Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano sonatas Volumes 2-4: Sonatas 7-28
Daniel Barenboim (piano)
rec. Palais Kinsky, Palais Lobkowitz, Schloss Hetzendorf and Palais Rasumowsky, Vienna 1983/84
Directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
Volumes available separately
EUROARTS DVD 2066488/498/508 [145:00 & 137:00 & 136:00]
Daniel Barenboim is no stranger to performing Beethoven Piano Sonatas, having two complete studio cycles under his belt from the 1960s for EMI, and from the early 1980s for Deutsche Grammophon. The thirty-two sonatas are the New Testament of the solo piano repertoire (Bach’s WTC being the Old Testament). Barenboim has said that ‘there is hardly another output from any composer, in any form, that gives such a clear picture of a composer’s development and transformation’.
The present performances were filmed in the elegant surroundings of four of Vienna’s baroque palaces: Palais Kinsky, Palais Lobkowitz, Schloss Hetzendorf and the Palais Rasumowsky during 1983-84. They seem to coincide in date with the Deutsche Grammophon recordings, though the latter were recorded in the Salle Mutualité, Paris.
Having performed his first Beethoven sonata cycle in 1960 in Tel Aviv at the age of eighteen, Barenboim went on to record it for the first time at the age of twenty-five for EMI Classics. Over the years, his interpretations have matured. In the mid-sixties, he took up conducting and has developed into a wonderful all-round artist, conductor, pianist and teacher. Beethoven has always been central to his repertoire, and has played an important part in his performing career. As a conductor, he brings to his sonata performances great insight into the structure and architecture of the music. His performances on the three DVDs here are, if anything, understated; he does not stamp his personality on the works, but lets each sonata speak for itself.
The three DVDs here, though not containing the complete set, do include works from the early, middle and late periods. Barenboim brings to these a freshness of approach, and sensitivity. His expressive powers are wondrous and he captures the full range of emotions that these works have to offer. You get the feeling that he really understands this music and that he has an improvisatory and spontaneous approach. Tempi for me are perfect. He has the full range of dynamic control, I loved the pianissimo opening of the Appassionata and the exquisite way he opens Les Adieux with a gentle piano, setting the atmosphere and drawing the listener into the music to share his experience. His playing is never mannered in any way. I felt, after viewing these excellent documents, that Barenboim was the intermediary through which the music speaks.
Comparing these filmed performances with the EMI DVDs of performances given live in concert in 2005 at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, I preferred the more static approach to filming as applied in the Euroarts discs. In the DVDs reviewed here, there are fewer camera angles, and each camera dwells on the subject for a lengthier period of time before the angle is changed. In the Berlin concerts I got the impression that the editor got carried away with the technology as a child with a new toy; there was too much chopping and changing, which is distracting. This is a problem I find with television today, the attitude that it is anathema to stay with one scene for more than a few seconds, flitting backwards and forwards. As a consequence, the camera work in the Euroarts performances was less intrusive and this helped me to concentrate more on the music.
I look forward to acquiring the other two volumes.
Stephen Greenbank
Beethoven performances by a master. 

Masterwork Index: Beethoven piano sonatas

Track listing
Volume 2
Piano Sonata No.7 in D major, Op.10 No.3 [25:93}
Piano Sonata No.8 in C minor, Op.13 Pathétique [19:14]
Piano Sonata No.9 in E major, Op.14 No.1 [14:09]
Piano Sonata No.10 in G major, Op.14 No.2 [15:59]
Piano Sonata No.11 in B flat major, Op.22 [26:48]
Piano Sonata No.12 in A flat major, Op.26 [21:30]
Piano Sonata No.13 in E flat major, Op.27 No.1 Quasi una fantasia [16:29]
Volume 3
Piano Sonata No.14 in C sharp minor, Op.27 No.2 Moonlight [16:30]
Piano Sonata No.15 in D major, Op.28 Pastoral [27;30]
Piano Sonata No.16 in G major, Op. 31 No.1 [23:50]
Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor, Op.31 No.2 The Tempest [25:21]
Piano Sonata No.18 in E flat major, Op.31 No.3 [22:37]
Piano Sonata No.19 in G minor, Op.49 No.1 [7:48]
Piano Sonata No.20 in G major, Op.49 No.2 [8:14]
Piano Sonata No.21 in C major, Op.53 Waldstein [26:47]
Volume 4
Piano Sonata No.22 in F major, Op.54 [11:41]
Piano Sonata No.23 in F minor Appassionata [23:37]
Piano Sonata No.24 in F sharp major, Op.78 A Thérèse [7:31]
Piano Sonata No.25 in G major, Op.79 [8:01]
Piano Sonata No.26 in E flat major, Op.81a Les Adieux [18:09]
Piano Sonata No.27 in E minor, Op.90 [14:03]
Piano Sonata No 28 in A major, Op.101 [21:05]

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