MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Plain text for smartphones
and printers

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing



Support us financially by purchasing this disc from:

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano sonatas
see end of review for details
Bruce Hungerford (piano)
rec. 1967-76 for Vanguard Classics
PIANO CLASSICS PCLM0036 [5 CDs: 79:49 + 72:02 + 63:19 + 70:28 + 74:44]

Experience Classicsonline

The Australian pianist Bruce Hungerford (1922-77) recorded an incomplete series of the Beethoven sonatas for Vanguard. His first recording of what was intended to be a complete edition for the company was made in 1967, and recordings followed over the next decade. Hungerford, born in Victoria, and a student of the great pianist Carl Friedberg - whose Kinderszenen private recording is the most moving I have ever heard - was not a man to be hurried. It was Myra Hess, with whom Hungerford also studied, who had recommended Friedberg.
Hungerford was a wide-ranging man and had studied palaeontology in America in the 1950s. He was also a considerable photographer, with an interest in Ancient Egypt, who wrote and recorded a multi-part series on the subject. But when it comes to his recorded legacy, the results are meagre: nine Beethoven LPs and single ones devoted to the music of Brahms, Chopin and Schubert. His early death in a car crash in 1977 largely explains the gaps.
All the Beethoven recordings are gathered together in this five CD box by Piano Classics, who are showing considerable acumen, after having re-released Sergio Fiorentino’s last (Berlin) recordings in an even bigger set.
Some live material has survived. Indeed Vanguard has released a Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto performance with unnamed accompanists, as well as some of the sonata recordings in this Piano Classics box and examples of his performances  of the three composers cited above [Vanguard Classics SVC76/9, a 4 CD set].
There are 18 of Hungerford’s sonata recordings in this box. What marks out his playing is a combination of clarity of articulation, a concern for correct dynamics, and rhythmic dynamism in fast movements. There is a certain lofty view of the slow movements, which may appear to some to be on the cool side but in compensation he explores harmonic strands that others bypass.
To take a few examples, he lays bare the motoric drama of the first movement of the Waldstein with natural exuberance but digital control. He is commensurately grave and intense in the Adagio molto section, and exhibits vitesse in the Allegro moderato. His Pathétique sonata slow movement is slightly objectified, though it does offer a cool corrective to more heated romanticist performances. There is a stoic patina to the opening of the Moonlight - no expressive rubati for Hungerford - with linear playing throughout. But in true Hungerfordian style he unleashes a torrent of fearsome drama in the sonata’s finale: seldom has it been taken this fearlessly or ‘agitato’.
Contra what I may have suggested, Hungerford is not always quite so reserved in slow movements. One that bucks the trend is the Adagio molto of Op.10 No.1 which reveals a slightly more pliant side - though, of course, one should observe that Hungerford himself is observing Beethoven’s modifying direction as to tempo.
He brings gusto and ebullience to the finale of Op.78, though some may well feel he doesn’t bring quite enough introspection to its slow opening movement. His performances of the last three sonatas of all - fortunately he managed to record opp. 109 to 111 - offer a conspectus of his most interesting and intellectually and digitally rewarding pianism. He is at his most measured for the long, slow finale of Op.109. There is great gravity, though curiously I don’t find it as incrementally impressive as, say, Wührer whose faster tempo binds things together in a way that Hungerford doesn’t quite manage. Given his general tendency toward rhythmically crisp performances, I was rather expecting Hungerford to replicate Wührer’s tempos, but he doesn’t. In any case Hungerford was much more of a colourist than the more ascetic German pianist. Hungerford’s performance of the final sonata is, if anything, finer than Op.110, fine though that is. He has the digital poise for it, and the intellectual sinew too.
These performances certainly stand the test of time. They are challenging even now, in their combination of outsize Beethovenian vehemence and disinclination to emote. Those who want to be stirred, and sometimes shaken, will enjoy the challenge they pose.
Jonathan Woolf

Masterwork index: Sonatas 1-8 ~~ 9-15 ~~ 16-24 ~~ 25-32

Work listing
CD 1
Piano Sonata in C minor Op. 13, “Grande Sonate Pathétique” (1798-99) [18:01]
Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 Sonata quasi una Fantasia, “Moonlight” (1801) [14:40]
Piano Sonata in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2 “The Tempest” (1801-02) [23:47]
Piano Sonata in C major, Op. 53 “Waldstein” (1803-04) [22:27]
CD 2
Piano Sonata in A major, Op.2 No. 2 (1795) [23:53]
Piano Sonata in E flat major, Op. 7 (1796-7) [29:20]
Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 10 No. 1 (1796-8) [18:13]
CD 3
Piano Sonata in F major, Op, 10 No. 2 (1796-8) [13:30]
Piano Sonata in D major, Op. 10 No. 3 (1796-98) [24:16]
Piano Sonata in E flat major, Op. 27 No.1 Sonata quasi una Fantasia (1800-01) [15:49]
Andante Favori in F major WoO57 [9:11]
CD 4
Piano Sonata in F minor, Op.2 No. 1 (1795) [18:18]
Piano Sonata in A flat major, Op. 26 (1800-01) [20:58]
Piano Sonata in G minor, Op. 49 No. 1 (1795-98) [8:12]
Piano Sonata in G major, Op. 49 No. 2 (1795-96) [8:00]
Rondo in C major, Op.51 No.1 [5:10]
Menuet in E flat major [4:04]
Lustig-Traurig, WoO 54 [1:42]
Für Elise, Bagatelle in A minor [3:04]
CD 5
Piano Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 78 (1809) [9:30]
Piano Sonata in E major, Op. 109 (1820) [20:23]
Piano Sonata in A flat major, Op. 110 (1821) [18:20]
Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 111 (1821-22) [25:39]

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from:




































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Error processing SSI file