András Schiff BEETHOVEN Sonatas opp. 26, 27 and 28

 The first three instalments of András Schiff’s Beethoven cycle in chronological order have met with great critical acclaim. “This will be one of the great Beethoven sonata sets” was the verdict of ‘Fanfare’ while ‘Die Zeit’ saluted an “outstanding Beethoven interpreter”. On volume III released last autumn, Anthony Holden wrote in Britain’s ‘Observer’: “As always, Schiff is a master of detail, often rephrasing bars you thought you knew well, coming up with fine nuances while never losing sight of the work’s overall architecture. Recorded live in Zurich’s Tonhalle, thanks to Schiff’s belief that it’s vital to play in front of an audience, this is a distinguished instalment in an outstanding cycle.”
Volume IV includes four masterworks of strong individual features dating from 1800 and 1801 which in Schiff’s view conclude his “early” period. “Between 1795 and 1801 Beethoven establishes himself as a superb master of the art of characterisation, and is also revelling in experimentation”, he explains in the booklet-interview with Martin Meyer stressing the formal innovations in the sonatas recorded here. “While the A flat Sonata op. 26 for the first time places a variation movement at the start of the work, the two op. 27 Sonatas are specifically described as being ‘quasi una fantasia’. The D-major Sonata op. 28 makes a return to the ‘classical’ four-movement design, but once again we find very surprising solutions, above all in the realm of a differentiation between sonorities.”
Even in the famous “Moonlight” sonata Schiff’s attention to detail leads to unexpected listening experiences. “Nobody in the hall will have heard this first movement like that before” wrote Peter Hagmann in the ‘Neue Zürcher Zeitung’ after the recital in Tonhalle Zurich that was recorded live for ECM. “Not the kind of over-demonstrative approach which has become common these days lies at the heart of this interpretation but the consequent and courageous scrutiny of the musical text.”
In November 2006 Schiff completed his Beethoven cycle in major European cities playing the sonatas opp. 109–111. In the ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’ Julia Spinola writing on the Munich recital observed that the sonatas “sounded like the purest essence of Beethoven’s late style, as if they were extracted from marble.”


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