If you're looking for a set of all nine Beethoven symphonies, this one is pretty hard to beat. It's the most consistently fine interpretively, as well as supremely well played and gorgeously recorded.David Hurwitz
Russian pianist Mikhail Pletnev has an astoundingly clean and virtuosic technique. He has the ability to bring out inner voices that in some other recordings are completely lost. These skills are sometimes enough to make his interpretations of these three early and middle period Beethoven sonatas completely satisfying. The third movement of the "Moonlight" Sonata, for example, is absolutely electrifying in its virtuosity. The first movement of the"Waldstein" and the final movement of "Appassionata" are brisk, energetic, and always completely under control. Movements such as these, where the performer's technique truly comes to the forefront, are absolutely satisfying here.
Beethoven reputedly wasn't Beecham's favorite composer, but you wouldn't know it from this performance; it's exceedingly well conceived, highly energetic, and has that unique Beecham sparkle to it. The fillers also are delightful. All recorded in Ascona, Switzerland in 1957.
If these performances of Beethoven's earlier Piano Trios by Itzhak Perlman, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Lynn Harrell are suave and sophisticated with a soupçon of sentimentality, well, that's what modern performance practice was like in the '80s. And if that sounds like an appealing manner in which to perform Beethoven's earlier Piano Trios, this is the recording to hear. Perlman, Ashkenazy, and Harrell lean into Beethoven's music, singing everything grandly, sounding everything gloriously, and souping everything up completely. One might argue that Beethoven's Piano Trios, Op. 1, are too Viennese High Classical to respond well to their approach, that the works seem more maimed and mauled then persuasively performed, but one cannot deny that Perlman, Ashkenazy, and Harrell put every iota of their expressivity and virtuosity into their overpowering performances. EMI's early digital sound has been pleasantly remastered for this CD reissue.
Recordings of all the Beethoven symphonies with their chief conductor are always a milestone in the artistic work of the Berliner Philharmoniker. So it was with Herbert von Karajan and Claudio Abbado, and expectations are correspondingly high for this cycle conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. Where does the special status of these symphonies come from? Simon Rattle has an explanation: “One of the things Beethoven does is to give you a mirror into yourself – where you are now as a musician.” In fact, this music contains such a wealth of extreme emotions and brilliant compositional ideas that reveal the qualities of the orchestra and its conductor as if under a magnifying glass.
Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, completed about the same time as the Eroica Symphony, has suddenly become popular. One reason for its previous lack of popularity was the fact that three soloists cost three times as much as one normally expensive pianist, violinist or cellist. Another reason is that the work seeks to be a popular success, hence the Rondo alla Polacca with which it concludes. The piano part was intended for Beethoven’s patron and pupil, the Archduke Rudolph von Habsburg, and hence is less technically demanding than the composer’s usual pianistic writing, destined for himself. The standard CD (previously LP) of the work was a spectacular performance and recording made by EMI many years ago with David Oistrakh, Rostropovich and Richter with the Berlin Philharmonic under Karajan. It was opulently played with the BPO’s luscious sound, but has little to do with what Beethoven would have heard in 1804. Another choice was the version of Stern, Rose and Serkin (Sony), less lush and not so high-powered as Karajan’s.
At the heart of Beethoven’s life’s statement as a composer lies the cycle of sixteen string quartets, which, to this day, has retained a special status and reverence. Since 2012, the Elias String Quartet has been immersed in its Beethoven Project, performing all Beethoven’s string quartets at venues throughout the UK. In this live recording, the ensemble captures both the intimacy and grandeur of the works. With an ever-expanding recording catalogue that has been met with widespread critical acclaim, the quartet is delighted to release this disc, the first volume of its complete Beethoven cycle to be recorded live at Wigmore Hall over the coming Seasons.
This was to be the end of the line for Italian word-setting by Viennese composers: once the confident sentiments that belonged to the poet Metastasio's opera seria felt the chill and threatening wind of Enlightenment and Revolution, their time was up. Even we, for the most part, prefer to remember the German-speaking Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn. So it is good to be reminded of their responses to the Italian muse (usually as part of their craft-learning student work) in this particularly well-cast recital. Central Europe, in the person of Andras Schiff meets Italy, in Cecilia Bartoli, to delightful, often revelatory effect.
Rudolf Serkin's 1964 recording of Beethoven's Piano Concerto in C minor is surely among the greatest recordings of the work ever made, and certainly his finest performance of the work. The energy and enthusiasm and even passion he brings to Concerto in C minor is overwhelming, and indeed, it overwhelms Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, who accompany Serkin with the sort of commitment that only a conductor and orchestra give to soloists when they are deeply inspired. But while Serkin's 1962 recording of Beethoven's Piano Concerto in E flat major is also surely among the greatest recordings of the work ever made, it is not quite Serkin's finest recording of the work.