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Re: [beethovensonatas] John Lill

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  • NEIL WALKER
    Just wondering where one of my favoured Beethoven pianists, John Lill, features in your ponderings. I ve always thought his performances of the Beethoven and
    Message 1 of 11 , Jan 4, 2009
      Just wondering where one of my favoured Beethoven pianists, John Lill, features in your ponderings. I've always thought his performances of the Beethoven and Brahms Pf Concerti to be very fine, and I've certainly been impressed too with what I've heard of him in the Beethoven Sonatas. For a pianist to be equally effective in the works of composers as different as Beethoven and Rakhmaninov, they have to be something quite special. Nobody has mentioned Lili Kraus, either. Not sure whether this is because she did not record the Sonatas - did she? Some info on that would be interesting, too.
      Neil Walker

      --- On Fri, 26/12/08, gperkins151 <gperkins151@...> wrote:
      From: gperkins151 <gperkins151@...>
      Subject: [beethovensonatas] Re: Rankings of Sonata #1, Op. 2, No. 1
      To: beethovensonatas@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Friday, 26 December, 2008, 4:48 PM

      Nice to hear from you Richard! First of all, you said Op.2-3 below. I
      was referring to Op.2, No.1. Was yours simply a typo?

      With the Richter, which performance are you referring to? Trovar lists 3:

      Sonata No. 1 in f, opus 2 no. 1

      1. (Grange de Meslay, Besnardière, Tours, 6/1976)
      o EMI ASD 3364 (LP 1977) or 02844 Q (LP)
      o EMI/Angel/Toshiba EAC 80344 (LP) or EAC 50008-9 (LP)
      o EMI Eminence/Toshiba EAC-55136 (LP)
      o Melodiya 33C 10-10087-88 (LP 1978) or S10 10087 008 (LP)
      o Angel [ US ] S-37266 (LP 1977) or RL-32085 (LP)
      o EMI CMS7 64429 (CD) or CZS7 67197 (CD) or 575272 (CD)
      o EMI/Toshiba TOCE-7735 (CD) or TOCE 13253 (CD)
      o EMI Classics Grandmaster TOCE 3281 (CD)
      2. (Moscow, 10 Oct 1976)
      o Music & Arts CD-775 (CD) or CD-946 (CD)
      o Seven Seas / King Records KICC 2273 (CD)
      o Suncrown CRLB-55004 (LaserDisc)
      o Nippon Crown CRCB-7005 / 7006 (CD)
      o Dream Time [Japan] JPBC 14828 (DVD)
      3. (Moscow, Great Hall of the Conservatory, 15 October 1976, live)
      on Yedang [Korea] YCC 0142 (CD)

      I have the first two and I must say after quick comparison, the second
      is better. The sound isn't what you'd prefer, I'm sure. But that live
      excitement and joy Richter usually conveyed is very much present,
      making this a more involving and enjoyable performance. The third
      movement and finale are both faster than in that first studio version,
      so the menuetto comes across much better. In fact, I will need to
      reevaluate this performance, for it is surely among my top ten.

      I think Bernard Roberts's performance is really hurt by the
      over-resonant hall his set was recorded in. This blurs the music too
      much for me. Here's my notes on each movement:
      1. Slower than Barenboim (too slow), he has a nice grace. Clean
      playing here, but lacks some of the necessary tension.
      2. Taken slowly like Schnabel and Barenboim, this has a nice tenderness.
      3. Nice liquid rhythm here, he's great!
      4. Slower than most, he again has nice grace.

      So as you can see he's got a lot of strength to my ears, but he's just
      not among my top ten favorites. Surely my top 20, though. Top 10 means
      "great" to me, top 20, "good."

      Gulda made number two because he cares less about beauty and more
      about his technique and tempos that convey the drama of the music. His
      technique is impeccable. This is no-nonsense Beethoven epitomized. To
      me, this first sonata begins the journey through the 32 sonatas. With
      Barenboim and Roberts, you realize that you are on the scenic route.
      With Gulda, you're on the freeway. :) Not rushing though, just
      efficiently getting where you are going without taking any shortcuts
      or pit stops.

      I hope that in time you can become more tolerant of sound quality. I
      know that for me, I was very resistant at first, but over time I have
      become more willing to hear older recordings. I think MOT did wonders
      for the Schnabel set on Naxos. Not a ton of noise, nor does he wash it
      all away, making the piano sound as if it's being played underwater,
      like so many historical piano transfers. the individual CDs are cheap
      over at MDT. Nat I never found to have a historical sound, but then I
      am not too picky about that. I am picky about who does the transfers,
      though.

      Backhaus is like Gulda, only he takes shortcuts. I actually like
      having the alternate view of the sonatas without repeats. It allows me
      to clearly see the ABA structure. Plus when comparing it sure is more
      efficient.

      Nice chatting with you too! I look forward to this ongoing discussion.

      --- In beethovensonatas@ yahoogroups. com, "Richard Mathisen"
      <richard.mathisen@ ...> wrote:
      >
      > Thank you very much for the list of your top 10 recordings of Op 2-3!

      > In general, your rankings followed my own rankings very closely.
      There were a couple of major differences, which I will point out. The
      two major differences were regarding Bernard Roberts, my #1, which did
      not make your cut, and Sviatoslav Richter, my #9, which also did not
      make your cut. Would you be willing to offer any comments on those two
      recordings? (I know that my own problem with the Richter is the very
      slow third movement -- Menuetto -- but I don't know whether that is
      your concern.)
      >
      > Schnabel and Nat, two of your choices, were missing from my list
      only because of sound quality. I required certain standards of sound
      quality, basically "hi-fi," which the Schnabel recording from the
      1930's and the Nat from 1955 did not meet, in my opinion. However, I
      did make my own estimation of the Schnabel, apart from sound quality,
      and it compared almost exactly with the Annie Fischer recording. Since
      I ranked the Annie Fischer recording as #4, I would rank the Schnabel
      recording as #4.5 on my list.
      >
      > Therefore, apart from the Bernard Roberts recording, your top two
      (Schnabel and Fischer) were also my top two (of the recordings which
      you said you had available to you).
      >
      > Gulda (Amadeo), Kovacevich, and Goode were three recordings you had
      on your list that had not made my cut. In each case I agree that they
      ought to be considered among the better recordings (what I would call
      the top 20). I will want to re-evaluate them again. Offhand, I think
      that Kovacevich might be in the top 10 and Gulda and Goode might be in
      the top 15 in my rankings, when I redo the rankings as I intend to do
      in 2009.
      >
      > Gulda's ranking as #2 on your list (actually #3 because of the tie
      for #1) surprised me a little. I may have to listen to Gulda a few
      more times. Sometimes recordings have beauties that require several
      hearings to fully appreciate.
      >
      > You made several comments about recordings of Op 2-3 that I strongly
      agree with, especially adjectives such as "youthful, powerful,
      no-nonsense, straightforward. " Op 2-3 deosn't respond well to a lot of
      interpretation. Any fussing around hurts it.
      >
      > The Barenboim DGG recording is a good case in point. It is truly
      beautiful tonally and is also emotionally involved. The problem for me
      is the excessive rubato in the 3rd and 4th movements. I want to say to
      him, "Just play the music!"
      >
      > The Serkin recording has much to recommend it, but the slow tempos
      in the 1st and 3rd movements detract from the overall impact.
      >
      > The Backhaus stereo recording was once my top choice, although it
      slipped to my #12 as I purchased more and more recordings. I agree
      that it captures the spirit of the piece very well. I wish Backhaus
      had taken the Exposition repeats in the 1st and 4th movements.
      >
      > The Goode recording is quite decent. The 3rd and 4th movements seem
      much better to me than the 1st and 2nd.
      >
      > I'm looking forward to hearing more of your comments about this
      sonata and future sonatas!
      >
      > Dick Mathisen
      >
      > > I can see you have put a lot of time into this. I will share my
      favorites, in order, as well. i like the first movement on the fast
      side, same with the finale.
      >
      > 1. A Tie - Artur Schnabel (Naxos, Pearl) and Annie Fischer (Hungaroton)
      > 2. Gulda, from his Amadeo/Brilliant Classics set
      > 3. Ciccolini - Cascavelle
      > 4. Kovacevich - EMI
      > 5. Backhaus - Stereo, Decca
      > 6. Barenboim - DG
      > 7. Nat - EMI
      > 8. Serkin - Sony
      > 9. Goode - Nonesuch
      >
      > Others I have but don't make the cut - Richter, Roberts, Arrau,
      Kempff (mono), Brendel (Vox).
      >
      >
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: gperkins151
      > To: beethovensonatas@ yahoogroups. com
      > Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 9:33 PM
      > Subject: [beethovensonatas] Re: Rankings of Sonata #1, Op. 2, No. 1
      >
      >
      > I just read the post that asks for explanations so I will add some
      > thoughts about why I chose each performance (where I can recall the
      > reason)
      >
      > 1. A Tie - Artur Schnabel (Naxos, Pearl) and Annie Fischer
      > (Hungaroton) - In both of these, there is a youthful, powerful
      > interpretation that works perfectly for the material. This isn't a
      > Beethoven you would mistake for Mozart or Haydn. The slow movements
      > are gorgeous as well.
      >
      > 2. Gulda, from his Amadeo/Brilliant Classics set- With a bit less
      > emotional involvement and more polished technique, this interpretation
      > is lean, brisk and right on the money.
      >
      > 3. Ciccolini - Cascavelle - I don't recall too much about this one,
      > but I do recall that much of the rest of his set is nothing special.
      >
      > 4. Kovacevich - EMI - Like Annie Fischer, his is a passionate
      > Beethoven. He may be a bit too muscular at times, but I prefer this to
      > a more dainty interpretation.
      >
      > 5. Backhaus - Stereo, Decca - Rock solid, serious and no-nonsense
      > Beethoven. Great!
      >
      > 6. Barenboim - DG - Here we get more beauty than heard in the others
      > and a slower tempo.
      >
      > 7. Nat - EMI - Like Gulda and Backhaus, no-nonsense Beethoven. I like
      > much of Nat's set.
      >
      > 8. Serkin - Sony - One of my favorite pianists. He waited too long to
      > record this, IMO. Had he recorded this in the mono age when he was
      > younger, it would surely be higher on the list. As it stands, it is
      > still very good. About the opposite of Barenboim, less sniffing of the
      > flowers, more straightforward interpretation.
      >
      > 9. Goode - Nonesuch - A good modern recording. Goode is reliable but
      > rarely exciting. He seems a bit too in control, something that does
      > not hinder the early sonatas too much IMO.
      >

    • gperkins151
      I must say that I am not a fan of Mr. Lill s. I own his Rach 3 and Sonata 2 and neither are among my favorites for either works. As a result, I haven t sought
      Message 2 of 11 , Jan 4, 2009
        I must say that I am not a fan of Mr. Lill's. I own his Rach 3 and
        Sonata 2 and neither are among my favorites for either works. As a
        result, I haven't sought out any other recordings.

        --- In beethovensonatas@yahoogroups.com, NEIL WALKER <joaobur@...> wrote:
        >
        > Just wondering where one of my favoured Beethoven pianists, John
        Lill, features in your ponderings. I've always thought his
        performances of the Beethoven and Brahms Pf Concerti to be very fine,
        and I've certainly been impressed too with what I've heard of him in
        the Beethoven Sonatas. For a pianist to be equally effective in the
        works of composers as different as Beethoven and Rakhmaninov, they
        have to be something quite special. Nobody has mentioned Lili Kraus,
        either. Not sure whether this is because she did not record the
        Sonatas - did she? Some info on that would be interesting, too.
        > Neil Walker
        >
        > --- On Fri, 26/12/08, gperkins151 <gperkins151@...> wrote:
        >
        > From: gperkins151 <gperkins151@...>
        > Subject: [beethovensonatas] Re: Rankings of Sonata #1, Op. 2, No. 1
        > To: beethovensonatas@yahoogroups.com
        > Date: Friday, 26 December, 2008, 4:48 PM
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Nice to hear from you Richard! First of all, you said Op.2-3 below. I
        > was referring to Op.2, No.1. Was yours simply a typo?
        >
        > With the Richter, which performance are you referring to? Trovar
        lists 3:
        >
        > Sonata No. 1 in f, opus 2 no. 1
        >
        > 1. (Grange de Meslay, Besnardière, Tours, 6/1976)
        > o EMI ASD 3364 (LP 1977) or 02844 Q (LP)
        > o EMI/Angel/Toshiba EAC 80344 (LP) or EAC 50008-9 (LP)
        > o EMI Eminence/Toshiba EAC-55136 (LP)
        > o Melodiya 33C 10-10087-88 (LP 1978) or S10 10087 008 (LP)
        > o Angel [ US ] S-37266 (LP 1977) or RL-32085 (LP)
        > o EMI CMS7 64429 (CD) or CZS7 67197 (CD) or 575272 (CD)
        > o EMI/Toshiba TOCE-7735 (CD) or TOCE 13253 (CD)
        > o EMI Classics Grandmaster TOCE 3281 (CD)
        > 2. (Moscow, 10 Oct 1976)
        > o Music & Arts CD-775 (CD) or CD-946 (CD)
        > o Seven Seas / King Records KICC 2273 (CD)
        > o Suncrown CRLB-55004 (LaserDisc)
        > o Nippon Crown CRCB-7005 / 7006 (CD)
        > o Dream Time [Japan] JPBC 14828 (DVD)
        > 3. (Moscow, Great Hall of the Conservatory, 15 October 1976, live)
        > on Yedang [Korea] YCC 0142 (CD)
        >
        > I have the first two and I must say after quick comparison, the second
        > is better. The sound isn't what you'd prefer, I'm sure. But that live
        > excitement and joy Richter usually conveyed is very much present,
        > making this a more involving and enjoyable performance. The third
        > movement and finale are both faster than in that first studio version,
        > so the menuetto comes across much better. In fact, I will need to
        > reevaluate this performance, for it is surely among my top ten.
        >
        > I think Bernard Roberts's performance is really hurt by the
        > over-resonant hall his set was recorded in. This blurs the music too
        > much for me. Here's my notes on each movement:
        > 1. Slower than Barenboim (too slow), he has a nice grace. Clean
        > playing here, but lacks some of the necessary tension.
        > 2. Taken slowly like Schnabel and Barenboim, this has a nice tenderness.
        > 3. Nice liquid rhythm here, he's great!
        > 4. Slower than most, he again has nice grace.
        >
        > So as you can see he's got a lot of strength to my ears, but he's just
        > not among my top ten favorites. Surely my top 20, though. Top 10 means
        > "great" to me, top 20, "good."
        >
        > Gulda made number two because he cares less about beauty and more
        > about his technique and tempos that convey the drama of the music. His
        > technique is impeccable. This is no-nonsense Beethoven epitomized. To
        > me, this first sonata begins the journey through the 32 sonatas. With
        > Barenboim and Roberts, you realize that you are on the scenic route.
        > With Gulda, you're on the freeway. :) Not rushing though, just
        > efficiently getting where you are going without taking any shortcuts
        > or pit stops.
        >
        > I hope that in time you can become more tolerant of sound quality. I
        > know that for me, I was very resistant at first, but over time I have
        > become more willing to hear older recordings. I think MOT did wonders
        > for the Schnabel set on Naxos. Not a ton of noise, nor does he wash it
        > all away, making the piano sound as if it's being played underwater,
        > like so many historical piano transfers. the individual CDs are cheap
        > over at MDT. Nat I never found to have a historical sound, but then I
        > am not too picky about that. I am picky about who does the transfers,
        > though.
        >
        > Backhaus is like Gulda, only he takes shortcuts. I actually like
        > having the alternate view of the sonatas without repeats. It allows me
        > to clearly see the ABA structure. Plus when comparing it sure is more
        > efficient.
        >
        > Nice chatting with you too! I look forward to this ongoing discussion.
        >
        > --- In beethovensonatas@ yahoogroups. com, "Richard Mathisen"
        > <richard.mathisen@ ...> wrote:
        > >
        > > Thank you very much for the list of your top 10 recordings of Op 2-3!
        >
        > > In general, your rankings followed my own rankings very closely.
        > There were a couple of major differences, which I will point out. The
        > two major differences were regarding Bernard Roberts, my #1, which did
        > not make your cut, and Sviatoslav Richter, my #9, which also did not
        > make your cut. Would you be willing to offer any comments on those two
        > recordings? (I know that my own problem with the Richter is the very
        > slow third movement -- Menuetto -- but I don't know whether that is
        > your concern.)
        > >
        > > Schnabel and Nat, two of your choices, were missing from my list
        > only because of sound quality. I required certain standards of sound
        > quality, basically "hi-fi," which the Schnabel recording from the
        > 1930's and the Nat from 1955 did not meet, in my opinion. However, I
        > did make my own estimation of the Schnabel, apart from sound quality,
        > and it compared almost exactly with the Annie Fischer recording. Since
        > I ranked the Annie Fischer recording as #4, I would rank the Schnabel
        > recording as #4.5 on my list.
        > >
        > > Therefore, apart from the Bernard Roberts recording, your top two
        > (Schnabel and Fischer) were also my top two (of the recordings which
        > you said you had available to you).
        > >
        > > Gulda (Amadeo), Kovacevich, and Goode were three recordings you had
        > on your list that had not made my cut. In each case I agree that they
        > ought to be considered among the better recordings (what I would call
        > the top 20). I will want to re-evaluate them again. Offhand, I think
        > that Kovacevich might be in the top 10 and Gulda and Goode might be in
        > the top 15 in my rankings, when I redo the rankings as I intend to do
        > in 2009.
        > >
        > > Gulda's ranking as #2 on your list (actually #3 because of the tie
        > for #1) surprised me a little. I may have to listen to Gulda a few
        > more times. Sometimes recordings have beauties that require several
        > hearings to fully appreciate.
        > >
        > > You made several comments about recordings of Op 2-3 that I strongly
        > agree with, especially adjectives such as "youthful, powerful,
        > no-nonsense, straightforward. " Op 2-3 deosn't respond well to a lot of
        > interpretation. Any fussing around hurts it.
        > >
        > > The Barenboim DGG recording is a good case in point. It is truly
        > beautiful tonally and is also emotionally involved. The problem for me
        > is the excessive rubato in the 3rd and 4th movements. I want to say to
        > him, "Just play the music!"
        > >
        > > The Serkin recording has much to recommend it, but the slow tempos
        > in the 1st and 3rd movements detract from the overall impact.
        > >
        > > The Backhaus stereo recording was once my top choice, although it
        > slipped to my #12 as I purchased more and more recordings. I agree
        > that it captures the spirit of the piece very well. I wish Backhaus
        > had taken the Exposition repeats in the 1st and 4th movements.
        > >
        > > The Goode recording is quite decent. The 3rd and 4th movements seem
        > much better to me than the 1st and 2nd.
        > >
        > > I'm looking forward to hearing more of your comments about this
        > sonata and future sonatas!
        > >
        > > Dick Mathisen
        > >
        > > > I can see you have put a lot of time into this. I will share my
        > favorites, in order, as well. i like the first movement on the fast
        > side, same with the finale.
        > >
        > > 1. A Tie - Artur Schnabel (Naxos, Pearl) and Annie Fischer
        (Hungaroton)
        > > 2. Gulda, from his Amadeo/Brilliant Classics set
        > > 3. Ciccolini - Cascavelle
        > > 4. Kovacevich - EMI
        > > 5. Backhaus - Stereo, Decca
        > > 6. Barenboim - DG
        > > 7. Nat - EMI
        > > 8. Serkin - Sony
        > > 9. Goode - Nonesuch
        > >
        > > Others I have but don't make the cut - Richter, Roberts, Arrau,
        > Kempff (mono), Brendel (Vox).
        > >
        > >
        > > ----- Original Message -----
        > > From: gperkins151
        > > To: beethovensonatas@ yahoogroups. com
        > > Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 9:33 PM
        > > Subject: [beethovensonatas] Re: Rankings of Sonata #1, Op. 2, No. 1
        > >
        > >
        > > I just read the post that asks for explanations so I will add some
        > > thoughts about why I chose each performance (where I can recall the
        > > reason)
        > >
        > > 1. A Tie - Artur Schnabel (Naxos, Pearl) and Annie Fischer
        > > (Hungaroton) - In both of these, there is a youthful, powerful
        > > interpretation that works perfectly for the material. This isn't a
        > > Beethoven you would mistake for Mozart or Haydn. The slow movements
        > > are gorgeous as well.
        > >
        > > 2. Gulda, from his Amadeo/Brilliant Classics set- With a bit less
        > > emotional involvement and more polished technique, this interpretation
        > > is lean, brisk and right on the money.
        > >
        > > 3. Ciccolini - Cascavelle - I don't recall too much about this one,
        > > but I do recall that much of the rest of his set is nothing special.
        > >
        > > 4. Kovacevich - EMI - Like Annie Fischer, his is a passionate
        > > Beethoven. He may be a bit too muscular at times, but I prefer this to
        > > a more dainty interpretation.
        > >
        > > 5. Backhaus - Stereo, Decca - Rock solid, serious and no-nonsense
        > > Beethoven. Great!
        > >
        > > 6. Barenboim - DG - Here we get more beauty than heard in the others
        > > and a slower tempo.
        > >
        > > 7. Nat - EMI - Like Gulda and Backhaus, no-nonsense Beethoven. I like
        > > much of Nat's set.
        > >
        > > 8. Serkin - Sony - One of my favorite pianists. He waited too long to
        > > record this, IMO. Had he recorded this in the mono age when he was
        > > younger, it would surely be higher on the list. As it stands, it is
        > > still very good. About the opposite of Barenboim, less sniffing of the
        > > flowers, more straightforward interpretation.
        > >
        > > 9. Goode - Nonesuch - A good modern recording. Goode is reliable but
        > > rarely exciting. He seems a bit too in control, something that does
        > > not hinder the early sonatas too much IMO.
        > >
        >
      • Richard Mathisen
        Neil, I ve been away on vacation for a week and I m trying to catch on these notes. Regarding Lili Kraus, the only Beethoven sonata recordings I have are from
        Message 3 of 11 , Jan 4, 2009
          
          Neil,
           
          I've been away on vacation for a week and I'm trying to catch on these notes.
           
          Regarding Lili Kraus, the only Beethoven sonata recordings I have are from 1955, the Waldstein and Op 109. The Op 109 is an excellent recording. It just barely missed my "Top 15" for that sonata -- I have it ranked at #16. The Waldstein was less successful, in my opinion.
           
          According to a discography from Youngrok Lee, Lili Kraus also recorded several other Beethoven sonatas in 1956 -- the Pathetique, Waldstein and Appassionata and Op 49 #1. The Pathetique and Appassionata were released only on LP, not on CD. The 1956 Waldstein was apparently released on CD along with the Op 49-1, but I have never come across them. If anyone knows where to find them, I'd be interested.
           
          About John Lill
           
          John Lill is a bit of a puzzle. I am not a John Lill fan, as will become apparent, yet he has enormous technical and musical skills. He won the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium prize and was awarded the OBE. He plays Beethoven with a great deal of polish and erudition.
           
          Lill's most successful Beethoven sonata recordings, according to my notes, came in Op 14 -2 and in Op 28. Overall, the chief advantage of his sonata cycle is its low price, often about $30. I have been unable to obtain any information about when they were recorded.
           
          There are several shortcomings with his Beethoven sonata performances which show up in Op 2-1 (and Op 2-2). I am offering these comments from memory. He regularly adopts slower than usual tempos, which can sometimes work and other times not work. In Op 2-1, he takes all repeats -- the Development repeats as well as the Exposition repeats. The combination of slow tempos and all repeats is unfortunate for the listener. It is possible to hold these pieces together while taking all repeats, but it requires fairly brisk tempos to make it work. (I will say that I recollect that Lill's slow movement of Op 2-1 is very fine.) While most performers routinely fit the three sonatas of Op 2 on a single CD, Lill cannot do so because his performances of the three works total over 80 minutes.
           
          There also seems to be a low energy level in some of these sonata recordings. I tend to attribute this to what I call "recording studio syndrome," when the umpteenth take lowers the energy level of a performer. Whatever the reason, the results are unsatisfactory, to my ears.
           
          Lill's Hammerklavier seems odd because the notes are played perfectly and even beautifully but without any sense of struggle.
           
          Those are a few observations from memory. I hope I don't sound like I'm attacking Lill. I could imagine him giving a very fine performance of any work if he were in the right mood. I suspect his concerto performances are especially good because the conductor could avoid any slackness in the energy level. Lill has enormous talent, but I did not find these sonata recordings to be to my liking.
           
          Dick Mathisen
           
          ----- Original Message -----
          Sent: Sunday, January 04, 2009 8:09 AM
          Subject: Re: [beethovensonatas] John Lill

          Just wondering where one of my favoured Beethoven pianists, John Lill, features in your ponderings. I've always thought his performances of the Beethoven and Brahms Pf Concerti to be very fine, and I've certainly been impressed too with what I've heard of him in the Beethoven Sonatas. For a pianist to be equally effective in the works of composers as different as Beethoven and Rakhmaninov, they have to be something quite special. Nobody has mentioned Lili Kraus, either. Not sure whether this is because she did not record the Sonatas - did she? Some info on that would be interesting, too.
          Neil Walker

          --- On Fri, 26/12/08, gperkins151 <gperkins151@ yahoo.com> wrote:
          From: gperkins151 <gperkins151@ yahoo.com>
          Subject: [beethovensonatas] Re: Rankings of Sonata #1, Op. 2, No. 1
          To: beethovensonatas@ yahoogroups. com
          Date: Friday, 26 December, 2008, 4:48 PM

          Nice to hear from you Richard! First of all, you said Op.2-3 below. I
          was referring to Op.2, No.1. Was yours simply a typo?

          With the Richter, which performance are you referring to? Trovar lists 3:

          Sonata No. 1 in f, opus 2 no. 1

          1. (Grange de Meslay, Besnardière, Tours, 6/1976)
          o EMI ASD 3364 (LP 1977) or 02844 Q (LP)
          o EMI/Angel/Toshiba EAC 80344 (LP) or EAC 50008-9 (LP)
          o EMI Eminence/Toshiba EAC-55136 (LP)
          o Melodiya 33C 10-10087-88 (LP 1978) or S10 10087 008 (LP)
          o Angel [ US ] S-37266 (LP 1977) or RL-32085 (LP)
          o EMI CMS7 64429 (CD) or CZS7 67197 (CD) or 575272 (CD)
          o EMI/Toshiba TOCE-7735 (CD) or TOCE 13253 (CD)
          o EMI Classics Grandmaster TOCE 3281 (CD)
          2. (Moscow, 10 Oct 1976)
          o Music & Arts CD-775 (CD) or CD-946 (CD)
          o Seven Seas / King Records KICC 2273 (CD)
          o Suncrown CRLB-55004 (LaserDisc)
          o Nippon Crown CRCB-7005 / 7006 (CD)
          o Dream Time [Japan] JPBC 14828 (DVD)
          3. (Moscow, Great Hall of the Conservatory, 15 October 1976, live)
          on Yedang [Korea] YCC 0142 (CD)

          I have the first two and I must say after quick comparison, the second
          is better. The sound isn't what you'd prefer, I'm sure. But that live
          excitement and joy Richter usually conveyed is very much present,
          making this a more involving and enjoyable performance. The third
          movement and finale are both faster than in that first studio version,
          so the menuetto comes across much better. In fact, I will need to
          reevaluate this performance, for it is surely among my top ten.

          I think Bernard Roberts's performance is really hurt by the
          over-resonant hall his set was recorded in. This blurs the music too
          much for me. Here's my notes on each movement:
          1. Slower than Barenboim (too slow), he has a nice grace. Clean
          playing here, but lacks some of the necessary tension.
          2. Taken slowly like Schnabel and Barenboim, this has a nice tenderness.
          3. Nice liquid rhythm here, he's great!
          4. Slower than most, he again has nice grace.

          So as you can see he's got a lot of strength to my ears, but he's just
          not among my top ten favorites. Surely my top 20, though. Top 10 means
          "great" to me, top 20, "good."

          Gulda made number two because he cares less about beauty and more
          about his technique and tempos that convey the drama of the music. His
          technique is impeccable. This is no-nonsense Beethoven epitomized. To
          me, this first sonata begins the journey through the 32 sonatas. With
          Barenboim and Roberts, you realize that you are on the scenic route.
          With Gulda, you're on the freeway. :) Not rushing though, just
          efficiently getting where you are going without taking any shortcuts
          or pit stops.

          I hope that in time you can become more tolerant of sound quality. I
          know that for me, I was very resistant at first, but over time I have
          become more willing to hear older recordings. I think MOT did wonders
          for the Schnabel set on Naxos. Not a ton of noise, nor does he wash it
          all away, making the piano sound as if it's being played underwater,
          like so many historical piano transfers. the individual CDs are cheap
          over at MDT. Nat I never found to have a historical sound, but then I
          am not too picky about that. I am picky about who does the transfers,
          though.

          Backhaus is like Gulda, only he takes shortcuts. I actually like
          having the alternate view of the sonatas without repeats. It allows me
          to clearly see the ABA structure. Plus when comparing it sure is more
          efficient.

          Nice chatting with you too! I look forward to this ongoing discussion.

          --- In beethovensonatas@ yahoogroups. com, "Richard Mathisen"
          <richard.mathisen@ ...> wrote:
          >
          > Thank you very much for the list of your top 10 recordings of Op 2-3!

          > In general, your rankings followed my own rankings very closely.
          There were a couple of major differences, which I will point out. The
          two major differences were regarding Bernard Roberts, my #1, which did
          not make your cut, and Sviatoslav Richter, my #9, which also did not
          make your cut. Would you be willing to offer any comments on those two
          recordings? (I know that my own problem with the Richter is the very
          slow third movement -- Menuetto -- but I don't know whether that is
          your concern.)
          >
          > Schnabel and Nat, two of your choices, were missing from my list
          only because of sound quality. I required certain standards of sound
          quality, basically "hi-fi," which the Schnabel recording from the
          1930's and the Nat from 1955 did not meet, in my opinion. However, I
          did make my own estimation of the Schnabel, apart from sound quality,
          and it compared almost exactly with the Annie Fischer recording. Since
          I ranked the Annie Fischer recording as #4, I would rank the Schnabel
          recording as #4.5 on my list.
          >
          > Therefore, apart from the Bernard Roberts recording, your top two
          (Schnabel and Fischer) were also my top two (of the recordings which
          you said you had available to you).
          >
          > Gulda (Amadeo), Kovacevich, and Goode were three recordings you had
          on your list that had not made my cut. In each case I agree that they
          ought to be considered among the better recordings (what I would call
          the top 20). I will want to re-evaluate them again. Offhand, I think
          that Kovacevich might be in the top 10 and Gulda and Goode might be in
          the top 15 in my rankings, when I redo the rankings as I intend to do
          in 2009.
          >
          > Gulda's ranking as #2 on your list (actually #3 because of the tie
          for #1) surprised me a little. I may have to listen to Gulda a few
          more times. Sometimes recordings have beauties that require several
          hearings to fully appreciate.
          >
          > You made several comments about recordings of Op 2-3 that I strongly
          agree with, especially adjectives such as "youthful, powerful,
          no-nonsense, straightforward. " Op 2-3 deosn't respond well to a lot of
          interpretation. Any fussing around hurts it.
          >
          > The Barenboim DGG recording is a good case in point. It is truly
          beautiful tonally and is also emotionally involved. The problem for me
          is the excessive rubato in the 3rd and 4th movements. I want to say to
          him, "Just play the music!"
          >
          > The Serkin recording has much to recommend it, but the slow tempos
          in the 1st and 3rd movements detract from the overall impact.
          >
          > The Backhaus stereo recording was once my top choice, although it
          slipped to my #12 as I purchased more and more recordings. I agree
          that it captures the spirit of the piece very well. I wish Backhaus
          had taken the Exposition repeats in the 1st and 4th movements.
          >
          > The Goode recording is quite decent. The 3rd and 4th movements seem
          much better to me than the 1st and 2nd.
          >
          > I'm looking forward to hearing more of your comments about this
          sonata and future sonatas!
          >
          > Dick Mathisen
          >
          > > I can see you have put a lot of time into this. I will share my
          favorites, in order, as well. i like the first movement on the fast
          side, same with the finale.
          >
          > 1. A Tie - Artur Schnabel (Naxos, Pearl) and Annie Fischer (Hungaroton)
          > 2. Gulda, from his Amadeo/Brilliant Classics set
          > 3. Ciccolini - Cascavelle
          > 4. Kovacevich - EMI
          > 5. Backhaus - Stereo, Decca
          > 6. Barenboim - DG
          > 7. Nat - EMI
          > 8. Serkin - Sony
          > 9. Goode - Nonesuch
          >
          > Others I have but don't make the cut - Richter, Roberts, Arrau,
          Kempff (mono), Brendel (Vox).
          >
          >
          > ----- Original Message -----
          > From: gperkins151
          > To: beethovensonatas@ yahoogroups. com
          > Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 9:33 PM
          > Subject: [beethovensonatas] Re: Rankings of Sonata #1, Op. 2, No. 1
          >
          >
          > I just read the post that asks for explanations so I will add some
          > thoughts about why I chose each performance (where I can recall the
          > reason)
          >
          > 1. A Tie - Artur Schnabel (Naxos, Pearl) and Annie Fischer
          > (Hungaroton) - In both of these, there is a youthful, powerful
          > interpretation that works perfectly for the material. This isn't a
          > Beethoven you would mistake for Mozart or Haydn. The slow movements
          > are gorgeous as well.
          >
          > 2. Gulda, from his Amadeo/Brilliant Classics set- With a bit less
          > emotional involvement and more polished technique, this interpretation
          > is lean, brisk and right on the money.
          >
          > 3. Ciccolini - Cascavelle - I don't recall too much about this one,
          > but I do recall that much of the rest of his set is nothing special.
          >
          > 4. Kovacevich - EMI - Like Annie Fischer, his is a passionate
          > Beethoven. He may be a bit too muscular at times, but I prefer this to
          > a more dainty interpretation.
          >
          > 5. Backhaus - Stereo, Decca - Rock solid, serious and no-nonsense
          > Beethoven. Great!
          >
          > 6. Barenboim - DG - Here we get more beauty than heard in the others
          > and a slower tempo.
          >
          > 7. Nat - EMI - Like Gulda and Backhaus, no-nonsense Beethoven. I like
          > much of Nat's set.
          >
          > 8. Serkin - Sony - One of my favorite pianists. He waited too long to
          > record this, IMO. Had he recorded this in the mono age when he was
          > younger, it would surely be higher on the list. As it stands, it is
          > still very good. About the opposite of Barenboim, less sniffing of the
          > flowers, more straightforward interpretation.
          >
          > 9. Goode - Nonesuch - A good modern recording. Goode is reliable but
          > rarely exciting. He seems a bit too in control, something that does
          > not hinder the early sonatas too much IMO.
          >

        • Richard Mathisen
          gperkins, Thanks for your questions and comments! Oops! My reference to Op 2-3 was a typo! I meant Op 2-1. At some point, I do plan to move on to Sonata #2
          Message 4 of 11 , Jan 6, 2009
            gperkins,
             
            Thanks for your questions and comments!
             
            Oops!  My reference to Op 2-3 was a typo! I meant Op 2-1.
             
            At some point, I do plan to move on to Sonata #2 (Op 2 No 2), and then eventually to the others.
             
            For the record, this meeting now has 22 members. I plan to issue a few more invitations in the near future.
             
            Regarding Richter, all of my comments about Richter's recording of Op 2-1 are references to the studio recording of June 1976. I do not have the 10/10/76 live recording, although I would love to obtain it. Do you have any suggestions as to how to obtain it? Or the 10/16/76 one?
             
            Thanks for your comments on Roberts, Gulda and Backhaus, which are helpful.
             
            Regarding sound quality, I ought to explain that my original goal involved a possible commercial distribution of "best" recordings. Therefore, sound quality was important to me at that time. My lists of the "Top 15" recordings of each sonata are based on that sound quality criterion.
             
            However, this meeting is about *all* recordings, regardless of sound quality. Comments abiout any recording are welcome in this meeting, no matter what the sound quality.
             
            The other significant recording of Op 2-1 that was left off my preliminary rankings due to sound quality deficiencies was the recording by Solomon. I would have ranked it right behind Schnabel. In other words, after my #4 Annie Fischer, I would have ranked Schnabel next, then Solomon, then my #5 Schiff.
             
            I am a big fan of Josef Hofmann, Godowsky, Rachmaninoff, Lhevinne, and other pianists from the "Golden Age" of piano-playing, so I am very willing to listen to recordings of less-than-perfect sound quality. I do think that any recommendations to other people should contain some indication about sound quality in cases where the sound quality is questionable. I want to obtain the Schnabel transfer you mention because it sounds as if that transfer represents a significant improvement in sound quality.
             
            Incidentally, I have now received the Ciccolini cycle of 32 and I agree that the Ciccolini recording of Op 2-1 is good.
             
            Dick Mathisen
             
            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Friday, December 26, 2008 11:48 AM
            Subject: [beethovensonatas] Re: Rankings of Sonata #1, Op. 2, No. 1

            Nice to hear from you Richard! First of all, you said Op.2-3 below. I
            was referring to Op.2, No.1. Was yours simply a typo?

            With the Richter, which performance are you referring to? Trovar lists 3:

            Sonata No. 1 in f, opus 2 no. 1

            1. (Grange de Meslay, Besnardière, Tours, 6/1976)
            o EMI ASD 3364 (LP 1977) or 02844 Q (LP)
            o EMI/Angel/Toshiba EAC 80344 (LP) or EAC 50008-9 (LP)
            o EMI Eminence/Toshiba EAC-55136 (LP)
            o Melodiya 33C 10-10087-88 (LP 1978) or S10 10087 008 (LP)
            o Angel [ US ] S-37266 (LP 1977) or RL-32085 (LP)
            o EMI CMS7 64429 (CD) or CZS7 67197 (CD) or 575272 (CD)
            o EMI/Toshiba TOCE-7735 (CD) or TOCE 13253 (CD)
            o EMI Classics Grandmaster TOCE 3281 (CD)
            2. (Moscow, 10 Oct 1976)
            o Music & Arts CD-775 (CD) or CD-946 (CD)
            o Seven Seas / King Records KICC 2273 (CD)
            o Suncrown CRLB-55004 (LaserDisc)
            o Nippon Crown CRCB-7005 / 7006 (CD)
            o Dream Time [Japan] JPBC 14828 (DVD)
            3. (Moscow, Great Hall of the Conservatory, 15 October 1976, live)
            on Yedang [Korea] YCC 0142 (CD)

            I have the first two and I must say after quick comparison, the second
            is better. The sound isn't what you'd prefer, I'm sure. But that live
            excitement and joy Richter usually conveyed is very much present,
            making this a more involving and enjoyable performance. The third
            movement and finale are both faster than in that first studio version,
            so the menuetto comes across much better. In fact, I will need to
            reevaluate this performance, for it is surely among my top ten.

            I think Bernard Roberts's performance is really hurt by the
            over-resonant hall his set was recorded in. This blurs the music too
            much for me. Here's my notes on each movement:
            1. Slower than Barenboim (too slow), he has a nice grace. Clean
            playing here, but lacks some of the necessary tension.
            2. Taken slowly like Schnabel and Barenboim, this has a nice tenderness.
            3. Nice liquid rhythm here, he's great!
            4. Slower than most, he again has nice grace.

            So as you can see he's got a lot of strength to my ears, but he's just
            not among my top ten favorites. Surely my top 20, though. Top 10 means
            "great" to me, top 20, "good."

            Gulda made number two because he cares less about beauty and more
            about his technique and tempos that convey the drama of the music. His
            technique is impeccable. This is no-nonsense Beethoven epitomized. To
            me, this first sonata begins the journey through the 32 sonatas. With
            Barenboim and Roberts, you realize that you are on the scenic route.
            With Gulda, you're on the freeway. :) Not rushing though, just
            efficiently getting where you are going without taking any shortcuts
            or pit stops.

            I hope that in time you can become more tolerant of sound quality. I
            know that for me, I was very resistant at first, but over time I have
            become more willing to hear older recordings. I think MOT did wonders
            for the Schnabel set on Naxos. Not a ton of noise, nor does he wash it
            all away, making the piano sound as if it's being played underwater,
            like so many historical piano transfers. the individual CDs are cheap
            over at MDT. Nat I never found to have a historical sound, but then I
            am not too picky about that. I am picky about who does the transfers,
            though.

            Backhaus is like Gulda, only he takes shortcuts. I actually like
            having the alternate view of the sonatas without repeats. It allows me
            to clearly see the ABA structure. Plus when comparing it sure is more
            efficient.

            Nice chatting with you too! I look forward to this ongoing discussion.

            --- In beethovensonatas@ yahoogroups. com, "Richard Mathisen"
            <richard.mathisen@ ...> wrote:
            >
            > Thank you very much for the list of your top 10 recordings of Op 2-3!

            > In general, your rankings followed my own rankings very closely.
            There were a couple of major differences, which I will point out. The
            two major differences were regarding Bernard Roberts, my #1, which did
            not make your cut, and Sviatoslav Richter, my #9, which also did not
            make your cut. Would you be willing to offer any comments on those two
            recordings? (I know that my own problem with the Richter is the very
            slow third movement -- Menuetto -- but I don't know whether that is
            your concern.)
            >
            > Schnabel and Nat, two of your choices, were missing from my list
            only because of sound quality. I required certain standards of sound
            quality, basically "hi-fi," which the Schnabel recording from the
            1930's and the Nat from 1955 did not meet, in my opinion. However, I
            did make my own estimation of the Schnabel, apart from sound quality,
            and it compared almost exactly with the Annie Fischer recording. Since
            I ranked the Annie Fischer recording as #4, I would rank the Schnabel
            recording as #4.5 on my list.
            >
            > Therefore, apart from the Bernard Roberts recording, your top two
            (Schnabel and Fischer) were also my top two (of the recordings which
            you said you had available to you).
            >
            > Gulda (Amadeo), Kovacevich, and Goode were three recordings you had
            on your list that had not made my cut. In each case I agree that they
            ought to be considered among the better recordings (what I would call
            the top 20). I will want to re-evaluate them again. Offhand, I think
            that Kovacevich might be in the top 10 and Gulda and Goode might be in
            the top 15 in my rankings, when I redo the rankings as I intend to do
            in 2009.
            >
            > Gulda's ranking as #2 on your list (actually #3 because of the tie
            for #1) surprised me a little. I may have to listen to Gulda a few
            more times. Sometimes recordings have beauties that require several
            hearings to fully appreciate.
            >
            > You made several comments about recordings of Op 2-3 that I strongly
            agree with, especially adjectives such as "youthful, powerful,
            no-nonsense, straightforward. " Op 2-3 deosn't respond well to a lot of
            interpretation. Any fussing around hurts it.
            >
            > The Barenboim DGG recording is a good case in point. It is truly
            beautiful tonally and is also emotionally involved. The problem for me
            is the excessive rubato in the 3rd and 4th movements. I want to say to
            him, "Just play the music!"
            >
            > The Serkin recording has much to recommend it, but the slow tempos
            in the 1st and 3rd movements detract from the overall impact.
            >
            > The Backhaus stereo recording was once my top choice, although it
            slipped to my #12 as I purchased more and more recordings. I agree
            that it captures the spirit of the piece very well. I wish Backhaus
            had taken the Exposition repeats in the 1st and 4th movements.
            >
            > The Goode recording is quite decent. The 3rd and 4th movements seem
            much better to me than the 1st and 2nd.
            >
            > I'm looking forward to hearing more of your comments about this
            sonata and future sonatas!
            >
            > Dick Mathisen
            >
            > > I can see you have put a lot of time into this. I will share my
            favorites, in order, as well. i like the first movement on the fast
            side, same with the finale.
            >
            > 1. A Tie - Artur Schnabel (Naxos, Pearl) and Annie Fischer (Hungaroton)
            > 2. Gulda, from his Amadeo/Brilliant Classics set
            > 3. Ciccolini - Cascavelle
            > 4. Kovacevich - EMI
            > 5. Backhaus - Stereo, Decca
            > 6. Barenboim - DG
            > 7. Nat - EMI
            > 8. Serkin - Sony
            > 9. Goode - Nonesuch
            >
            > Others I have but don't make the cut - Richter, Roberts, Arrau,
            Kempff (mono), Brendel (Vox).
            >
            >
            > ----- Original Message -----
            > From: gperkins151
            > To: beethovensonatas@ yahoogroups. com
            > Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 9:33 PM
            > Subject: [beethovensonatas] Re: Rankings of Sonata #1, Op. 2, No. 1
            >
            >
            > I just read the post that asks for explanations so I will add some
            > thoughts about why I chose each performance (where I can recall the
            > reason)
            >
            > 1. A Tie - Artur Schnabel (Naxos, Pearl) and Annie Fischer
            > (Hungaroton) - In both of these, there is a youthful, powerful
            > interpretation that works perfectly for the material. This isn't a
            > Beethoven you would mistake for Mozart or Haydn. The slow movements
            > are gorgeous as well.
            >
            > 2. Gulda, from his Amadeo/Brilliant Classics set- With a bit less
            > emotional involvement and more polished technique, this interpretation
            > is lean, brisk and right on the money.
            >
            > 3. Ciccolini - Cascavelle - I don't recall too much about this one,
            > but I do recall that much of the rest of his set is nothing special.
            >
            > 4. Kovacevich - EMI - Like Annie Fischer, his is a passionate
            > Beethoven. He may be a bit too muscular at times, but I prefer this to
            > a more dainty interpretation.
            >
            > 5. Backhaus - Stereo, Decca - Rock solid, serious and no-nonsense
            > Beethoven. Great!
            >
            > 6. Barenboim - DG - Here we get more beauty than heard in the others
            > and a slower tempo.
            >
            > 7. Nat - EMI - Like Gulda and Backhaus, no-nonsense Beethoven. I like
            > much of Nat's set.
            >
            > 8. Serkin - Sony - One of my favorite pianists. He waited too long to
            > record this, IMO. Had he recorded this in the mono age when he was
            > younger, it would surely be higher on the list. As it stands, it is
            > still very good. About the opposite of Barenboim, less sniffing of the
            > flowers, more straightforward interpretation.
            >
            > 9. Goode - Nonesuch - A good modern recording. Goode is reliable but
            > rarely exciting. He seems a bit too in control, something that does
            > not hinder the early sonatas too much IMO.
            >

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