Ludwig van Beethoven: The Piano Sonatas, Volume I

András Schiff

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March 2004, Tonhalle Zürich

  • CD 1
  • Sonata No. 1 f minor op. 2/1
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • 1Allegro05:41
  • 2Adagio04:21
  • 3Menuetto. Allegretto03:12
  • 4Prestissimo07:49
  • Sonata No. 2 A major op. 2/2
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • 5Allegro vivace11:19
  • 6Largo appassionato06:48
  • 7Scherzo. Allegro03:29
  • 8Rondo. Grazioso06:51
  • Sonata No. 3 C major op. 2/3
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • 9Allegro con brio11:08
  • 10Adagio07:21
  • 11Scherzo. Allegro03:19
  • 12Allegro assai05:59
  • CD 2
  • Sonata No. 4 E-flat major op. 7
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • 1Allegro molto e con brio09:09
  • 2Largo, con gran espressione08:56
  • 3Allegro05:12
  • 4Rondo. Poco allegretto e grazioso07:30
Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Bestenliste 1/2006
 
Schiff’s acute attention to Beethoven’s subito dynamics and inner voices brings unusual intensity to passages … Schiff proves equally capable of conveying the music’s implicit drama within a few short strokes. Notice how he eases his way into the first movement’s opening measures as if sneaking on stage, timing out the rests a split second longer than they’re notated… Schiff’s absorbing interpretations shed fresh light on thrice-familiar works and are guaranteed to grow on you.
Jed Distler, Gramophone
 
His brilliant articulation in the allegros, prestissimo and minuets and scherzos brings a pristine clarity to this much-played music. … It is rare to hear such crisp fingerwork and unmuddied textures on the modern piano. Throughout the series, Schiff will use a Steinway for the more virtuosic pieces and a Bösendorfer for works that require a heavier sonority. If the results match this volume, we are in for a memorable and individual cycle.
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times
 
Early Beethoven is maybe the toughest Beethoven to pull off: His ideas aren’t always as compelling as those in his later music, and he has trouble saying what he means. You’d never think so, however, from András Schiff’s superb first instalment of the Beethoven piano sonatas. The performances have the grace he brings to Mozart and the economy of expression he brings to Bach, plus his usual radiant tone.
David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Sunday Inquirer
 
Im Konzertsaal ist er gerade mittendrin, auf CD hat er gerade damit begonnen: András Schiff stellt sich dem Klaviersonatenwerk Beethovens. ... Einer wie Schiff, inzwischen fast ein Philosoph des Klaviers, ist zu skrupulös, um solches nur der Vollständigkeit willen anzufangen. Einst hat er Schuberts lange vernachlässigtes Klavierwerk wieder mit entdeckt und in seiner Gesamtheit neu zu bewerten gewusst. Von dem jetzt erschienenen ersten von acht Doppel-CD-Alben zu urteilen, lässt sich für Beethoven ähnlich Aufregendes erhoffen. ... Schiffs Spiel atmet gleichzeitig Witz und Delikatesse, Intelligenz und Wagemut, Überlegtheit und Spontaneität. Schiff wollte „in diesen Anzug erst hineinwachsen“, jetzt sitzt er scheinbar wie angegossen. Alles wirkt frisch, nichts erzwungen. Dabei bleibt Schiff seiner sachlich entwaffnenden Art treu.
Manuel Brug, Die Welt
 
Schiff ist von dem einzigartigen Wagemut besessen, diese 32 Sonaten live einzuspielen. Wieder vertraut er auf sein geliebtes Zürich... Vor allem aber vertraut er auf die Mischung aus rationaler Steuerung und Live-Intuition, auf die Balance von Sicherheitsbedürfnis und Künstlerlust. Schiff ist am Klavier der Idealfall des fantasievollen Konservativen. Es wird, so kann man schon jetzt hochrechnen, ein Zyklus werden, dem wir die genaueste Beaufsichtigung schenken sollten, denn der Beginn ist spektakulär. Schiff lässt nichts leichthin geschehen, er gewährt die Ruhe großer Flächen, die Entwicklungskraft von Prozessen, die Überfallkraft von Pointen.
Wolfram Goertz, Die Zeit
 
András Schiff hat lange gewartet, bis er die zweiunddreißig Klaviersonaten Ludwig van Beethovens auf dem Podium (und für die Platte) in Angriff nahm. ... Nun ist die erste Doppel-CD erschienen und man kann nicht genug staunen über den Reichtum an Nuancen, der hier in den drei frühen Sonaten op. 2 und im halbstündigen Großwerk in Es, op. 7, geboten wird. Wer diese Aufnahme mit den Noten in der Hand verfolgt, der wird keine Eigenmächtigkeit gegenüber dem Text feststellen. Jedes Fortepiano, jedes Sforzato, jedes Staccato und jedes Legato ist hier an seinem Platz – ernster kann man den Komponistenwillen kaum nehmen. Zugleich erfährt jede Phrase ihre ganz eigene Deutung, erscheint in je eigenem Licht. ... So bekommt das große Ganze und jedes Detail auf unverwechselbare Weise die Aufmerksamkeit, die es verdient. Man kann auf das Fortschreiten dieser Gesamtaufnahme gespannt sein.
Michael Gassmann, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
 
 
 
András Schiff, the distinguished interpreter of Bach, Mozart and Schubert, has taken his time with Beethoven. Until he was 50, the 32 sonatas marked an obvious gap in his repertoire. The Hungarian pianist has been fully aware of the extreme demands of this important cycle in the literature for piano. On the one hand there is the overwhelming tradition of the legendary performers of the past – Schnabel, Fischer, Kempff, Arrau – on the other hand the complexity of the actual compositions: The sonatas, written between 1795 and 1822, are Beethoven’s very laboratory. No single opus resembles another; each of them arrives at completely new solutions – in extreme concentration and density. The cycle, which Hans von Bülow once called the pianist’s “New Testament”, forms the central compendium of Beethoven’s creative work. No other group of pieces allows for a comparably comprehensive overview of his stylistic development.

“For the pianist, it is much more difficult to approach Beethoven than it is with Bach, Mozart and Schubert: You are an interpreter of Bach or Mozart by birth as it were; Beethoven though has to be learned. These 32 sonatas to me always seemed like a suit I still had to grow into.”
Thus Schiff recently accounted in the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel for his long lasting hesitancy. Today the suit fits: The first four recitals of Schiff’s cycle in chronological order, launched in 2004 in major halls in Europe and North-America, were received by the press with unanimous enthusiasm. London’s Evening Standard spoke of “sustained magic”, while the Neue Zürcher Zeitung greeted a “very contemporary” rendering: “Very close to the musical structure, and miles away from the excitement of romanticism.” Critics were particularly taken with Schiff’s interpretations of allegedly well-known movements like the introductory Adagio from the “Moonlight” Sonata, both unconventional and absolutely true to the score.

ECM now presents Schiff’s long awaited first cycle of the complete 32 sonatas. The pianist opted for live-recordings. The concert situation not only facilitates communicative immediacy, but also creates musical suspense. András Schiff uses two different grand pianos: a Bösendorfer, which, as he says himself, “is adequate to the Vienna dialect”, which he likes in the early Beethoven, and a Steinway maintained by the internationally renowned piano technicians Fabbrini from Italy. Schiff rates the Steinway as the more objective and powerful instrument he prefers in the more dramatic sonatas. His approach to Beethoven is characterised by utmost conscientiousness: The pianist, who will be touring this fall (with a programme including the Sonatas op. 31 and the “Waldstein” Sonata), not only scrutinizes the composer’s manuscripts kept in various libraries and institutes, but also studies the sound and playing techniques of the pianos Beethoven had at his disposal.

The recordings are made at Schiff’s recitals in the Zürich Tonhalle, a concert venue which is famous for its outstanding acoustics. Starting in October 2005, the complete cycle will be released on ECM New Series in eight volumes. The Sonatas will be issued in chronological order as single or double albums respectively.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s first Piano Sonatas op. 2 Nos. 1 to 3, written in 1795 when the composer was 25 years old, mark a debut of stunning confidence. Basically holding on to the tradition of their dedicatee Joseph Haydn who had been Beethoven’s teacher in composition during his first time in Vienna, the op. 2 sets new standards right away. The four-movement layout is introduced as new model, with the third movement already developing into the typical Beethoven Scherzo.

Beethoven’s technique of working with small and seemingly inconspicuous motifs is evident right from the start. Unlike Mozart and Haydn the young composer searches for expressive extremes: The finale of the first sonata is marked “prestissimo”. Each of the sonatas exhibits a distinctive individual character; each explores a different aspect of piano writing.
The first one in f minor, not much longer than a quarter of an hour, demonstrates utter concentration, its initial movement being a prime example of sonata form. The second in A major is lyric, playful and full of humour, while the final C major piece displays elegant and daring virtuosity that brings the sonata close to concerto writing.

The fourth sonata op. 7 in E-flat major, composed 1796/97 is his second longest, surpassed only by the monumental “Hammerklavier” Sonata op. 106. Dedicated to his young pupil, Countess Babette von Keglevics, the piece was first published under the title “Grande Sonate”. Rightly so: Its dimensions and impassioned gesture demonstrate a symphonic ambition.

YEAR DATE VENUE LOCATION
2024 March 01 Philharmonie Paris, France
2024 March 03 Wigmore Hall London, United Kingdom
2024 March 05 Wigmore Hall London, United Kingdom
2024 March 11 Konzerthaus Vienna, Austria
2024 March 13 Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Germany
2024 March 17 Isarphilharmonie Munich, Germany
2024 March 20 Gran Teatro La Fenice - Sale Apollinee Venice, Italy
2024 March 21 Gran Teatro La Fenice - Sale Apollinee Venice, Italy
2024 April 04 Kimmel Center for Performing Arts Philadelphia PA, United States
2024 April 05 Kimmel Center for Performing Arts Philadelphia PA, United States
2024 April 06 Kimmel Center for Performing Arts Philadelphia PA, United States
2024 April 18 The Anvil Basingstoke, United Kingdom
2024 April 19 The Sage Gateshead, United Kingdom
2024 April 20 Saffron Hall Saffron Waldon, United Kingdom
2024 April 21 Snape Maltings Concert Hall Aldeburgh, United Kingdom
2024 April 24 Queen Elizabeth Hall London, United Kingdom
2024 April 25 Queen Elizabeth Hall London, United Kingdom
2024 April 26 Queen Elizabeth Hall London, United Kingdom
2024 May 02 Teatro Olimpico Vicenza, Italy
2024 May 03 Basilica de Ss. Felice e Fortunatus Vicenza, Italy
2024 May 04 Teatro Olimpico Vicenza, Italy
2024 May 05 Teatro Olimpico Vicenza, Italy
2024 May 06 Teatro Olimpico Vicenza, Italy
2024 May 07 Teatro Manzoni Bologna, Italy
2024 May 11 Casals Forum Kronberg, Germany
2024 May 15 Casals Forum Kronberg, Germany
2024 May 18 Casals Forum Kronberg, Germany
2024 May 20 Haus für Mozart Salzburg, Austria
2024 May 26 Schloss Esterházy Eisenstadt, Austria
2024 May 28 Laeiszhalle Hamburg, Germany
2024 May 30 Teatro Donizetti Bergamo, Italy
2024 June 01 Teatro Communale Ferrara, Italy
2024 June 06 Wigmore Hall London, United Kingdom
2024 June 08 Wigmore Hall London, United Kingdom
2024 June 11 Musikverein Vienna, Austria
2024 June 26 Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Germany
2024 June 30 Château du Clos de Vougeot Burgund, France
2024 July 04 Palacio Carlos V Granada, Spain
2024 July 11 Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, Germany
2024 July 16 Pfarrkirche Lockenhaus, Austria
2024 July 23 Église de Verbier station Verbier, Switzerland
2024 July 25 Église de Verbier station Verbier, Switzerland
2024 July 27 Menuhin Festival- Kirche Saanen Gstaad, Switzerland