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Purpose of Beethoven Sonatas Group

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  • Richard Mathisen
    PURPOSE OF THIS YAHOO GROUP - BEETHOVEN SONATAS The purpose of this Yahoo group is to discuss recordings of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in order to identify
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2008



      The purpose of this Yahoo group is to discuss recordings of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in order to identify the “best” recordings. This group will also discuss what makes one recording better than another recording and whether there is such a thing as the “best” recording.




      For five years I have been engaged in a project to obtain every modern recording of every Beethoven piano sonata by every major Beethoven pianist and to listen to those recordings comparatively in order to select the “best” recordings. From over 1500 individual recordings, I have prepared a preliminary ranking of the “best” recordings of each Beethoven piano sonata. I offer my preliminary rankings simply as one music-lover trying to be helpful to other music-lovers.


      What is a “Best” Recording?


      I also offer a definition of what is a “best” recording, with the definition intended to be as objective and scientific as possible within the limits of the subject matter.


      Rule for Discussion


      The rules for discussion in this group are fairly simple. It will be a moderated discussion. Civility and decorum are expected from all participants. Personal attacks are off limits, but you can say pretty much what you want to say about recordings.


      Do not make general statements. Please compare one specific recording to another specific recording (or recordings) and state your reason for preferring one recording over the others.


      To give a starting point for discussion, I have provided my ranking of the 15 best recordings of a particular work. I have also provided a list of all recordings of that work that have been considered in my rankings. If you discuss any recording *not* on this list, you should provide identifying information and (hopefully) how to obtain access to the recording.


      Definition of “Best” Recording


      My proposed definition of the “best” recording is the recording that would be selected by a jury of 12 knowledgeable music-lovers who listen to all available recordings and have an opportunity to discuss them. It is my specific hypothesis that such a jury will come to a solid consensus (defined as “at least 10 out of 12 in agreement”) at least 90% of the time, and that, if repeated, the consensus will always favor the same recording at least 90% of the time. In other word, I believe that a jury will almost always have a favorite recording and it will almost always be the same recording. I put this hypothesis forward in order to start discussion.


      Sound Quality Standard Used for Preliminary Rankings


      In formulating my preliminary rankings, I have chosen to consider only recordings of good sound quality, i.e., those which can be considered “hi-fidelity”. Therefore, I have excluded recordings from before about 1950 in my preliminary rankings. In general, I have found that all studio recordings made in 1956 and later qualify as being of good sound quality. For studio recordings made between 1950 and 1955, and for live recordings, a judgment call has been made. Note that this restriction applies only to my personal rankings. The Yahoo group is free to discuss *any* recordings, including those from before 1950.


      Suggested Procedure


      I suggest that participants gather all their recordings of a specific sonata and set aside time to listen to them, consecutively if possible. I suggest you note which ones are on the list of “Recordings Considered” and which ones appear in the list of the “Top 15.” My recommendation is that you listen first to those which are not in the “Top 15,” then listen to any in the “Top 15” starting from #15 moving upwards towards #1. This will leave you in the best position to offer an informed critique of the “Top 15” list.




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