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On The Hunt

Discussion in 'classical' started by Todd A, Aug 31, 2019.

  1. tuga

    tuga European

  2. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

    I've got that Brautigam set and have enjoyed dipping into it quite often, but it doesn't displace big modern piano recordings for me. It's definitely worthwhile and has had good reviews.... BBC R3 had the last three sonatas as an equal 1st choice with Igor Levitt.
     
  3. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member


    There are a couple HIP LvB sonata sets or recordings I like, but Brautigam is not really among them. I'll revisit his take soon enough.
     
  4. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Even I was wondering when the hell I would get around to St Annie. Now is the answer. It's basically evident immediately in her EMI recording that's she's a cut above almost everyone else, all those puny mortals. Her comparatively brisk timing creates expectations of a high energy take, and sure enough that's what one gets. There's superb dynamic gradation, with fortes sounding like fortes, and there's a forceful, almost jittery feel to her quick, high energy playing. It doesn't overwhelm or distract; it sounds the way it's supposed to sound. This is snappy, harder hitting, more aggressive Beethoven, but still humorous Beethoven. And when St Annie wants to transition into or out of high speed playing, she does so with a most impressive, most natural sounding touch. While the Scherzo is not especially fast, St Annie again plays with divergent tempi and belts out the forte notes and chords with zest and rollicks through the music, as if to say for all posterity, this is how the Scherzo should go! She's not wrong. The Menuetto, well, it's lovely and lyrical and flows, while the Trio is more heavily accented and tense, all in perfect proportion. In the Presto, one hears how to do things again. St Annie doesn't explode of the gate. No, she starts more tentatively and relaxed, and then launches into the music with gusto. She then backs off a bit, and then does it again. She knows to play up the dynamic contrasts, yes she does. There's bite, wit, drive, the whole shebang. A great recording.

    Her Hungaroton recording is, too. Oh, yes it is. Stylistically very similar - duh - but benefitting from better recorded sound and quicker decays from the Bosendorfer she uses, everything is essentially turned up to 11. The one drawback is that the pianist's technique seems less secure, even with the superduperspliced editing technique that was used. That written, she seems even more intent on pushing things as far as possible, approaching a degree of recklessness in the fastest passages. But it's musically pure recklessness. I don't listen to St Annie as much as I probably ought to nowadays, though I've so thoroughly incorporated her approach into my listening experience that even now, with long listening droughts, I still subconsciously compare every artist, every recording to her, and find pretty much all them wanting. Then, when I revisit Fischer's playing, she's even better than I remember, and I remember her as basically the best. That's why she's a saint.
     
  5. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    I wonder if that EMI recording is the same as the live one from 1952 which I enjoyed so much.
     
  6. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Malcolm Binns. I had to buy the big box to get Binns' cycle, but it was worth it to me because I had to hear it. What did I get? Slow. The Allegro is slow. It's also kind of clunky sounding, due to the period instrument that sounds broken. Through the wreckage one can divine Mr Binns' playing, which has its moments. There's a sense of playfulness and energy in the fast passages, and good use of tempo changes. It could be worse. The Scherzo actually sounds quite peppy, even with its duration. (There's at least one Annie Fischer Hungaroton sized edit in there, too.) But again, the instrument just doesn't help here. Binns then goes for a slow, slow, slow - meaning too slow - Menuetto, which sounds like a kludgy Largo on a broken instrument. The Trio is slow, but comes off better and a bit weightier. The Presto has plenty of pep, but the instrument just doesn't work. Sometimes the string twang as though the instrument is broken. (I listened through headphones this time around, which amplified the already known problem.) Ugh.
     
  7. PaulMB

    PaulMB pfm Member

    A bit pointless, perhaps, but beyond your very detailed technical descriptions, which of these many recordings touch your heart-strings most? Which do you find easiest to "lose yourself" in? Which give you most pleasure? I know, all totally subjective, just curious....
     
  8. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member


    I have to listen to them all again to answer.
     
    tuga likes this.
  9. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    For no particular reason, I decided to segregate American pianists from the rest of the bunch and listen to all of them in series to hear what happens.

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    A good chunk of Mr Bishop's reputation rests on his Beethoven, so he got the nod first. Starting with his Philips recording, one can hear how he got the reputation. Perfectly paced, and about as fluid in terms of tempo changes as Mejoueva, with beefy dynamics where needed, a gentler touch (but not really gentle) than his later recordings show, and with ample humor, Kovacevich more or less lays down a world class, top-shelf Allegro. I've nary a beef. Ditto with the Scherzo. In the Menuetto, Kovacevich demonstrates how to play with a brisk tempo without sounding rushed in the outer sections, while he plays more forcefully, but not too much so, in the Trio. He ends things with a bouncy, springy, energetic Presto underpinned by a growly bass. Top shelf stuff.

    In his EMI recording, more distantly recorded and more metallic sounding, Kovacevich opts for a notably quicker overall tempo. It sounds a bit cleaner and more prankish, and is punctuated by some mean sforzandi, and while superb, it's missing something. The Scherzo has oodles of energy, and fortes that sound violent. The Menuetto is even tighter the second time around, yet still not rushed. The Trio does have hints of steel, though. The Presto again finds the pianist playing faster and harder, maybe too hard. It's a fine version, but the Philips version is the shit.
     
  10. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Murray Perahia. Perahia does everything right in the Allegro, except he does not exude enough energy. On the other hand, the clarity and steadiness of voices exceeds most versions to this point. Call it a wash. Perahia revs up in the Scherzo, playing with steady, bubbly rhythm, though again the last bit of energy goes missing. Predictably, the outer sections of the Menuetto sound especially lovely, though the Trio, while nice and clean, kind of bores. The Presto ends the sonata on strong note, with all the positive traits previously mention, plus ample energy. Overall, it's too polished and not crackling enough.
     
  11. iaxel

    iaxel pfm Member

    Great insights! I was missing you’re updates during the past few weeks.
    I know you have enough Beethoven to continue this thread without any new purchases, but I must recommend the latest cycle from Igor Levit. I’ve been listening to it since its Friday release date and it is wonderful. IMHO, sets a landmark for the upcoming generation of new pianists.
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member


    I've got Levit's cycle on pre-order, as well as Martino Tirimo's new set of the complete solo works. I'm hoping for at least a half dozen new cycles next year. Angela Hewitt and Jonathan Biss will be concluding their cycles, and Tamami Honma's is in the can, so only three more new ones and I'll be happy.
     
  13. Electrostat

    Electrostat Active Member

    Les Adieux is one of my favorite from the middle periods, maybe this is cliche'd? :) If you decide to do a thread on this I'll be following with great interest.

    My most recent listen to Op. 31/3 was to Backhaus's Live From Ossiach (older Decca CD), fairly typical Backhaus style performance; wonderful structure, addictive left hand articulation but lacking a bit in the humor.
     
  14. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Seymour Lipkin. The pianist vocalizes more than I remembered, and he takes the Allegro at something of a comfortable tempo, and keeps dynamic contrasts mostly under wraps, only belting out a few loud sforzandi. It makes for a pleasant listening experience. The Scherzo is slightly more energetic, but even so could use some more energy. The Minuet is likewise pleasant in the outer sections, but Lipkin cranks things up in the middle section. In the Presto, Likpin lets loose a bit more. Were only the rest of the sonata at this level.
     
  15. davidjt

    davidjt pfm Member

    I love threads like this because they provide the stimulus to listen to a particular work or recording that may have been lurking unplayed for a while.

    Don't think I'd be good at comparisons though - I enjoy e.g. Brendel's Op 31 ('94(?) on Phillips) so much that I invariably play all three, one after the other.

    I'd agree that Beethoven's sonatas are above average, too. They even make me forget about the next system upgrade, for a while anyway.
     
  16. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Robert Taub. From the one buck cycle. Taub plays the Allegro with sufficient pep. His accents tend toward the slightly brittle sounding, and he uses pauses and rubato in a sometimes not ideal sounding way, but it's fine overall. The pianist then zips through Scherzo at 4'33", and he makes sure to play up the dynamic contrasts. It sounds quite peppy and humorous through the slightly exaggerated approach, though some of the later music becomes a bit muddled. The Menuetto is then taken at a broad tempo. The playing does not flow particularly well, while the Trio sounds clunky. The Presto, like the Scherzo, is plenty zippy, and it cruises along nicely enough, but the whole sonata kind of just doesn't work very well.
     
  17. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    David Allen Wehr. The quite spacious recording allows one to savor Wehr's ability to effortlessly generate a big sound, and on top of that, the Allegro, at under eight minutes, manages to have the same type of overall tempo flexibility of some longer versions. Wehr's keyboard command sounds absolute, and partly as a result, wit seems a bit less evident, or at least less emphasized. The Scherzo sounds just a bit broad in comparison, but that's no detriment. Indeed, the energy level is high, and Wehr's ability to belt out forte passages compels. Wehr goes for quick outer sections in the Menuetto, though even the Trio stays pretty quick, and it sounds playful and potent, with He-Man accents. Nice. Somewhat curiously, the Presto sounds a bit subdued in the context of what came before, which is not to say that it sounds slow or timid. Indeed, there's a sort of relentless forward drive. It's heavy-ish, but extraordinarily good. An exceptionally strong version, better than my positive memories indicated.
     
  18. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Richard Goode. Goode starts with a slow Allegro, exaggerated in the slow opening. Goode speeds things up a bit, and he keeps things decidedly classical in demeanor. No outsized gestures or especially hard hitting sforzandi here, and the Alberti bass seems slight. The Scherzo should succeed, given Goode's just right tempo and excellent dynamic contrasts, but it just doesn't click. Something similar occurs with the Menuetto. Finally, in the Presto, Goode hits all the right notes, as it were, with speed, energy, wit, and so forth. I can't really put my finger on why I'm not fonder of the playing overall, but there it is.
     
  19. gustavm

    gustavm pfm Member

    I'd be interested in your comments on the version in this set:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beethoven-...ywords=beethoven+kempff&qid=1568986736&sr=8-2

    Pretty good value at ~£30. I just bought as a hi-res download from Presto at similar price.

    And BTW thanks - these posts have re-kindled my interest in the Beethoven sonatas, and alerted me to "The Hunt" which certainly is one of the finest.

    Also - I guess you have come across this?

     
  20. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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