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Thread: Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycle Journal

  1. #46
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Todd - I'd be very interested to hear what is your favourite recording of the Hammerklavier Sonata (29), it's my all time favourite. I also notice Jeno Jando didn't rate a mention yet ... I assume you'll get to him?

  2. #47
    Apprentice, Piano
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    John Lill hasn't been mentioned. He's got a good Hammerklavier. I think Fischer's is astounding, and two of my favourites is Richter and Rosen.

  3. #48
    Seaman, Mezzoforte oisfetz's Avatar
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    My favorite is the old recording of great Solomon Cutner.

  4. #49
    Captain of Water Music
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contratrombone64 View Post
    Todd - I'd be very interested to hear what is your favourite recording of the Hammerklavier Sonata (29), it's my all time favourite.

    I don't have a single favorite. Rather, I'd say that the below ten more or less compete for the honor:

    Maurizion Pollini
    Rudolf Serkin
    Annie Fischer
    Friedrich Gulda (Amadeo)
    Claude Frank
    Craig Sheppard
    Seymour Lipkin
    Paul Lewis
    Daniel Barenboim (EMI, 2005, DVD)
    Paul Badura-Skoda (Gramola)


    I may or may not get to Jando. I'm not a huge fan based on what I've heard from him.

    The universe is change, life is opinion. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

  5. #50
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Hey Todd - thanks for the list, apart from the Barenboim set (which I own) I don't know the others - will attempt to get hold of at least some of them. As to you not getting to Jando ... I understand, though it makes you rather an unlikely critique, yes?

  6. #51
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso methodistgirl's Avatar
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    The brother to paul, one of the musicians at church loves to play
    Beethoven when he is there on the Steinway piano in our sanctuary.
    I also loved hearing it while I was in Wednesday night class. Some of
    it is really beautiful including Song of Joy, Moonlight Sonata, and Fir
    else as he played it note per note as he went through an entire song
    book.
    judy tooley

  7. #52
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Hmm, "Fir else" ?? Ahah, Beethoven wrote for the tree forest ...

    I think you meant Für Elise ... I hate that piece ... I cringe everytime I hear it ... it was drummed into my head as a beginning piano student ... Beethoven is great ... but that piece ... <cringing>
    Kh ~~.
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    Amateur musicians practice until they get it right ...
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    fessional musicians practice until they can't get it wrong ...


  8. #53
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Krummhorn ... I tend to agree with you about Für Elise but when it's played by a competant pianist ... I also hate the 5th symphony for the very same reason: heard it far too often as a student.

  9. #54
    Captain of Water Music
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contratrombone64 View Post
    As to you not getting to Jando ... I understand, though it makes you rather an unlikely critique, yes?

    I'm not sure I get your point. I simply write about what I want to, when I want to. I'm not a professional critic and have never claimed to be one.

    The universe is change, life is opinion. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

  10. #55
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Well, sir, if you publish your tomes here you become a de facto critique, that's for sure. I enjoy them, so don't stop, as to Jeno Jando, fair enough.

  11. #56
    Captain of Water Music
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contratrombone64 View Post
    Well, sir, if you publish your tomes here you become a de facto critique, that's for sure.

    I don't get paid for what I write, so I'm merely an enthusiast writing about music, not a critic.

    The universe is change, life is opinion. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

  12. #57
    Captain of Water Music
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    Kun-Woo Paik





    A couple years ago I picked up the first volume of Kun-Woo Paik’s Beethoven sonata cycle, comprising sonatas from Op 31/1 through 81a. The notes indicated that the rest of the cycle would be recorded later in 2006 and 2007. Cool, I thought, since I was still buying plenty of cycles at the time. But 2006 and then 2007 came and went with no additional volumes here in the US. I’d occasionally check MDT and Amazon, but to no avail. Then a few weeks ago I broadened by search and stumbled upon Han Books in Los Angeles. It’s a Korean bookstore that imports all manner of goodies from Korea. Among the goodies it sells are all of the remaining volumes of the cycle. Decca released the cycle in three additional 2-disc sets rather than two 3-disc sets, but there it was. (The additional volumes are also available in France I later found, though the box-set is not.)

    Also there was the complete set in a nifty looking super digi-pac box more reminiscent of LP box-sets than CD box-sets. Though I had the first volume, I decided to go for the complete box because it looks so nifty and because it comes with a DVD and because the sonatas are presented chronologically and because it’s a limited, numbered edition. (Mine’s number 2229.) And it’s not too expensive – around $114 with shipping. Once I got the box it became apparent this set is for the Korean market only. The generous book (not booklet) is detailed and physically large – and all in Korean, save the French intro by the pianist. The included DVD is a low-rent affair, with blah camera work, blah image quality, and no subtitles for people who don’t speak French or Korean. But that’s irrelevant, really – it’s all about the music.

    When I wrote about the first volume, I noted that I thought it was a mixed bag: Some sonatas were superbly played, some not, though Kun-Woo’s technical mastery was evident throughout, as was his emotional detachment. Opp 31/3, 57, 78, and 54 came off best, and I surmised that the pianist would fare better in the early sonatas than the late sonatas. Well, after hearing the whole cycle, it’s clear that it is a mixed bag overall, and my initial hunch was right – Kun-Woo is better in the early sonatas than the late ones.

    Rather than go into detail, I’ll just cover the set in very broad strokes. The earliest sonatas generally fare well. Crisp, light, lithe playing characterizes much of the set, and some sonatas, like Op 2/3, Op 7, and the two Op 14 sonatas all benefit greatly. The pianist’s comparative detachment doesn’t detract at all here, and the generally high energy playing really sounds fine. The recorded sound doesn’t offer the last word in clarity, and Kun-Woo’s playing isn’t the clearest, most differentiated around, but it’s quite fine. Unfortunately, the meatier early works don’t fare as well. Op 10/3 comes off as too lightweight for me, with not a whole lot of drama or passion in the great slow movement. Op 13 fares better, with the briskly played opener having a bit of oomph. The last of the early sonatas (or the first of the middle, depending on how you look at), Op 22, is taken at a slightly broader tempo than I would have anticipated, but still has enough verve and variety to satisfy.

    The middle sonatas find Kun-Woo doing some fine things. Op 26 is surprisingly effective, delivered in a taut, slightly cool fashion, with the Funeral March poked out in a small-ish scale but edgy enough fashion. Op 27/1 possesses enough energy and drive to satisfy, and Op 28 is lyrical, smooth, and quite charming. The middle of the middle I’ve covered in more detail, but revisiting the sonatas found me enjoying Op 31/1 a bit more, and now I must say that 31/3 is top-flight stuff. The Appasionata reminds me of an updated version of Robert Casadesus’ formidable take on the work, and Op 54 still stands as a unique take, with a blistering fast Allegretto.

    The late sonatas are less satisfying. The first thing I noticed about the late sonatas, which here start with Op 90, is that the recorded sound is different – and not as good. It’s more distant, more resonant, more muffled, and more metallic. It’s still modern sound, it’s just not as good as the rest of the set. Anyway, Op 90 sounds quite nice, especially the second, proto-Schubertian movement with its flowing lyricism. Op 101 is a miss, though. It never really evokes the late-LvB sound world for me. Less satisfying yet is the mighty Hammerklavier. Though Kun-Woo definitely has the chops to play it fast, he instead plays it very slow, emphasizing the quasi-orchestral, grand nature of the music. The slow movement lacks enough gravitas, to boot. The last three sonatas improve a bit, though all lack the ultimate degree of late Beethoven gravitas. Op 111 probably fares best of all, with the pianist playing with decent drive and bite in the opener and allowing himself personal leeway in the slow movement, delivering a very fine Arietta, blurred, beautiful trills, and some nearly transcendental playing at times.

    Overall, this is not a great cycle in my estimation. But it is a slightly better than above average one overall. Compared to the most recent complete cycles and some on-going ones, I’d definitely have to say he’s closer in quality to Barenboim’s superb DVD cycle than he is to Paul Lewis’ rather dull cycle, though Barenboim rather handily delivers more of everything that counts most. Kun-Woo is uneven like Andras Schiff, though he even more rarely delivers the brilliant insights that Schiff sometimes does. He’s nimbler and more individual than Ikuyo Nakamichi, though she plays rather more beautifully. (And Kun-Woo’s playing is itself rather distinguished tonally.) He lacks the seriousness and weight of Craig Sheppard, though he’s more flexible. He tinkers more with tempi and dynamics than Akiyoshi Sako, but his vision is less compelling, solid, and certain. And he definitely doesn’t aggressively present his ideas like Ronald Brautigam, and sometimes there’s less excitement as a result. Overall, this is a fine cycle, one I’m glad to have, and one I’ll return to with pleasure, but I must seek out others for more meaningful Beethoven.

    The universe is change, life is opinion. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

  13. #58
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso methodistgirl's Avatar
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    I'm glad someone had the time to type all of that up.
    judy tooley

  14. #59
    Captain of Water Music
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    I have Schnabel,Kempff (DG Stereo),Barenboim (EMI 60's) and Brendel cycles.My favourite is Kempff.

  15. #60
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso methodistgirl's Avatar
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    My favorite Beethoven sonata is Moonlight.
    judy tooley

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