Beethoven: The Piano Sonatas review – Schiff sweeps all before him

András Schiff
(ECM 11 CDs)

Taken from recitals he gave at the Tonhalle in Zürich between 2004 and 2007, András Schiff’s cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas appeared chronologically disc by disc. Boxed together now, the ordering and even packaging of the original discs has been preserved, meaning, for example, that the E flat major Sonata Op 7 and the Waldstein Op 53 (with its original slow movement, the Andante Favori, as an appendix) each get a disc all to themselves. Taken as a whole, the set is a bit uneven: there are mighty performances of the later sonatas that sweep all before them, and accounts of some of the earlier works that seem prissy and over-manicured, with moments when Schiff could have allowed the music to flow more naturally than it does.

But the collection now includes the encores that Schiff played at the original recitals. There are pieces by Bach, Mozart, Schubert (including marvellously enigmatic performances of the late C minor Allegretto D915 and the first of the D946 Piano Pieces) and Haydn (the whole of the G minor Sonata), all perfectly fashioned and carefully matched to what had preceded them in each recital. For those who collected the ECM sonata discs when they first came out, the encores have also been released separately; those who invest in the complete set won’t have many disappointments either.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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