||Wilhelm Backhaus, piano
Recorded between 1950 and 1953
XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, February 2012
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Wilhelm Backhaus
Total duration: 66:40
©2012 Pristine Audio.
Download ID: 1567251-54
For FLAC playback and conversion support see our Help pages
Download price category:
Download the complete Backhaus Beethoven Sonata Series and save 10% over individual prices:
|16-bit Ambient Stereo FLAC - Sonatas 1-32:
|€72 €64.80 |
Order the complete Backhaus Beethoven Sonata Series on CD and save 10% over individual prices
(prices exclude shipping):
|8 mono CDs, no covers:
|€80 €72 |
|8 mono CDs & covers:
|€112 €100.80 |
|8 Ambient Stereo CDs & covers:
|€112 €100.80 |
Not working? click here
The 2012 Backhaus
1. Sonatas 1-4
2. Sonatas 5-9
3. Sonatas 10-13
4. Sonatas 14-17
5. Sonatas 18-22
6. Sonatas 23-26
7. Sonatas 27-29
8. Sonatas 30-32
9. Concerto 1, Diabelli
10. Concertos 2 & 3
11. Concertos 4 & 5
Third volume in Backhaus's magnificent first Beethoven Sonata cycle
Long only available on rare imports, and in new 32-bit XR remasters - this is unmissable
- BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 14, No. 2 [notes / score]
Recorded April 1952
Issued as Decca LXT 2931
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 11 in B flat major, Op. 22 [notes / score]
Recorded November 1953
Issued as Decca LXT 2920
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 12 in A flat major, Op. 26 "March Funébre" [notes / score]
Recorded June 1950
Issued as Decca LXT 2532
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 13 in E flat major, Op. 27, No. 1 "Quasi una fantasia" [notes / score]
Recorded November 1952
Issued as Decca LXT 2780
Wilhelm Backhaus piano
Recording producer: Victor Olof
Recorded at Victoria Hall, Geneva
FLAC Downloads includes a PDF score of each sonata
"No words of mine are needed to establish Backhaus among the great living pianists, nor to analyse his qualities. But it has not been possible for him always to convey his greatness through the exacting process of wax and needle. In the Funeral March Sonata, he does so almost to perfection, in my judgement. This is a recording memorable on many grounds; perhaps the most important ground, and the one to vibrate longest in the memory, is that he gives us true, clear Beethoven unadulterated by Backhaus. Here he is the genuine performer of idealism— the transmitting post, the canal or pipe through which the dead pianist-composer's music comes to life as he meant and wrote it. The theme and variations of the first movement are kept moving along at a pace that allows feeling but not sentimentality. The pianistic points here are variety of tone colour, evenness, and an enviable leggiero. In the scherzo the repeats are performed as marked, which is gratifying. The Funeral March for the Hero's Death is taken at the right speed—a difficult one to settle on, and rarely attained; the forte interuptions are imperative but never strident. Backhaus's innate sense of classical style has its full expression in the finale, which is played in a model combination of charm, manliness, and Beethovenish humour."
H.F. The Gramophone, June 1951 (Reviewing LXT2532, excerpt concerning Sonata No. 12) [link]
"This disc shows Backhaus's great gifts in their most enjoyable light. He seems to revel in the "old-fashioned" Beethoven of Op. 22 , and brings out delightfully the humour of the middle section of the Minuet in which the composer seems to laugh at the period in which he is moving. In the opening movement of the same sonata Backhaus reminds us, in the course of the recapitulation, of how delicately he can play when he wishes to do so... The piano tone is good, and altogether the disc takes a high place in the long list of Backhaus's Beethoven recordings."
A.R. The Gramophone, June 1954 (Reviewing LXT2920, excerpt concerning Sonata No. 11) [link]
Notes on the recordings:
As with other releases in this series I've taken great care to bring consistency to the tuning of Backhaus's piano where previously it was absent - the average pitches for each of these four sonatas as presented by Decca were A4 = 433.9, 442.5, 432.7 and 438.7 hertz respectively. Furthermore the 12th started low, before drifting gradually upwards, whilst the opposite effect was to be heard in the 13th. Owners of the Japanese Decca (London) CD reissue of the 13th will also be familiar with a 'sticky edit' pitch lurch of more than a tone in the finale, not present here, as well as several completely missing notes in the middle of first movement!
Tonally I've continued to accept slightly higher than usual levels of tape hiss in order to bring out the full tone of Backhaus's piano, something which was considerably muted in the Decca incarnation. Once again it was no surprise to discover that the later recordings were of somewhat better audio quality than the earlier ones.
Click here to view additional notes
Biographical notes from Wikipedia
Wilhelm Backhaus ('Bachaus' on some record labels) (March 26, 1884 – July 5, 1969) was a German pianist and pedagogue.
Born in Leipzig, Backhaus studied at the conservatoire there with Alois Reckendorf until 1899, later taking private piano lessons with Eugen d'Albert in Frankfurt. As a boy of 9 or 10 he was taken to hear both of the Brahms piano concertos performed by d'Albert — and conducted by Brahms himself. He made his first concert tour at the age of sixteen. In 1905 he won the Anton Rubinstein Competition with Béla Bartók taking second place. He toured widely throughout his life - in 1921 he gave seventeen concerts in Buenos Aires in less than three weeks. Backhaus made his U.S. debut on January 5, 1912, as soloist in Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto with Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphony Orchestra. In 1930 he moved to Lugano and became a citizen of Switzerland. He died in Villach in Austria where he was to play in a concert. His last recital a few days earlier in Ossiach was recorded.
Backhaus was particularly well known for his interpretations of Beethoven and romantic music such as that by Brahms. He was also much admired as a chamber musician. One of the reasons for his unique sound is his choice of a Bösendorfer piano for his performances and recordings, as opposed to the more common use of Steinway pianos.
According to some critics, Backhaus was one of the first modern artists of the keyboard (see Alfred Cortot for his antithesis) and played with a clean, spare, and objective style. In spite of this analytic approach, his performances are full of feeling. One of the first pianists to leave recordings, he had a long career on the concert stage and in the studio and left us a great legacy. He recorded virtually the complete works of Beethoven and a large quantity of Mozart and Brahms, and he was also the first to record the Chopin etudes, in 1928; this is still widely regarded as one of the best recordings (Pearl 9902 and others). Backhaus plays them smoothly and softly, overcoming their technical challenges without apparent effort. A live recording from 1953 includes seven of the Études, Op. 25 and shows the changes that occurred in his playing style over the years (Aura 119). His technical command is the same, but he is more relaxed and confident and more willing to let the music speak for itself.
His January 27, 1936 recording of Brahms's Waltzes, Op. 39, runs just over thirteen minutes. His studio recordings of the complete Beethoven sonatas, made in the 1960s, display exceptional technique for a man in his seventies (Decca 433882), as do the two Brahms concertos from about the same time (Decca 433895). His live Beethoven recordings are in some ways even better, freer and more vivid (Orfeo 300921).
His chamber music recordings include Brahms's cello sonatas, with Pierre Fournier, and Franz Schubert's Trout Quintet with the International Quartet and Claude Hobday.
The Times praised Backhaus in its 1969 obituary for having upheld the classical German music tradition of the Leipzig Conservatory. His phenomenal transposing powers spawned many anecdotes: finding the piano a semitone too low at a rehearsal of Grieg's A minor Concerto, he simply played in B flat minor — and then in A minor at the concert, after the instrument had been correctly tuned.
Backhaus was quick to recognize the importance of the gramophone. His July 15, 1909 somewhat abridged recording of the Grieg Concerto was not only the first recording of that work, but the first time any concerto had ever been recorded. Later, on January 5, 1928, he made the first complete set of recordings of the Chopin études. At his death, Backhaus was just completing his second complete Beethoven sonata cycle. All that was missing was the Hammerklavier Sonata — when, according to the Beethoven specialist Stephen Kovacevich, Wilhelm Backhaus was the only pianist to have really understood it. (Excerpts from the book/guide to the “Great Pianists of the 20th Century”, published and © in 1998 by the Philips Music Group).
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Backhaus
covers to print:
(NB. Disable Page Scaling before printing)
CD-writing cuesheet (save as .cue):
(Use this to split MP3 files - see here)
our Full Discography
Printable text listings of all Pristine Audio historic releases
by Andrew Rose:
Pristine Classical - DRM-free historic FLAC and MP3 downloads since 2005