Some musicians have an almost spooky connection with certain composers. Bohm and Mozart, Jochum and Bruckner, Ashkenazy and Chopin, Sawallisch and Richard Strauss-- these are a few ideal pairings in my collection. And Alfred Brendel is the undisputed master of Beethoven's piano sonatas. During the stereo and digital eras, Brendel has *lived* in the Beethoven 32. He breathes them, speaks them, eats and drinks them. No performer I know of has explored the 32 with such insight and intelligence. Brendel doesn't exaggerate or rush, prettify or pound. His beautiful touch allows each note to sing, as his fingers strike each key in a way that makes me think, "Just right." Just as impressively, Brendel understands and handles the architecture of each piece with breathless command. Barenboim may be more passionate, Ashkenazy more the virtuoso-- but among current pianists, Brendel is the greatest interpreter of Beethoven. We are so fortunate that he is alive in our times, and I'm sure another time will look back on him as the equal to Kempff, Backhaus, Fischer, and Arrau. If you can't afford to buy the complete digital set, then try this excellent selection of the "name" sonatas. Brendel's "Pathetique" avoids all crudity and self-indulgence. His "Waldstein" is a poem. His "Moonlight" steers clear of the predictable. In some ways, these versions are superior to his later efforts, for they exhibit a certain freshness of attack. From these selections, one may not realize that Beethoven was very witty, even humorous, at the keyboard, and Brendel's own quirky personality and curious mind have always brought out those qualities in Beethoven as well. But whether you're experiencing the entire 32, or just these famous pieces, you'll find no better guide than the Austrian of the goofy glasses and wispy hair.