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The Great Arthur Schnabel: Deciphering Beethoven – The Last Three Sonatas

A legend among pianists of the twentieth century, Artur Schnabel (April 17, 1882 – August 15, 1951) was an Austrian pianist, who also composed and taught. Schnabel was known for his intellectual seriousness as a musician, avoiding pure technical bravura. Among the 20th century’s most respected and most important pianists, he displayed a vitality, profundity and spirituality in works by Beethoven and Schubert above all. His performances of these compositions have often been hailed as models of interpretative penetration; and his best-known recordings are those of the Beethoven piano sonatas.

Schnabel did much to popularize Beethoven’s piano music, making the first complete recording of the sonatas, completing the set in 1935. This set of recordings has never been out of print, and is considered by many to be the touchstone of Beethoven sonata interpretations. His interpretations of the late, visionary sonatas of Beethoven were spiritual testaments.

Artur Schnabel’s editing of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas (1000+ pages total) stands as one of the most unlikely and yet colossal resources of pianistic wisdom generally and piano technique in particular ever compiled. The original edition of the 32 Sonatas edited by Schnabel was published in Milan, Italy by Edizioni Curci in three volumes. A re-engraved and corrected two-volume, five-language (English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish) American edition is available from Amazon.com

Hear Schnabel play the three last Sonatas of Beethoven:

Sonata Opus 109:

Continue: 2nd mvt | 3rd mvt | 3rd mvt (cont.)

Free piano sheet music:

Sonata Opus 110:

Continue: 2nd mvt | 3rd mvt | 4th mvt

Free piano sheet music:

Sonata Opus 111:

Continue: 2nd mvt | 2nd mvt (cont.)

Free piano sheet music:


  1. Alan Barber Says:

    Schnabel’s editions are fabulous, but certainly not the last word. There are a few books out there that are helpful as well: Robert Taub has written “Playing the Beethoven Piano Sonatas,” (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 2002), offering very useful suggestions for each of the 32 sonatas. The indefatigable Charles Rosen wrote “Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion,” (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), which is anything BUT short–and it doesn’t even deal with all 32! Rosen is a great writer, the epitome of the public intellectual, and his book also includes a CD with examples. Kenneth Drake, Emeritus Professor of Piano at University of Illinois, has two books: “The Beethoven Sonatas and the Creative Experience,” (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994, reprt, 2000); and “The Sonatas of Beethoven as He Played and Taught Them,” (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1981). All of them are useful, and all are in print, except the earlier one by Drake. You can find them at Amazon.com, although the earlier Drake book will set you back a pretty penny. But I wouldn’t be without any of them–my Beethoven playing has improved immensely with the help of these fine teachers and scholars.

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