Vladimir Ashkenazy

Beethoven: The Piano Sonatas

(CD - London #443706)

Review by

As one of the world's leading pianists, Vladimir Ashkenazy offered important interpretations in his recordings for London of Ludwig van Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas; as this 1995 box set reissue shows, his contributions to the catalog still have great staying power. Recorded throughout the 1970s, these performances were originally released as LPs, and listeners following the charismatic pianist were treated to a new album of sonatas nearly on an annual basis. Ashkenazy's Beethoven is recognizably his own, for the dramatic characterizations and assertive style of playing are similar to his recordings of music by other composers, so anyone who knows his Chopin or Scriabin recordings from roughly the same period will recognize the same confidence and bravado in his youthful, vigorous playing. They will also note his typical freedom with dynamics and tempos, as well as some rushing, but his changes are never inappropriate. To this end, these sonatas may not be the most carefully deliberated, sensitive, or refined performances, but because Ashkenazy seems to prefer a forthright approach to an introverted manner of playing, the music is highly communicative and feels completely honest. The predominantly ADD sound of this set is exceptional for its vintage, though the ninth disc is all-digital.

blue highlight denotes track pick