There is nothing "new age" about Moonlight except for the marketing concept of packaging a compilation album to suggest a mood. This album contains movements by Beethoven; its companion album is Solo Journey, movements of soloists playing the works of J.S. Bach. That being said (and it is not really a complaint), the music is not to be sneered at. Albert Imperato and R. Peter Munves headed the compilation team, and had the entire catalogue of Deutsche Grammophon (the world's premiere classical label) to choose from. How many times can one hear the opening movement to the Moonlight Sonata, the noble adagio cantabile from the Pathetique, or the graceful "Fur Elise" (in a spine-tingling performance by Anatol Ugorski)? Hundreds, thousands. Those pieces will outlast plastic and taxes. One of the greatest Beethoven interpreters of all time, the late Wilhelm Kempff, is featured on several movements; his touch and interpretation are so perfect, my hair stands at attention when I listen. The late Emil Gilels is also featured; his playing is more languid, and you just might drown in his Moonlight Sonata. Kempff is soloist on the Beethoven "Emperor" concerto and the Piano Concerto No. 3 -- both in awe-inspiring performances with the Berlin Philharmonic. The label took a chance on including chamber music -- the heart-pounding adagio from Sonata No. 3 (Martha Argerich, piano, and Gidon Kremer, violin) and the breathtaking allegretto from the Piano Trio in E-flat (with the legendary trio of Kempff on piano, Henryk Szerying, violin, and Pierre Fornier, cello) -- but the movements are very accessible. Most of the pieces are from Beethoven's early and mid-periods. The more complex movement from the Piano Sonata No. 27 is included near the end of the album; one hopes the ear is trained by that time to appreciate its elegance and sophistication. The novice listener may be suckered in by the packaging; thank goodness the album delivers way more than it promises. The liner notes by Alberto Imperato are excellent; they personalize Beethoven's individuality and his humanity.
AllMusic Review by Carol Wright