Alfred Brendel

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas "Moonlight," "Pathétique," "Appassionata," "Les Adieux"

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This collection of Beethoven's four most popular piano sonatas may not be every listener's first choice for the works -- there are, after all, great recordings out there stretching from Schnabel through Kempff to Pollini -- but it may be the first choice for many Alfred Brendel fans. These were the Moravian pianist's first recordings of the "Pathétique," "Moonlight," "Les Adieux," and "Appassionata" sonatas, and in many ways, they were his best. Part of the reason is that Brendel's virtuosity was in top form when these recordings were taped in Vienna for Vox in the '60s, and his execution of such well-known terrors as the finales of the "Moonlight" and "Appassionata" is almost unbearably thrilling. But a bigger part of the reason is that Brendel was much less intellectual and far more instinctive in these recordings than he was in his many later recordings for Philips, and his dramatic tempo and texture shifts in the opening of the "Pathétique" are far more exciting here than in his later recordings. Fans of the pianist might wish that the stereo sound here had some of the crispness and clarity of his later Philips' recordings, but these recordings have a rough honesty that is still quite appealing.

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