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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2, "Moonlight"
Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28, "Pastorale"
Piano Sonata No. 16 in G major, Op. 31, No. 1
Artur Schnabel (piano)
Sonata No. 14 recorded 10-11 April 1933, Sonata No. 15 recorded 3 and 17 February 1933 and Sonata No. 16 recorded 5-6 November 1935 and 15 January 1937 all at the EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 3, London.
Naxos Historical - Great Pianists - Schnabel - Complete Beethoven Society Sonata Recordings Vol. 5
NAXOS 8.110759 [58:54]

The enigmatic pianist Artur Schnabel (1882-1951) was born in Lipnik, a village on the Austrian-Polish border. He studied with Theodore Leschetizky in Vienna and from 1898 pursued his career in Berlin, becoming a leading chamber music performer and later devoting most of his time to the solo piano repertoire and to composition.

Through the 1920s and 1930s Schnabel was recognised as the leading authority on Beethovenís piano music. He published an idiosyncratic edition of the sonata scores, performed all thirty-two in several cities, a process that culminated in the production of the first complete sonata set. It was only with the greatest of reluctance that Schnabel first agreed in 1931 to embrace the new technology and make recordings of his performances.

These performances are taken from the original two hundred and four 78 rpm sides which were released on Schnabelís Beethoven Sonata Society. Using a pragmatic combination of computerised processing, filtering and equalisation Naxos sound restoration engineer Mark Obert-Thorn has done a marvellous job. Initially the surface noise was irritating but my ears soon became acclimatised to the transfers.

The performances are radiant and Iím sure deeply considered although there is a sense of real spontaneity which enriches the whole listening experience. The interpretation of the Piano Sonata No.14 in C sharp minor "Moonlight" is as fine as I have ever heard and sets a most challenging bench-mark for other performers.

Schnabel has certainly proved that his reputation as a consummate Beethoven interpreter is justified.

Michael Cookson

see also review by Kevin Sutton and Colin Clarke

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