Beethoven Quartets and Piano Sonatas
Aug 1, 2004 at 5:07 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 104

classicalguy

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Enough with symphonies. I'm interested in opinions on the Beethoven String Quartets and the Beethoven Piano Sonatas.

The best version I have of the quartets is the Italiano - pretty good sound, and sprightly preformances (I actually only have their middle and late quartets). The Guarneri comes in a close second. I also have the old Budapest recordings that were reissued on Masterworks Heritage, which are very good but the sound quality (mono) just doesn't measure up, IMO. I have not heard the Emersons (very full [read over] priced), and I have not heard the new cycle (only partially released, I believe) by the Takacs [also full/over priced] (both have garnered great reviews). Finally, I'd have not heard the Orford on Delos, which I expect would have great sound, but no one seems to talk about it.

With respect to piano concertos, I have and like two versions by Brendel (older one being a more interesting, newer one having better sound), but I don't think (as many seem to) that he is the last word in this genre. Nor have I been overwhelmed by the few disks I have of Richard Goode, who also receives "THE set to own" praise.

Pollini brings his near-perfect technique along with pretty good recorded sound but lacks inventiveness. His playing to me is almost too perfect. His mentor Michaelangeli was able to play perfect while still bringing electricity to the performance, but alas never completed a full or near full set of anything.

I would put John O'Conor's Telarc performance in that same class as Pollini - note perfect, but lacking in excitement. I have various performances by Richter that provide inventiveness and excitement in spades but lack in the recorded sound dept, and miscellaneous versions by Taub, Gilels, Wild, Rosenberger, and others that have merits and demerits. I heard glowing reports regarding the sound of the Robert Silverman set put out by stereophile, but few comments about the quality of the performance. So is there a "perfect set," or is this an area that by necessity calls for individual performances according to one's mood?
 
Aug 1, 2004 at 5:17 PM Post #2 of 104

daycart1

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Quartets: I'm a particular fan of the 70's Cleveland Quartet cycle, but there are a number of obvious good ones. Julliard, Amadeus, and Berg are also very fine.

Sonatas: I like the Arrau set. Both Kempff sets are also great. Serkin's Beethoven does it for me, but I don't think he recorded a single integral set.

I haven't heard the Silverberg, but I have his Stereophile Brahms record which disappointed me a little on the performance side compared with the heavy hitters.
 
Aug 1, 2004 at 5:38 PM Post #3 of 104

Bill Ward

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Le Quatuor Talich

Bought these when they first came out as individual discs. The warm, close Calliope sound is much to my taste, and I like the interpretation. I don't think they've been out of print since they were first released, and neither has the price gone down appreciably.
rolleyes.gif


BW
 
Aug 1, 2004 at 6:01 PM Post #4 of 104

Tyson

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For me, the Emerson's are tops in the quartets. They bring a modern sensibility, very high (some say too high) level of intensity, and perfect playing. They are also just about the only ones around that actually play the music at the speeds marked by beethoven. The result is astonishing. I can hardly listen to my other cycles after the Emersons cause the others sound so plodding and staid.

For the sonatas, I like Goode. He also plays a lot of sonatas fairly quickly, and less overtly "dramatic" than many others. He's almost like a more rugged version of Kempff. I like that he can keep things moving, but still bring out the emotions of the works, without going for histrionics in the performance.
 
Aug 1, 2004 at 9:09 PM Post #5 of 104

jamont

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I'm also a fan of Goode's recordings (and I had the good fortune of hearing him play No. 32 in concert a few years back). I also like Kempff, Gilels, and Claude Frank. Gilels did not make a complete set, but he did record a number of the sonatas for DG and these are worth hearing. The Claude Frank set is well known to those with long memories - it was released on RCA Victrola for the Beethoven bicentennial in 1970 and was reissued on CD several years ago by Music and Arts.
 
Aug 2, 2004 at 12:08 AM Post #6 of 104

daycart1

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Quote:

Originally Posted by jamont
I'm also a fan of Goode's recordings (and I had the good fortune of hearing him play No. 32 in concert a few years back). I also like Kempff, Gilels, and Claude Frank. Gilels did not make a complete set, but he did record a number of the sonatas for DG and these are worth hearing. The Claude Frank set is well known to those with long memories - it was released on RCA Victrola for the Beethoven bicentennial in 1970 and was reissued on CD several years ago by Music and Arts.


A few months ago I heard Claude Frank give a master class on the Apassionata Sonata--he was very impressive! (But in the associated concert, he played Schubert instead).
 
Aug 2, 2004 at 1:05 AM Post #7 of 104

Wilson

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Sonatas: I like the Kempff set

Quartets: There was a Smetana Quartet recording by Denon that I like a lot, but haven't seen it anywhere for a long time. The Berg and Amadeus set are also good.


W
 
Aug 2, 2004 at 3:39 AM Post #8 of 104

aos

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Alban Berg Quartet set is FREAKIN' UNBELIEVABLE. Well, at least some of the performances. I'll put it this way, I disliked chamber music before listening to their performance of the final, or one before final quartet (the one with the out of this world last movement). Now I believe you don't need a symphony orchestra to get a complex, impactful sound. It's also sold as a separate CD so you don't have to get the whole set. Whenever I make a new DAC, this is one of the first things I listen to, to evaluate highs.
 
Aug 2, 2004 at 12:54 PM Post #9 of 104

duetta

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As far as I'm concerned, Emil Gilels Beethoven Sonata performances (on DG) are among the best I've ever heard. Unfortunately, he died before getting to Op. 111 - so it's not a complete cycle. Gilels' tempos tends toward the slow side, and his approach emphasizes the gravitas inherent in this music, particularly in the middle and later works.

I've always had a soft spot for Kempf, but the last time I played some the late sonatas in stereo cycle, I decided that I simply found the interpretations too wayward, too inconsistent, for my current tastes.

Goode's cycle is centrist in approach, and I thought quite musical. The piano mavens at rec.music.classical-recordings tend to disagree, however.

Charles Rosen late Sontatas are lucid, and quite wonderful. They're available as an inexpensive 2 CD set from Sony.

As far as the Quartets go, the set that I came back to most often is the Quartetto Italiano, on Philips - which is probably the polar opposite of the Emerson set.

I'm also quite fond of Bernstein's transcriptions of the Op. 131 & 135 Quartets, with the VPO.
 
Aug 2, 2004 at 6:48 PM Post #10 of 104

MTL

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Quartets:
The Alban Berg Quartet's second set (live recording from Vienna) on EMI
Second choice would be the just finished set of the Gewandhaus Quartet on NCA.

Piano Sonatas:
Brendel's second set for Philips.
 
Aug 3, 2004 at 4:52 PM Post #11 of 104

CSMR

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I have the Veghs Beethoven Quartets. Very fine. The best description I can think of the playing is searching, and individually meditative. Expansive in slow movements, and they have a good sense of the whole.

Be sure to try the Schnabel recordings. These are a real treasure in my collection. Miraculous control of expression - can be tempramental, brusque then sensitive, feeling then uncaring: isn't this how we imagine Beethoven himself? The life that he gets our of the slow movements of the middle sonatas! He's not the sort to adore every note - many get lost (deliberately and accidentally!) - but Schnabel goes boldly straight for the heart of the music. If you listen to say the start of op 109 you will hear how most of the notes the notes are only barely touched, leaving the simple musical structure clear.
On Op 110 I find that much cleaner playing suits the music - Kovacevich has just the right style for this sonata I think. And the educated performance or Brendel is my favourite for the last sonata.
 
Aug 5, 2004 at 3:24 PM Post #12 of 104

kenneth

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I have the complete quartets with Orford on Delos. This is my favorite set so far. The performances are fresh and exciting. The very opposite would be the Le Quatuor Talich recordings, who sound like a group of elderly men, playing ever so softly, late at night, as to not distrurb anyone. The Emerson set is too impersonal; what seems to be of utmost importance to them is keeping up with with nearly impossible fast tempos, and if the details in the music suffer, its just too bad. One other set I would strongly recommend, would be the set with the Cleveland Quartet. One can go to Amazon.com to sample any of these sets, and many others besides.
 
Aug 6, 2004 at 1:17 PM Post #13 of 104

hciman77

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I have Jeno Jando's Piano Sonatas on Naxos. This is a surprisingly good set it was issued in 9 volumes including a "greatest sonatas" CD, and being Naxos is very reasonably priced. I used to have a set by Alfred Brendel on LP and that was great but Brendel's constant humming along used to drive me bats.
 
Aug 6, 2004 at 10:08 PM Post #14 of 104

aos

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Ah, Jeno Jando's (and company) interpretation of Schubert's "Trout" Quintet on Naxos is great. Given Naxos price, no good reason not to own it, even for people like me who aren't the biggest fans of chamber music.
 
Aug 7, 2004 at 1:27 PM Post #15 of 104

hciman77

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Quote:

Originally Posted by aos
Ah, Jeno Jando's (and company) interpretation of Schubert's "Trout" Quintet on Naxos is great. Given Naxos price, no good reason not to own it, even for people like me who aren't the biggest fans of chamber music.



I am not a fan of the Trout but the String Quintet in C (D956) is a wonderful piece and really other-wordly.
 

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