Skip to content
Home » Classical Downloads » Backhaus: Beethoven – The Piano Sonatas (8 CD box set, APE)

Backhaus: Beethoven – The Piano Sonatas (8 CD box set, APE)

Backhaus: Beethoven - The piano sonatas (8 CD box set, APE)
Backhaus: Beethoven - The piano sonatas (8 CD box set, APE)

Audio CD
Number of Discs: 8 CD box set
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Decca
Size: 1.53 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Disc 1
01-04. Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op.2 No.1
05-08. Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op.2 No.2
09-12. Piano Sonata No. 3 in C major, Op.2 No.3
13-16. Piano Sonata No. 4 in E flat major, Op.7

Disc 2
01-03. Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op.19 No.1
04-06. Piano Sonata No. 6 in F major, Op.10 No.2
07-10. Piano Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op.10 No.3
11-13. Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op.13 ‘Path?tique’
14-16. Piano Sonata No. 9 in E major, Op.14 No.1

Disc 3
01-03. Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op.14 No.2
04-07. Piano Sonata No. 11 in B flat major, Op.22
08-11. Piano Sonata No. 12 in A flat major, Op.26
12-14. Piano Sonata No. 13 in E flat major, Op.27 No.1

Disc 4
01-03. Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op.27 No.2 ‘Moonlight’
04-07. Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op.28 ‘Pastorale’
08-10. Piano Sonata No. 16 in G major, Op.31 No.1
11-13. Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op.31 No.2 ‘Tempest’

Disc 5
01-04. Piano Sonata No. 18 in E flat major, Op.31 No.3 ‘The Hunt’
05-06. Piano Sonata No. 19 in G minor, Op.49 No.1
07-08. Piano Sonata No. 20 in G major, Op.49 No.2
09-11. Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op.53 ‘Waldstein’
12-13. Piano Sonata No. 22 in F major, Op.54

Disc 6
01-03. Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op.57 ‘Appassionata’
04-05. Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major, Op.78
06-08. Piano Sonata No. 25 in G major, Op.79
09-11. Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, Op.81a ‘Les Adieux’

Disc 7
01-02. Piano Sonata No. 27 in E minor, Op.90
03-06. Piano Sonata No. 28 in A major, Op.101
07-10. Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op.106 ‘Hammerklavier’

Disc 8
01-03. Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op.109
04-07. Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op.110
08-09. Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op.111

In the 21st century, Wilhelm Backhaus has become something of a forgotten man. When his name is mentioned, it is usually only in an obligatory fashion – a name one drops to show they know a bit about music history, and nothing more. Too often, Backhaus is merely seen as a ghost whose salad days are only hinted at in murky sounding recordings from the pre-Hi Fi era.

The truth is that right up until his death in the Summer of 1969 (at the age of 85), Backhaus remained a Lion. After the Second World War, Backhaus recorded the 32 Beethoven Sonatas twice – once in very good mono, and again in wonderful early stereo. This set is comprised of the stereo recordings made between 1958 and 1969, with the exception of the Hammerklavier, which Backhaus was unable to set down before his death in 1969. This set contains the mono version of #29, recorded in 1952 (in excellent mono).

Backhaus’ signature style – direct, propulsive, architectonic, and unsentimental – is in evidence in all 32. Of the early works, I was particularly taken with his Op. 10 sonatas, which Backhaus plays with a unique combination of clarity, balance (his mastery of harmonics is unparalleled), and powerful technique. Unlike many of today’s artists who seek clarity at the expense of all other things, Backhaus is able to bring out the kalediscopic colors of Beethoven’s writing without shortchanging us on emotion. At the same time, he does not try to dress-up this music with over-pedalling, dramatic pauses, or other mannerisms that reflect more on the performer than on the music itself.

Backhaus’ objectivism is not cold or detached, but rather intensely musical. His disinclination to show-off and ruminate gives these sonatas a sense of propulsion and architecture. You can sense the confidence that comes from a lifetime spent with these works. This is especially important in the Middle Period Sonatas (Op.27 through Op.101), where too many pianists over-Romanticize Beethoven. His clear-eyed, virtuoso, high-energy Moonlight, Pastoral, Tempest, Hunt, Waldstein, Appassionata, a Therese, and Les adieux come off wonderfully – each note ringing through, Backhaus’ brilliant technique illuminating all of the bright colors while keeping Beethoven’s wild side under firm control. In these works, Backhaus is as athletic as any pianist with the exception of the preternatural Richter. It’s amazing the think that this was still possible in his late 70’s/early 80’s.

As well executed as the early and middle period sonatas are, the highlights of this set are probably the late sonatas. The brilliant pianism Backhaus dlsplays on the mono Hammerklavier, recorded in 1952, probably would have been undiminished had Backhaus lived long enough to make the stereo studio recording in the 60s. Backhaus’ penchant for architecture, clarity, and iron technique serve these final essays in Beethoven’s piano ouvre very well indeed.

Backhaus recorded all 32 of these sonatas on his beloved Bosendorfer, a choice which seems perfectly matched to his style. The sound is bright, deep, warm, but crystal clear. There is not a lot of reverb or harmonic distortion here (vis-a-vis a Steinway). Backhaus avoids the pedal and as a result we have a set of Beethoven sonatas that stand out from the efforts of Kempff and Arrau. And unlike other objectivists such as Brendel, Backhaus has plenty of power and propulsion in his technique. The power and the glory are his – and ours.

9 thoughts on “Backhaus: Beethoven – The Piano Sonatas (8 CD box set, APE)”

Leave a Reply