Beethoven: Complete Sonatas marks the introduction of Newport Classics' "MusicPlayByPlay," launching a whole new format for the study and enjoyment of classical music. Here are all 32 of Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonatas played by expert pianist Seymour Lipkin on a single disc in the form of mp3 files, bundled with printable Adobe Acrobat files of the musical score in addition to a well-written essay on the music written by critic and scholar Ted Libbey. To obtain a similar experience through conventional means can be a costly proposition, and this product may be had for a mere fraction of such cost. It is very easy to use and is compatible with most PCs of average capacity -- the whole program only requires 24 MB of space. This is not a DVD, but a CD-ROM that plays as easily on a home stereo as it does on a PC, but you'll be minus the visual element.
One might gather that the compression rate of mp3s would squash these audio files to such a degree that would impair the overall sound quality of the recording. Actually, the sound of the mp3s is quite good, and a comparison between the "MusicPlayByPlay" disc and a conventional CD of the same recording reveals very little audible difference between the two. Lipkin reveals himself here as an ace interpreter of Beethoven's Sonatas, presenting a faithful reading of Beethoven's musical text but tempering it with a sense of flexibility in interpretation. This may come as a surprise to some who only know Lipkin as a chamber music accompanist or as conductor.
While this format may not replace altogether the need to have these scores in book form or to obtain conventional CDs of the Beethoven Sonatas for one's library, this is a very convenient way for students and others to have access to Beethoven's great cycle as a whole in all its aspects. Beethoven: Complete Sonatas will also prove a very handy item for public libraries, who have seen their budgets slashed even as usage of their services is at an all-time high.