Vladimir Ashkenazy: Beethoven - The Piano Sonatas (10 CDs)

Beethoven - The Piano Sonatas - Vladimir Ashkenazy (CD 4-6 of 10CD)

Beethoven - The Piano Sonatas - Vladimir Ashkenazy (10 CDs)
Classical | EAC Rip | APE, IMAGE+CUE, LOG, Cover LQ | 2.1 GB
Date: June 24, 1997 | Label: Decca

Somewhat to my surprise, the Ashkenazy cycle is the best recording of the complete Beethoven sonatas. I bought every Beethoven recording by every major Beethoven pianist and spent over 1,000 hours comparing all those recordings to each other. The only cycles close to the Ashkenazy are the little-known Claude Frank, Seymour Lipkin and Paul Badura-Skoda cycles (the Badura-Skoda cycle of 1970 on the grand piano, not the fortepiano version). After those come the better-known cycles by Richard Goode, Barenboim (2nd cycle, for DGG), and Kempff (2nd cycle, in stereo), and the little-known cycle by Annie Fischer. I leave aside the Schnabel set which continues to define the standard for interpretations despite inadequate sound, and many high-quality recordings by Richter who never did a complete cycle.

I say "somewhat to my surprise," because Ashkenazy is not known as a Beethoven pianist. He is regarded as a great interpreter of romantic music, with the big technique and beautiful tone needed for that repertoire. Well, he has the big technique and beautiful tone, which is good. However, what is most noticeable to me is the scrupulous attention paid to Beethoven's text. In that regard, Ashkenazy is the equal of Claude Frank and Rudolf Serkin, which is high praise indeed.

The purpose of buying a complete cycle is usually to form a base for a collection. One can quibble with some of Ashkenazy's interpretative details or with Decca's recording techniques. However, the question then becomes: what is the alternative? The competing cycles are either a little worse or a lot worse. After buying one complete cycle, the lover of Beethoven can then add a number of other sonata recordings -- the Horowitz recordings for RCA Victor, the Rubinstein recordings, the Gieseking disk of the Pathetique and other works, the Pollini late sonatas, many of the Richter recordings. If I am asked to recommend one Beethoven sonata cycle as the basis for a collection, I would unhesitatingly recommend the Ashkenazy Decca cycle.

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