Every man's death diminishes us all, but the death of a man so close to completing his greatest achievement and the summation of his life's work diminishes us all greatly – very, very greatly. When Emil Gilels died in 1985, he had completed recordings of most but not all of Beethoven's piano sonatas, released here in a nine-disc set. What's here is unimaginably good: superlative recordings of 27 of the 32 canonical sonatas, including the "Pathétique," "Moonlight," "Waldstein," "Appassionata," "Les Adieux," and the majestic "Hammerklavier," plus the two early "Electoral" Sonatas and the mighty Eroica Variations. What's missing is unimaginably priceless: five of the canonical sonatas, including the first and – horror vacui – the last. But still, for what there is, we must be grateful. Beyond all argument one of the great pianists of the twentieth century, Gilels the Soviet super virtuoso had slowly mellowed and ripened over his long career, and when he began recording the sonatas in 1972, his interpretations had matured and deepened while his superlative technique remained gloriously intact straight through to the last recordings of his final year.
Beethoven as a giant of the symphony and the sonata has somewhat overshadowed Beethoven as a creator of songs. On this varied and insightful recording, tenor Werner Güra performs a program featuring Adelaide and the first song cycle in history, An die ferne Geliebte, that proves Beethoven's lieder lacked neither appeal nor originality. Accompanist Christoph Berner plays a Streicher fortepiano of 1847 that is perfectly suited to both the songs and to his solo performance of the wonderful Bagatelles of Op.126.
At the heart of Beethoven’s life’s statement as a composer lies the cycle of sixteen string quartets, which, to this day, has retained a special status and reverence. Since 2012, the Elias String Quartet has been immersed in its Beethoven Project, performing all Beethoven’s string quartets at venues throughout the UK. In this live recording, the ensemble captures both the intimacy and grandeur of the works. With an ever-expanding recording catalogue that has been met with widespread critical acclaim, the quartet is delighted to release this disc, the first volume of its complete Beethoven cycle to be recorded live at Wigmore Hall over the coming Seasons.
Major documents from Rudolf Kempe's later years at the head of the Munich Philharmonic. Beethoven's Fifth, that masterpiece of emotional tension, and his Sixth, all vivid depiction of nature, are both readings of maturity and perfection.
The East German-born Stephan Genz, still in his mid-twenties, brings an engaging voice and glowing dramatic sense to this desirable Beethoven collection. Some of the ballad-like songs undoubtedly suit his rich, warm, darkish timbres especially well (‘Klage’ – ‘Lament’, or the mournful ‘Vom Tode’); yet he relishes, too, the lively patter of ‘Neue Liebe, neues Leben’, which, with Vignoles’s lively accompaniment, takes instant flight. The phrasing is nicely sustained, though Genz’s rather self-conscious, earnest delivery can be fractionally unsteady (chiefly in the descent to cadences, a slight overweighting of second syllables, the arching up towards higher notes, and scattered patches of chromatic detail). Goethe’s ‘Es war einmal ein König’ and Gellert’s ‘Busslied’ both hint at the wider emotional range to which this young singer can aspire. His contrast between the end of Goethe’s poignantly pleading ‘Wonne der Wehmut’ and the lightly alert ‘Sehnsucht’ could not be more charming.
A pianist noted for his taste and precise technique, Rudolf Buchbinder has been particularly identified with Austro-Germanic Classical and Romantic composers, especially since his survey of the complete Haydn piano sonatas for Teldec in the 1970s. Of his later efforts, his recording of the Brahms concertos with Nikolaus Harnoncourt won remarkably high praise upon its release in 2000. In recital, he plays a great deal of 20th century music, but his discography has been devoted almost exclusively to older works…