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Author Topic: Who is the best Beethoven Sonata Interpreter?  (Read 70229 times)
bachapprentice
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« on: October 09, 2008, 11:22:17 PM »

I love Beethoven's Sonata's and have listened to the following artists play them:

Richter - Incredible
Horowitz - Good
Ashkenazy - Very Good
Gould - Very Good

Who's your favorite?
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frank_48
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« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2008, 11:57:04 PM »

Wilhelm Kempff. very nice.
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bachapprentice
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« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2008, 12:44:07 AM »

Wilhelm Kempff. very nice.
I just listened to him on itunes You're right very nice.
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faulty_damper
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« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2008, 07:15:22 AM »

Friedrich Gulda
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iumonito
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« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2008, 08:42:45 AM »

I love Beethoven's Sonata's and have listened to the following artists play them:

Richter - Incredible
Horowitz - Good
Ashkenazy - Very Good
Gould - Very Good

Who's your favorite?

Hi BA

You give me joy for your excitement about the Beethoven sonatas.  Together with Bach's 48, they are the Old Testament of the piano literature.

I have good news for you.  You will discover them to be much more beautiful than what you are understanding and feeling at the moment.  Three of the four pianists you mentioned are simply ghastly in their Beethoven performances.  Richter had his moments.

Here is a short list of pianists I think you should try to listen to in addition to Kempff (who is very good, but somehow was always so old - in the best of ways, but old nonetheless).

Goode
Gilels
Badura-Skoda
Andras Schiff
Hokanson

For reference you should also make yourself familiar with the Brendel sets (I think he recorded three times); Barenboim (two sets, very different from each other); and Schnabel.

here, to get you started:

Gilels, some of th emost phenomenal music making ever.  Op. 106 is out of this world.

http://www2.deutschegrammophon.com/cat/result?COMP_ID=BEELU&sort=newest_rec&ALBUM_TYPE=&SearchString=&IN_SERIES=&ART_ID=GILEM&IN_XXAWARDS=&PRODUCT_NR=4532212&start=0&IN_XXSERIES=&IN_XXPQ=&MOZART_22=0&GENRE=&per_page=10

Goode's set, the best hundred bucks ever spent:

http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=1567

The earlier Barenboim set, can beat the price.

http://www2.deutschegrammophon.com/cat/result?SearchString=&ART_ID=BARDA&COMP_ID=BEELU&ALBUM_TYPE=&IN_XXSERIES=&x=34&y=6

The later one.

http://www.emiclassics.com/releasetracklisting.php?rid=11977

Brendel's late one

http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/pid/1169462/a/Beethoven:+The+Complete+Piano+Sonatas+%2F+Alfred+Brendel.htm

And an earlier one

http://www.hbdirect.com/album_detail.php?pid=17405

and the early one, with a whole bunch of other stuff (there are some who think he is dull (as in Brendull) but i find him very worthwhile: a poetry that is a little dry but ultimately nurturing and true).

http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/Namedrill?album_group=1&name_id=14576&name_role=2

And Badura-Skoda's.  this is special:

http://www.studio52.gr/info_en.asp?infoID=00000mve
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scottmcc
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« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2008, 12:01:52 PM »

I just bought the 14 disc Claudio Arrau complete sonatas and concertos set.  I've only listened to it once through so far, but it's quite good, at least to my ear.
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cmg
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« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2008, 03:03:24 PM »

Haven't heard his recordings myself, but he's the current critics' darling and the Beethoven Flavor of the Month:  Paul Lewis.

What's the word on him?  What do you guys think?
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migamaral
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« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2008, 03:18:52 PM »

I love Kempf's set. He is great. He plays the Sonatas in a very passionate way, wich I particularly like.
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bachapprentice
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« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2008, 07:30:29 PM »

Hi BA

You give me joy for your excitement about the Beethoven sonatas.  Together with Bach's 48, they are the Old Testament of the piano literature.

I have good news for you.  You will discover them to be much more beautiful than what you are understanding and feeling at the moment.  Three of the four pianists you mentioned are simply ghastly in their Beethoven performances.  Richter had his moments.

Here is a short list of pianists I think you should try to listen to in addition to Kempff (who is very good, but somehow was always so old - in the best of ways, but old nonetheless).

Goode
Gilels
Badura-Skoda
Andras Schiff
Hokanson

For reference you should also make yourself familiar with the Brendel sets (I think he recorded three times); Barenboim (two sets, very different from each other); and Schnabel.

here, to get you started:

Gilels, some of th emost phenomenal music making ever.  Op. 106 is out of this world.

http://www2.deutschegrammophon.com/cat/result?COMP_ID=BEELU&sort=newest_rec&ALBUM_TYPE=&SearchString=&IN_SERIES=&ART_ID=GILEM&IN_XXAWARDS=&PRODUCT_NR=4532212&start=0&IN_XXSERIES=&IN_XXPQ=&MOZART_22=0&GENRE=&per_page=10

Goode's set, the best hundred bucks ever spent:

http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=1567

The earlier Barenboim set, can beat the price.

http://www2.deutschegrammophon.com/cat/result?SearchString=&ART_ID=BARDA&COMP_ID=BEELU&ALBUM_TYPE=&IN_XXSERIES=&x=34&y=6

The later one.

http://www.emiclassics.com/releasetracklisting.php?rid=11977

Brendel's late one

http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/pid/1169462/a/Beethoven:+The+Complete+Piano+Sonatas+%2F+Alfred+Brendel.htm

And an earlier one

http://www.hbdirect.com/album_detail.php?pid=17405

and the early one, with a whole bunch of other stuff (there are some who think he is dull (as in Brendull) but i find him very worthwhile: a poetry that is a little dry but ultimately nurturing and true).

http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/Namedrill?album_group=1&name_id=14576&name_role=2

And Badura-Skoda's.  this is special:

http://www.studio52.gr/info_en.asp?infoID=00000mve

I just found out that the great Valentina Lisitsa is currently working on the complete Beethoven Sonata's. She is probably the greatest pianist of our modern times and it should be incredible.
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thalbergmad
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« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2008, 10:48:10 PM »

I just bought the 14 disc Claudio Arrau complete sonatas and concertos set.  I've only listened to it once through so far, but it's quite good, at least to my ear.

That must have taken about 10 years to get through that lot.

Arrau takes 2 days just for the Waldstein.

Thal
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andrevazpereira
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« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2008, 01:41:41 AM »

Brendel, Gilels, Arrau, Baremboim, Sokolov. Moast of them have a german piano tchenic that is just perfect to get the sound of Beethoven.
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iumonito
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« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2008, 04:58:40 AM »

I just found out that the great Valentina Lisitsa is currently working on the complete Beethoven Sonata's. She is probably the greatest pianist of our modern times and it should be incredible.

Hmmmm.  BA?  Seriously?

Incredible may be precisely (and sadly) what that set would be.

Among the young and beautiful, Maria Mazo and Ingrid Fliter play Beethoven really well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oHAfoc9TzQ&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJ2G3UpTda4&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQLBAQ-AKU4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uycYkNx078w&feature=related

P.S.  Don't get me wrong, I love Horowitz.  Lisitsa, Lang Lang, Volodos and others who have tried to imitate that line ... I am not so sure about.

Take a look here, you may see something you like and that is closer to valuable art.  Boy Scout word: nurture your taste with the good stuff and you will have more fun that what's available from the Berezovskys and Cziffras of the piano world.

Alicia Gabriela, careful pealing those potatoes!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ta9bjooLC54

Helene Grimaud, without the wolves,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me9YHA50Z8w&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsrpCIj6qYE&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fsekFC-pw8&feature=related

Gabi in good company  Wink
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0EQAInz3ww

... and then just making it up as she goes.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx2W-t5sGoU&feature=related

Aska, do all 32!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc1avkJSADo

(There, no one can say this detour does not relate to the Beethoven subject of the thread  Roll Eyes)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pt__fgGpDP4
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argerichfan
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« Reply #12 on: October 11, 2008, 05:27:32 AM »

Arrau takes 2 days just for the Waldstein.
And another 6 hours for the Op. 106.

But shame on me, there is so much Arrau I admire, his final recording of the Beethoven Emperor is utterly magisterial.  And with a few exceptions, his Liszt TE's are up there with the best. 

As for complete Beethoven sonata sets, I can't claim to have heard very many (I'm just not old enough), but a thumbs up to Gulda and Goode.  No fan of Barenboim, sorry gentle folk...
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goldentone
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« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2008, 06:16:11 AM »

For the last three sonatas, John O' Conor is a must-hear.  He studied with Wilhelm Kempff.

What excerpts I've heard from Richard Goode for the late sonatas have reserved him a place in my library.

And I love Radu Lupu's performances of Moonlight, Pathetique, and Waldstein. 
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pianomx
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« Reply #14 on: October 11, 2008, 12:31:13 PM »

I am surprised that the name Michelangeli didn't come to the conversation. He didn't record them all, but the ones he recorded (excepting op. 111) were amazing, including the concertos 1,3 and 5
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antichrist
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« Reply #15 on: October 11, 2008, 01:10:20 PM »

Wilhelm Kempff is really great

if you dont believe go on youtube and check his moonligh sonata performance
look at the favourited number
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thalbergmad
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« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2008, 01:37:25 PM »

And I love Radu Lupu's performances of Moonlight, Pathetique, and Waldstein. 

Me to and i think it was the first classical record i ever bought.

I have nearly worn it out.

Thal
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goldentone
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« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2008, 06:45:25 AM »

Me to and i think it was the first classical record i ever bought.

I have nearly worn it out.

Thal

Same with me, like the 1st or 2nd.  "Weekend Classics"  Smiley
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birba
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« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2008, 07:20:27 AM »

What makes a "good" Beethoven player?  As opposed to LIszt or Schonberg, for example.  Are we talking about a Beethoven style?  Because many of the pianists mentioned certainly don't conform to a "typical" Beethoven interpretation.  Even Kempff, who was considered THE Beethoven specialist, used to play around with him.  (LIsten to the Waldstein in the old DG recording, and you'll hear a trill(!) in the last movement in the descending left hand at a certain point)  Every one of his performances was different and individual.  Michelangeli, who was probably my all-time favorite, played a very disappointing 111.  Very dry and monotonous.  The recording is much better.  But still, could you really consider him a Beethoven interpreter?  What the heck IS a Beethoven interpreter?! Brendel was considered Kempff's german successor.  But they were completely different.  So, I really don't know.  Schnabel was also considered a Beethoven specialist, but I never heard him in person and I don't particularly care for his recordings.  IDEM: Serkin (Rudolf).  What about Liszt and von Bulow?
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cmg
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« Reply #19 on: October 12, 2008, 03:12:04 PM »

What makes a "good" Beethoven player?  As opposed to LIszt or Schonberg, for example.  Are we talking about a Beethoven style?  Because many of the pianists mentioned certainly don't conform to a "typical" Beethoven interpretation.  Even Kempff, who was considered THE Beethoven specialist, used to play around with him.  (LIsten to the Waldstein in the old DG recording, and you'll hear a trill(!) in the last movement in the descending left hand at a certain point)  Every one of his performances was different and individual.  Michelangeli, who was probably my all-time favorite, played a very disappointing 111.  Very dry and monotonous.  The recording is much better.  But still, could you really consider him a Beethoven interpreter?  What the heck IS a Beethoven interpreter?!

Excellent point.  I have a live recording of Argerich from Venice in 1969 playing Op. 101.  Like all of Martha's Beethoven -- and I mean the first two concerti principally -- the salient point of the performances, and what makes them memorable and astonishing, is Martha's imposition of her own genius onto Beethoven. 

Beethoven requires a classical sensibility, of course, but after that, we want to hear a unique personality re-create these works.  I think Brendel, in his later recordings, is too reverential, too cautious.  The sonatas don't spring to life as in his younger recordings.  He is less there as a personality than he is in earlier interpretations.  Hence, the charge of being "dull."

Beethoven demands MUCH more than a codified, paint-by-number approach that only yields a standardized thing called "a Beethoven interpreter."

Argerich's Op. 101 is a good example of breaking the mold and defying expectations.

Another great planist who brought Beethoven to life was Bruce Hungerford.  Now there was a truly titanic artist.   
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argerichfan
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« Reply #20 on: October 12, 2008, 07:14:47 PM »

I have a live recording of Argerich from Venice in 1969 playing Op. 101.  Like all of Martha's Beethoven -- and I mean the first two concerti principally -- the salient point of the performances, and what makes them memorable and astonishing, is Martha's imposition of her own genius onto Beethoven. 
I have that recording (not well known outside of Argerich enthusiasts), and I quite agree with you.  It makes one wonder why she hasn't played more solo Beethoven.  Imagine what she would do with the Waldstein, the Op. 31#3, C minor Variations... the mind reels. 
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cmg
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« Reply #21 on: October 12, 2008, 11:20:36 PM »

Well, you can call me "argerichfan2."

She's just incomparable in so much of the literature, and, yes, I would give my right walnetto to have her "Waldstein," etc.

Martha?  Are you reading this?  More Beethoven, please.
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argerichfan
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« Reply #22 on: October 13, 2008, 03:38:45 AM »

She's just incomparable in so much of the literature, and, yes, I would give my right walnetto to have her "Waldstein," etc.
And you know what?  She would take Beethoven's pedal indications in the last movement of the Waldstein and make them work.  There is nothing she cannot do, and she has always been faithful to the printed score.

We get so much crap about the "golden age", and how pianists today all sound alike.  No, no, no.  Argerich's interpretations always sound spontaneous, none of the old guys from times afar can match her, it's the simple reason that she trusts the printed note.  And her genius takes off from there.

Cheers!
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« Reply #23 on: October 13, 2008, 06:49:17 AM »

For me, Schnabel's been the be all end all of Beethoven recordings. Despite the obvious technical failings.
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« Reply #24 on: October 13, 2008, 11:45:45 AM »

To describe Gould's Beethoven as "simply ghastly" strikes me as anything from a tad unfair to quite outrageous. I would urge each listener to make up their own mind: try the Hammerklavier, Tempest or Pastorale amongst others. (Perhaps avoiding the Appassionata!) Also if you can be persuaded, give the concertos a listen. It's too easy to dismiss genius on a dicussion board. Smiley
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« Reply #25 on: October 13, 2008, 06:54:59 PM »

Glen gould?? in my opinion he is certainly one of the worst Beethven Performers ive ever heard.. Terrible!   Hits most notes but has to speed every piece up.never sticks to the tempo..  i listened to his version of beethoven op 109 last week, and i honestly didnt enjoy 1 bar of it.. the 2nd movement (prestissimo) was conplete rubbish..

as for good performers..    Brendel,barenboim arrau they are my favourite..
                          but kempff, giles ,murray periaha sokolov are great..

 
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cmg
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« Reply #26 on: October 14, 2008, 12:50:50 AM »

Glen gould?? in my opinion he is certainly one of the worst Beethven Performers ive ever heard.. Terrible!   Hits most notes but has to speed every piece up.never sticks to the tempo..  i listened to his version of beethoven op 109 last week, and i honestly didnt enjoy 1 bar of it.. the 2nd movement (prestissimo) was conplete rubbish..

as for good performers..    Brendel,barenboim arrau they are my favourite..
                          but kempff, giles ,murray periaha sokolov are great..

 
Okay, you're a newbie, so I won't be as caustic as I might be.

Glenn Gould?  You actually go public with this uninformed, embarrassing criticism of Glenn Gould?  For your information, Gould was easily one of the greatest pianists of this last century and his legacy his immeasurable.  He was an astonishing artist.  His Beethoven is revelatory.  I just listened to his "Eroica Variations" and was dazzled all over again.

Get some education, friend.  Then, revisit Gould's legacy.  He was a genius.  Are you? 
 
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trix
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« Reply #27 on: October 14, 2008, 09:57:02 AM »

Another vote for Friedrich Gulda: he's always been my favorite Beethoven interpreter and his recorded sonatas are absolute perfection bar none.
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« Reply #28 on: October 14, 2008, 02:49:20 PM »

Okay, you're a newbie, so I won't be as caustic as I might be.

Glenn Gould?  You actually go public with this uninformed, embarrassing criticism of Glenn Gould?  For your information, Gould was easily one of the greatest pianists of this last century and his legacy his immeasurable.  He was an astonishing artist.  His Beethoven is revelatory.  I just listened to his "Eroica Variations" and was dazzled all over again.

Get some education, friend.  Then, revisit Gould's legacy.  He was a genius.  Are you? 
 

 This thread is in relation to the Beethoven sonatas... when most say who they deem the best performer of the sonatas,his name RARELY comes up.. why?  simply because his recordings are not great..

dont get me wrong when i listen to bach, i look out for gould and listen to him.. his bach recordings are fantastic..
i believe that comparing his sonatas to brendel kempff barenboim etc is ridiculous..

and NO im not a genius,im just an opinion, no more or less than you.. the subject is entirely subjective. and i hate Goulds version of the beethoven sonatas!

  listen to the below.. nearly every comment is bad/harsh.. majority say to fast.. no emotion.. i agree.. there absoulutely dreadful!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3jIDlrYfsM    Moonlight 3rd Mov


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY58Bfjy3kg  Tempest 3rd


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wu_aMDbh8Cc  Op 109 2nd mov

   And yes all the critics who have viewed and commented are no genius either but they almost ALL see how bad they are respectively.. They are obviously seeing what your missing.

or is your opinion all that matters?
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« Reply #29 on: October 14, 2008, 04:53:17 PM »

One can be partial towards a particular pianist.  I think everyone of us has their particular idol who can do no wrong.  Michelangeli was mine for many many years.  I heard him do the op2 no.3 in Carnegie hall when I was very young.  He could do no wrong.  But in my opinion, I now prefer Kempff or Brendel in that repertoire. Michelangeli did something incredible in that sonata - and it was definitely HIS sonata.  But I could also understand how it might offend some Beethoven purists.   I heard those you tube Gould recordings.  It was definitely Beethoven-Gould.  Sometimes you couldn't hear the Beethoven for the Gould.  BUT - it was honest.  I really think he believed in what he did - and he did it.  Like it or not.
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cmg
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« Reply #30 on: October 14, 2008, 08:23:49 PM »

This thread is in relation to the Beethoven sonatas... when most say who they deem the best performer of the sonatas,his name RARELY comes up.. why?  simply because his recordings are not great..


 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3jIDlrYfsM    Moonlight 3rd Mov


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY58Bfjy3kg  Tempest 3rd


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wu_aMDbh8Cc  Op 109 2nd mov

   And yes all the critics who have viewed and commented are no genius either but they almost ALL see how bad they are respectively.. They are obviously seeing what your missing.

or is your opinion all that matters?

My opinion, is, on reflection, quite immaterial.  Goulds' work rests on its own without any help from me.  Beethoven wrote 32 Sonatas and the few excerpts you've selected do indeed represent Gould at his most controversial.  But, his Beethoven legacy exists beyond these eccentric choices of yours. The extraordinary far outweighs these few controversial choices of yours.  How abiut this Opus 110 excerpt?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJG8VqU8XNE&feature=related

This rivals any interpretation.

I'm just saying that your assertion that Gould's Beethoven sonatas are "terrible" is an unfair statement and the Opus 110 proves this.

Gould has left too important a legacy for you to paint him with the "terrible" brush-stroke for his Beethoven sonatas.  There are many moments of genius in his Beethoven sonatas.  Even the eccentric interpretations come from an enormous and thoughtful intellect, like them or not.  He rivals the greatest of interpreters here as he does in Bach.

I apologize, however, for offending you.     
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« Reply #31 on: October 15, 2008, 01:14:29 AM »

Did a hear a gauntlet fall on the floor?

I agree Gould was a genius.  Provocative.  Neurotic.  Self-absorbed.  Very relevant as an artist, is spite of his taste.

Other than in his Brahms, I invariably find Gould misunderstood the legacy of the composers whose music he played.

He was a visionary, and his relevance as an artist resides precisely in his concept that his projection of a work of art was not dependent of the composer's conception, much less so in the tastes prevalent in the composer's time, or ours.

I think it is quite obvious that Gould's insight about, and performance of, Beethoven's Op. 110, or anything else, has less to do with Beethoven and more to do with Gould.  It is a gift that should not be understimated that we can listen to Gould's performance, for they always have something to say.  But Beethoven's message suffers the enormous interference of Gould's genius.  Other suffer even more (Mozart).

Gould's greatest crime is to have glossed on Bach his approach with such pervasiveness, that many believe that his interpretation not only embodies Bach message, but the it is the only one that does, or that at least is one of the ones that does the most.

If the only recording you have heard of, say, such staples as the Well-Tempered Clavier, or the Concerto Italiano, are Gould's, and you have not developed your own aesthetic image that would free you from his, you simply have no idea of the beauties you are missing.

So, there.  I said ghastly before, but I find that tepid now.  Gould's Beethoven is noxious to one's understanding of Beethoven.  The risk of listening to Gould's Beethoven goes beyond the mere waste of time: it may impair your ability to experience the feelings and crucially important human legacy that Beethoven has given us.

I can be more specific, but since for one person the victory of the Red Sox is a tragedy, for another a reason to keep living, and yet for another something of utter irrelevance (Allistair, you a Soxs fan?), I am curious now to hear from the Pro-Gould what is it that you love of, say, his Op. 110.  If you are interested, I will be delighted to tell you about what I think makes it such a weak performance.

 Shocked
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« Reply #32 on: October 15, 2008, 04:44:50 AM »

Did a hear a gauntlet fall on the floor?

I agree Gould was a genius.  Provocative.  Neurotic.  Self-absorbed.  Very relevant as an artist, is spite of his taste.

Other than in his Brahms, I invariably find Gould misunderstood the legacy of the composers whose music he played.

He was a visionary, and his relevance as an artist resides precisely in his concept that his projection of a work of art was not dependent of the composer's conception, much less so in the tastes prevalent in the composer's time, or ours.

I think it is quite obvious that Gould's insight about, and performance of, Beethoven's Op. 110, or anything else, has less to do with Beethoven and more to do with Gould.  It is a gift that should not be understimated that we can listen to Gould's performance, for they always have something to say.  But Beethoven's message suffers the enormous interference of Gould's genius.  Other suffer even more (Mozart).



How do you know that Gould "misunderstood the legacy of the composers whose music he played?"  All were quite dead before they had the chance to record their works. 

How sure are you of how the classical repertoire should be played?  Do you have recordings from this period?  And if you did, why should the performances of these works -- thus recorded, mummified and therefore frozen into the templates for all future performances -- be the unvarying standard for all future performances?  Should the first performances of Shakespeare's tragedies (dutifully video-taped) be the unvarying models for all future performances?  Isn't Shakespeare meaningful if his universality is underlined for contemporary audiences by contemporary techniques, such as staging?  Or, by Verdi in his "Otello," through the addition of a miraculous musical score that many feel, as an opera, transcends even Shakespeare's achievement?  So, why not Beethoven?  Or Bach?

How sure can you be that Gould's interpretation of Op. 110 is less Beethovenian than, say, Gilel's?  Who sat at the Master's knee and heard the Oracle speak?  Gilels?  Gould?   
Isn't your opinion the end result of pedantic musicologist's theorizing?  Why can't an artist, seeking to interpret a master, be allowed to impose his own personality on the master's work?  What harm is there in this?  Martha Argerich has proven that her enormous musical personality only amplifies the work of composers she chooses to interpret.  Horowitz was also famous for this ability.  Don't composers pray for such transcendental interpreters? 

If you object to the artist's interpretation, you can reject it and impose your own.  But to assume that you are reflecting Beethoven's "true intent" is absurd.  You can't know.  And, even if Beethoven left recordings, don't you think he'd appreciate different interpretations of his score?  It would only prove how vital he was as a composer.  How relevant he was to changing times and, as Cicero said, "mores."

Theater is open to differing interpretations?  That's what keeps it vital.  Why not music?

Gould understood this intuitively.  That's why we still listen to him.   
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iumonito
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« Reply #33 on: October 15, 2008, 06:44:51 AM »

 Grin

I did not have breakfast with Beethoven this morning.  But one of the wonderful things about both Beethoven and I being humans is that having learned to read it, and having heard many others who have as well, I simply need to open a score of Op. 110, and therein lies a world of human emotion that we share.

What I find most relevant in art is that Beethoven and the other great artists were able to capture their experience in such a way that others could relate to these experiences and make our own the understanding that the artists' uncanny sensibility has reached, crafted or discovered in connection with these experiences.

We in the 21st century can clearly relate to the affirmance of hope that only a rock would miss after listening to Beethoven's 9th symphony.  Beethoven, in a world in many ways different from ours, but in fundamental ways the same, captured not necessarily a zeitgeist, but a geist of human.

You ask how do I know I understand Beethoven and Gould doesn't.  You miss my point.  It is easier if you think of it with a metaphor.

Say you and I have a beach ball with six colored stripes.  Comes Glenn Gould and says, in his genius, that what we have in our hands is a plastic air container, and highlights that this container has the purpose of serving as a suffocation device, or an umbrella, or a sun-dial clock.

C'mon.  You have to be too clever to say that a beach ball is not a beach ball.

Granted, Gould is not wrong or bad for identifying that this object of perception can be understood in the ways he described; but it is obvious that he has missed, perversely, the function and beauty of the ball: to play with it at the beach.

Metaphors have the short-coming of over-simplification.  The beauty of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier and Beethoven's 32 sonatas is more complicated, rich, and ambiguous than a beach ball.

Is it possible that secretly Bach meant to create a multi-color, somewhat oddly shaped raft that became spheric if fully inflated?  Only a fool would think so.

Forget about Beethoven, where Gould's excentricities are so implausibly far from the plain bones of the music to be simply laughable.  Let's talk Bach for a second:

Bach wrote a bunch of cantatas, several oratorios, and a truckload of instrumental music.  In the vocal music, quite campy, he often illustrates the words with music that sounds kind of what is being described by the words.  In more significant places, Bach gives us a powerful, visceral, illustration (or even more, a transfusion: the experience of listening transfigures your existence so you feel these cosmic, profound, experiences as your own) of the aspects of human experience he has captured in his music.  A choir screams "Barrabas" and the experience of choosing to kill Jesus, the pain of our own absurdity, the terror, and desolation, of the violence that humans inflict on each other will always now be part of you, even if you are fortunate enough to never have witnessed genocide, lynching, or injustice.

But I put on a Gould CD, and what I hear is self-indulgence, neurosis, obsession.  I am at a loss for the emotion that (thanks to Bach having been the superb artist he was) is quite apparent from the music itself.

I think you misunderstand me about my appreciation of Gould's trascendence.  It is quite obvious to me.  In fact, I think it is the only thing that makes listening to Gould worthwhile.  His perfomance are, without doubt, works of art in their own accord.  It happens to be art that does not appeal to me because the frequency to which I feel Gould tuned to, neurotic, jittery, bizarre, selfish, has little to offer me.  It is art, but art that has little value for me.

I am more interested in humor, love, communion, hope even in the most horrid grief.  Hence that I am listening to more Bach, Mozart and Beethoven these days.  If I am in the mood for neurotic art, chances are I'll pick some Prokofiev instead.  He was a genius too, you know, and of a much richer caliber than Gould.

It is funny you mention Argerich and Horowitz, two artist whom as they matured shed much of their self-centeredness and became much much much more focused on the composer's gifts, rather than in their need to project some other message that does violence to the work of art they are choosing to interpret for us.  For example, Argerich's Schumann of recent is of a genuine quality that surpases incommensurably her ghastly early recordings of, say, Kresleriana.

You suggest we cannot discern Beethoven's true intentions, and to that I say I fear you have been corrupted by the type of relativism that bothers me in Gould's playing, for Beethoven was very good at making his understanding of what is important in each of us accessible to anyone who listens. 

Borges once mused about a library in which all possible books (within certain parameters) were housed.  He entertained himself with the thought that infinite permutations were posible by assigning different to the words.  In a book the characters "once" would mean "11," and in another "one time," or yet in another it would be a person playing left wing in a soccer team, or "twice."  If "book" really means murder, and the other words also vary their meaning, a rose is a rose is a rose might well be a phone number, the secret name of God, or directions to the bathroom in a restaurant.  Is it true that when you say no you really mean yes?  Answer no, and I will not know whether you mean no as conventionally understood, or no under the bizarre parameters of the question.

If you want to spend your time focusing on the fact that we are incaple of "knowing" that Beethoven meant chair when he wrote chair, you should go ahead.  Freedom is one of the virtues of being human.  But if you are tired, and you need a chair, musing that it could really be a beach ball is a waste of an opportunity.

 Tongue
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camstrings
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« Reply #34 on: October 16, 2008, 05:07:14 PM »

Thanks cmg, for the link to opus110.
I responded to this thread because of the unfair description of several pianists' artistic endeavours. It would have been equally unfair were it applied to any of the other pianists so far mentioned.
Whatever the merits of Gould's approach to Beethoven, I have never found his playing to be neurotic.
Does anyone know if he ever performed the Waldstein in recital?
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« Reply #35 on: October 16, 2008, 05:54:26 PM »

.
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cmg
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« Reply #36 on: October 16, 2008, 06:13:50 PM »

Grin

I did not have breakfast with Beethoven this morning.  But one of the wonderful things about both Beethoven and I being humans is that having learned to read it, and having heard many others who have as well, I simply need to open a score of Op. 110, and therein lies a world of human emotion that we share.

If you want to spend your time focusing on the fact that we are incaple of "knowing" that Beethoven meant chair when he wrote chair, you should go ahead.  Freedom is one of the virtues of being human.  But if you are tired, and you need a chair, musing that it could really be a beach ball is a waste of an opportunity.

 Tongue

But, I think you misunderstand me.  Borges wrote words, not musical notation.  And words, symbols that they are, are less ambiguous than musical notation.  Music, as you know, embodies the highest form of abstraction.

Yes, Beethoven's notation is clear enough, but there is a relativity to "forte," "piano," "semplice," "presto" and "agitato" that allows for an infinite variety of interpretation.  Of the great pianists mentioned above, I'm sure that in their recordings you will find their "presto" performances vary in speed.   

The word "chair" is more directed, less ambiguous than the word "presto."  No one could ever convince another that a "bed" is a "chair" or a "beachball."  But, anyone could be convinced that "presto" has a variety of shades of meaning embracing the agreed-upon word:  "quick."  Arrau's "presto" in Beethoven is probably often slower than Gould's or Argerich's. 

Beethoven did use metronone markings to indicate his preference, but again, those markings, I've heard pianists argue, are relative, too.  AND dependent on the instrument Beethoven wrote for, i.e. one of much lighter and fleeter action than we use today.

The word "neurosis" has many meanings as well but it only loses its ambiguity when you realize the word, as Freud used it, meant, essentially past trauma impacting on present behavior.  Classically speaking, it doesn't  mean "quirky" or "maladaptive."

Gould uses his gifts to re-think Beethoven's basic intentions, all within the ambiguity that musical notation affords artists.  To dismiss him as "neurotic," is counter-productive and, I think, incorrect.  I think the best we can say, when we disagree with his interpretations, is that we don't resonate with his choices.

But, I think you I are in agreement that he was a great artist.  That's really the point of my entering this debate against those who dismiss his Beethoven sonatas as "trash" or "terrible."

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edwardweiss
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« Reply #37 on: October 17, 2008, 10:05:07 PM »

 Reading these posts is a bit like reading James Joyce. I'm amazed to hear criticism of Glenn Gould's Beethoven sonata playing. Sure it's different-unique, I would say. Busoni's Beethoven playing was as radical as Gould's, as far as we can tell. Does that mean that Busoni was inferior to -say- Argerich or Kempff ? We don't have recorded evidence of Busoni playing any of the sonatas-we should be eternally grateful for what we have of Gould.I will be brief and a bit radical- I think that two very great complete performances are those by Yves Nat and Wilhelm Backhaus.
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argerichfan
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« Reply #38 on: October 18, 2008, 04:54:35 AM »

Gould uses his gifts to re-think Beethoven's basic intentions, all within the ambiguity that musical notation affords artists.  To dismiss him as "neurotic," is counter-productive and, I think, incorrect.  I think the best we can say, when we disagree with his interpretations, is that we don't resonate with his choices.
Very nicely said, cmg.  We'll get along quite well here.

I admit, I have not much fancied Gould's way with the finale of the Op. 28, yet it is my choice to listen to any number of other recordings.  I recognize Gould's genius, and it will either work in my favour (his Bach), or not (many of his other recordings).  Fair enough.

A trained ear can recognize the (musical) chaff from the wheat, and to dismiss Gould whole-scale, IMHO, betrays an inexperienced impatience.

Per an earlier post, I'll certainly give a thumbs up to Gulda's Beethoven cycle... many riches there!  I've not heard Yves Nat, and the few Backhaus recordings I've heard have a certain Klemperer-like gravity, yet what works so superbly in Mahler's 2nd or Beethoven's Missa, seems a bit lethargic in Beethoven's more quick-silver piano writing.   

For a basic, modern recommendation, it's hard to go wrong with Richard Goode.  Ultimately, though, I would take Gulda.





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« Reply #39 on: October 18, 2008, 09:18:04 AM »

A trained ear can recognize the (musical) chaff from the wheat, and to dismiss Gould whole-scale, IMHO, betrays an inexperienced impatience.

 Grin

An uncut piece of wood understands Beethoven better than Gould.
An empty cup more capable of learning something.
There is no chaff, just wheat and spoiled wheat.
Were I so lucky to lack the experience.
With you certainly no more patience.
I'll go play Haydn now.
And hum along.
As I play.

 Wink
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cmg
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« Reply #40 on: October 18, 2008, 02:18:01 PM »

Grin

An uncut piece of wood understands Beethoven better than Gould.
An empty cup more capable of learning something.
There is no chaff, just wheat and spoiled wheat.
Were I so lucky to lack the experience.
With you certainly no more patience.
I'll go play Haydn now.
And hum along.
As I play.

 Wink

Well, argerichfan, whatever it is that "iumonito" is smoking, I just wish he'd share it with us.  He seems to be channeling Glenn now.
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theodore
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« Reply #41 on: October 18, 2008, 03:37:01 PM »

When I was a young private  in the US armed forces in Southern Germany in 1958, I bought a ticket to a piano recital in Stuttgart. I didnít recognize the pianist as I had, thus far, never been to any musical event in Europe. The pianist was Wilhelm Kempf.

The first half of the program began with the very short Mozart G major Sonata K273, and continued with the Beethoven Pathetique Sonata.

The Pathetique  began with all seriousness and after the ultra slow funereal introduction the pianissimo drive seemed to herald a oncoming whirlwind. Tempos were strict and unrelenting and pauses were short but decisive. 

The 2nd movement was like an ever so slow soaring love song - you could hear a pin drop in the large audotorium. Very impressive.

However I was quite surprised at the mood of the Finale. It began very playfully and continued in that manner. It seemed as though Kempf was ready for a light hearted fanciful ride and that  he  (or even Beethoven)  didnít  have a worry left in the world.

The Pathetique sonata as a whole had tremendous contrast and variety among the 3 movements. Not a dull moment throughout.

The recital ended with the Franz Schubert Sonata in A minor D 845. I canít remember much about the Schubert except that Kampf produced the softest playing I have ever heard.

Theodore
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argerichfan
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« Reply #42 on: October 18, 2008, 05:49:32 PM »

An uncut piece of wood understands Beethoven better than Gould.
An empty cup more capable of learning something.
There is no chaff, just wheat and spoiled wheat.
Were I so lucky to lack the experience.
With you certainly no more patience.
I'll go play Haydn now.
And hum along.
As I play.
Seems to me I recall a reviewer who suggested that Gould's humming would be best served by adhesive tape, rather than magnetic tape.  And pass the bong...
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general disarray
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« Reply #43 on: October 18, 2008, 09:10:08 PM »

When I was a young private  in the US armed forces in Southern Germany in 1958, I bought a ticket to a piano recital in Stuttgart. I didnít recognize the pianist as I had, thus far, never been to any musical event in Europe. The pianist was Wilhelm Kempf.

The first half of the program began with the very short Mozart G major Sonata K273, and continued with the Beethoven Pathetique Sonata.

The Pathetique  began with all seriousness and after the ultra slow funereal introduction the pianissimo drive seemed to herald a oncoming whirlwind. Tempos were strict and unrelenting and pauses were short but decisive. 

The 2nd movement was like an ever so slow soaring love song - you could hear a pin drop in the large audotorium. Very impressive.

However I was quite surprised at the mood of the Finale. It began very playfully and continued in that manner. It seemed as though Kempf was ready for a light hearted fanciful ride and that  he  (or even Beethoven)  didnít  have a worry left in the world.

The Pathetique sonata as a whole had tremendous contrast and variety among the 3 movements. Not a dull moment throughout.

The recital ended with the Franz Schubert Sonata in A minor D 845. I canít remember much about the Schubert except that Kampf produced the softest playing I have ever heard.

Theodore


Wonderful!  Thanks for the memories.
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argerichfan
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« Reply #44 on: October 19, 2008, 12:52:40 AM »

Wonderful!  Thanks for the memories.
Aye, we should appreciate that.  A wonderful post.  Cheers! 
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birba
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« Reply #45 on: October 19, 2008, 07:49:08 AM »

Aye, we should appreciate that.  A wonderful post.  Cheers! 
I second that!   Smiley
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richard black
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« Reply #46 on: October 19, 2008, 09:29:16 AM »

Quote
Other than in his Brahms, I invariably find Gould misunderstood the legacy of the composers whose music he played.

Whatever one's opinion of Gould, I suspect that statement is philosophically indefensible. And to quote one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, Mahler, 'Tradition is slovenliness'.

Anyway, returning to the original question, I put my vote in for Schnabel, albeit with great enthusiasm also for most of the other pianists mentioned in the thread to date.
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j.s. bach the 534th
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« Reply #47 on: October 24, 2008, 11:30:46 PM »

Kempf is nice.

I just got a Beethoven sonata book, so I hope in a year, I will be able to play many of them myself.
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michel dvorsky
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« Reply #48 on: October 26, 2008, 05:24:49 AM »

If you only buy one set, buy Schnabel's. It will keep you happy for the rest of your Beethoven-Sonata listening life.
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« Reply #49 on: October 27, 2008, 07:14:27 AM »

Last night on TV, they played some black and white tape of a performance Kempff gave in a paris tv studio.  It was really bizarre, because I think they did a lot of cutting and putting together where there were places when you'd hear the bass notes and he was leaning to the right, etc.  He played the tempest.  I tried to analyze just why his performance was so superb and I thought of that awful review that Harold Schonberg of the New York Times wrote when he played in 1964, I think it was.  He said any ten-year-old girl had a better technique than him, or something to that effect.  But I guess he used it in the sense, that, you don't need a virtouoso technique to make music, or something. (This is an example why Bernstein loathed Schonberg)  At any rate, I noticed that Kempff really didn't religiously observe the exact amount of the rests and note values (vedi second movement). And, of course, there were the few bloopers here and there. But the sound was consistently beautiful.  Never never a harsh tone. And he hardly ever looked at the keyboard. But a constant concentration on the musical line and where it was going.  It all came out so spontaneous and "genuine".  The last movement, played at half the speed of what you're used to hearing, was a revelation.  My teacher used to say, as a student, I was to admire Kempff, but emulate Brendel...
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