John Lill

Beethoven: The 32 Piano Sonatas [Box Set]

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Long associated with Beethoven's keyboard repertoire, distinguished British pianist John Lill recorded the complete cycle of 32 piano sonatas for ASV, released as separate discs in the early '90s. Unavailable for several years, the ten volumes have been assembled for this 2003 Resonance box set, and a more reasonable package is hard to imagine, considering its consistently polished performances, handsome presentation, and affordability. Lill's readings of Beethoven are disciplined, without pretensions of heaven-storming grandiosity or soul-searching mysticism. To the extent that any pianist can ever get out of the way of the music and follow its logic and expression clearly and faithfully, Lill does, and his restraint is admirable. These meticulous performances adhere to Beethoven's notation, and all later editorial doctorings and Romantic clichés are eschewed. As a result, some may find Lill's performances overly cautious and chaste: he may seem too relaxed in Op. 57, "Appassionata," too timid in Op. 106, "Hammerklavier," or too cerebral in the turbulent first movement of Op. 111. This set, therefore, is not suitable for fans of neurotic or demonic interpretations. But those whose tastes run toward honest, efficient performances, devoid of bombast, will find this collection worthwhile. ASV's recordings are apparently not remastered, but the sound is fine enough without extra enhancements.

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