded in the 1950's for EMI by French pianist Yves Nat, some of whose performances I even prefer to Schnabel's. These two box sets are the cornerstone of my Beethoven piano collection - they are supplemented by many individual sonatas from the likes of Richter, Levy, Renard, Hungerford, and Gieseking.
My advice: Schnabel's Beethoven Sonata recordings belong in any serious piano collection. However, I would definitely avoid this EMI set and explore the alternatives. My choice is the Dante set.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:The Best but..., October 10, 2003
If you want "the" Schnabel set, spend the time to look for the DANTE 14 CD slim box set, remember I found it on ebay. I paid full price though, but it's been the best purchase I ever made in my life! (I would still recommend the EMI set to anybody, just because it's Schnabel playing Beethoven).
GOOD LUCK and ENJOY!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:Under a musical spell, September 29, 2003
The sound quality isn't that dull, lifeless or muffled as one critic noted, but possibly the Pearl set or the recent NAXOS series is a better sonic choice. All I know for sure is this EMI set has done me right for many, many years. The human ear adjusts quickly and the sound quality soon becomes "good enough" so you can enjoy these incredible (sparkling and flowing) recordings from the 1930's.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful:Schnabel was brilliant... but, July 10, 2002
Walter Hautzig, one of Schnabel's pupils asked Schnabel after a concert refering to a section of one of the sonatas. "You played [it] very well but i have a question. In your recoding you played it staccato and in your performance you used full pedal. Why is that?" I believe it has something in the Op111. The response... "Those recordings... I knew nothing of Beethoven then." And it is true. Walter Hautzig, who commonly gives master classes and performs all over the world agrees that the recording of the Beethoven Sonatas by Schnabel are not the best.
Schnabel often didn't like making recordings and since these are on LP there was a sense of TIME being important so many of the movements are taken at faster speeds, even rushed. Many slow movements are not taken at their proper tempos (if there is such a thing). On top of that the transfer from the LP isn't of the best quality and EMI might be at fault for that.
I would highly recommend the Schnabel Beethoven scores for studying the sonatas as they are, in my mind and in the mind of many others, the best Beethoven sonatas around, just ignore the fingerings. Schnabel had small hands and his fingerings accomodate for that, and technique was never something he stressed in his teachings.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:a masterpiece - but get the pearl edition, April 26, 2002
or almost no filtering and compressing. the pearl version is called "schnabel plays beethoven", and has 5 volumes. it includes the diabelli variations and a few other minor pieces.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:Avoid this and get the Pearl, January 21, 2002
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:A Masterpiece, July 27, 2001
Having made these recommendations, I point out that for a pianophile, one should have as many recordings of the Beethoven sonatas by as many pianists as possible. Afterall, these are some of the very deepest and most beautiful creations in the piano literature. I recommend having recordings by Solomon, Kempff, Richter, Brendel, Kovacevich, and Schnabel.
The talent of Schnabel lies in his interpretation of the music, his intellectual, musical, and spiritual understanding of the music. Schnabel was never considered a great piano virtuoso and technician in his own day, but rather a musician. Sometimes his technical flaws do distract from the music. Schnabel's genius lies in his ability to capture the essence of the character of the music. I don't agree with the last reviewer's remarks that we've surpassed Schnabel in the years since these recordings. I doubt many pianists nowadays have a better understanding of the music of Beethoven's sonatas than Schabel, or could even approach his understanding. Certainly many people could execute the notes more perfectly, but the same was true in Schnabel's own day. He was never considered a great technician.
I wasn't bothered much by the sound quality of the recording, contrary to some other reviewers. I think recordings of Schnabel belong in any library of Beethoven sonatas, though it really depends on what you can afford and how far you have progressed in your purchases. If you haven't a lot of other recordings already, you might be somewhat disappointed if you make this purchase. But if you've already explored Solomon, Kempff, and Richter, I recommend trying out Schnabel.