Various Artists

Beethoven: Works for Piano

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Performance for performance, this volume of all of Beethoven's piano music except his sonatas and concertos may be the weakest of all the 20 volumes of Deutsche Grammophon's 1997 Beethoven edition. With the often eccentric intellectuality of Anatol Ugorski, the occasionally oblivious virtuosity Mikhail Pletnev, and the almost always superficial Gianluca Cascioli, many of the performances are less than definitive. And while pianists like the noble Wilhelm Kempff, the fiery Emil Gilels, and the peculiar but powerful Olli Mustonen do turn in fabulous performances, they are set next to the less-than-fabulous performances of Ugorski, Pletnev, and Cascioli. But in the end, the quality of the performances matters less than the fact that the recordings of them exist. How many other recordings are there of all of Beethoven's sets of piano variations, his early sonatas and his four-hand sonata, his waltzes and allegrettos and allemandes and rondos and bagatelles? And of those, how many are nearly as good as these performances? And how many sound nearly as good as these superb DG recordings? The answer, of course, is none, which makes this set essential for all its flaws.

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