Everyone is on a bloody journey these days. The latest example is typical.
There is one journey though, a genuinely epic traversal of lofty heights and despairing depths, sunny uplands and quirky detours, which is timeless, available to all, and endlessly absorbing…
Here is one of the cheapest ways of making the trip. Not my favourite, but a good start.
The Knife’s intention is to suggest a version or two for each of the 32, with some comments thrown in. This is not from the perspective of a capable player, just a listener, for whom this particular journey is still as wonderful today as it was when first attempted 26 years ago.
It would be a more than a bit pathetic to claim a “best version” of any of the sonatas, the recommendations are just ones that The Knife knows a little , and particularly likes – for lots of different reasons. Having said that there is some serious blogging out there with these being particularly fine:
1. A truly dedicated madman, Todd A, attempts to review everything. He’s good.
2. A useful list of complete recordings, with links
3. Brief notes on 70 years of complete recorded cycles, kicking off with Schnabel, born 55 years after the master’s death
So, to the New Testament of the piano, Beethoven’s majestic and infinitely wonderful 32 piano sonatas. Let’s go.
No. 1 in F minor, Op. 2, No. 1
This perhaps should seem a bit gauche, naive, or merely decorative, but it’s not. It’s robust, vital and fun. The Knife is a big fan of Maurizio Pollini, Italian legend, and he does not disappoint here. You can already tell that at 25 Beethoven is streets ahead of Haydn and the rest. Wilhelm Kempff is possibly still the most reliable performer in a box set, and he is brilliant in these early sonatas, light fingered magic.