BACKHAUS Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4 (1952/53) - PAKM054

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BACKHAUS Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4 (1952/53) - PAKM054

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BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas 14-17

Recorded in 1952 and 1953
Total duration: 75:26

Wilhelm Backhaus, piano

This set contains the following albums:

Fourth 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

Generally speaking these recordings provided reasonably straightforward work for the remastering engineer, especially coming, as this volume has, a good number of sonatas into the series, with many carefully-chosen settings now determined for the series, restoration techniques suitable for the material worked out, and only minor variations to be found. The Moonlight offers slightly higher background hiss - this seems to be a characteristic of this work in a number of recordings, possible as a result of the works intrinsically wide dynamic range.

Andrew Rose

  • BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 "Moonlight"
    Recorded October 1952
    Issued as Decca LXT 2780

  • BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 "Pastorale"
    Recorded November 1953
    Issued as Decca LXT 2903

  • BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 16 in G major, Op. 31 No. 1
    Recorded November 1953
    Issued as Decca LXT 2950

  • BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2 "The Tempest"
    Recorded May 1952
    Issued as Decca LXT 2747

    Wilhelm Backhaus
    Recording producer: Victor Olof
    Recorded at Victoria Hall, Geneva

Gramophone Historic Review

The last movement, needless to say, is played in the grand manner and is undeniably exciting

"It is disagreeable to write about artists of distinction as if they were candidates at a competitive festival, but it would be ingenuous not to make a comparison between Gieseking's and Backhaus's playing of the " Moonlight " Sonata. I have spoken elsewhere in this issue of the moving interpretation Gieseking gives of the Adagio. Backhaus takes a much more matter-of-fact view, is wayward over the rhythm, and makes a very decided ritardando before the recapitu lation. I find here a serious meditation devoid of poetic impulse, a lack which shows in the treatment of the accompanimental triplets. There is rather a heavy stress on the first beats of the Allegretto and, in the second section, the quaver figure sounds jerky (Gieseking plays it smoothly, using no emphasis).

The last movement, needless to say, is played in the grand manner and is undeniably exciting, but without the fine nuances of phrasing and articulation Gieseking gives us. The recording stands up pretty well to the pianist's assault on the last movement and is rather fuller in tone than Gieseking's in the preceding movement, although never more than adequate."

A.R. The Gramophone, October 1953 (Reviewing LXT2780, excerpt concerning Sonata No. 14)


"His " Pastoral " Sonata can be compared with that of Denis Matthews on Columbia 33SX1021, reviewed by L.S. last month (a review I am entirely at one with). In I Matthews is smooth, reflective and sober ; he observes the repeat. Backhaus, without repeat, is rougher ; on the last page he disregards the pianissimo. In the first section of II Matthews is far steadier and more sensitive than Backhaus, but he smooths down the discords too much. In the section marked l' is tesso tempo Backhaus suddenly achieves that sparkling elegance which is a mark of his playing at its best here Matthews conveys the impression of alertness but with unsuitable timidity. In III the English pianist is too tame, slightly too slow. And his lack of power in IV is all too apparent ; how exciting Backhaus is as he works towards the climax."

A.R. The Gramophone, June 1954 (Reviewing LXT2903, excerpt concerning Sonata No. 15)