- Audio CD (Jun 1 2010)
- Number of Discs: 8
- Format: Box set, Import
- Label: EMI Classics
- ASIN: B000002S29
- In-Print Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
When I decided to get the Schnabel set on CD, I first did a few comparisons. I was frankly appalled when I heard this EMI set - it is distinctly inferior even to my Angel LP's (which in turn I suspect were inferior to the earlier RCA LPs). Then I had an opportunity to hear the Pearl set. In the main I found the Pearls to be "plain Jane," unfiltered transfers from pretty noisy 78's. Then I chanced to come across the 14-disc Dante set, which also includes all the miscellaneous Beethoven piano music recorded by Schnabel (bagatelles, variations, etc.) PLUS the 5 concertoes with Malcolm Sargent AND the later Emperor with Galliera. I was lucky: the 14-disc set was selling as a discontinued remainder item for just $28. The sound is superb - vastly superior to anything else I have heard.
Schnabel's interpretations are inspired, even when his fingers are hitting a few wrong notes (most notably in the Hammerklavier Sonata - and even there, his Adagio is simply unequalled in my experience). I also treasure a CD box set of the complete sonatas recorded in the 1950's for EMI by French pianist Yves Nat, some of whose performances I even prefer to Schnabel's. These two box sets are the cornerstone of my Beethoven piano collection - they are supplemented by many individual sonatas from the likes of Richter, Levy, Renard, Hungerford, and Gieseking.
My advice: Schnabel's Beethoven Sonata recordings belong in any serious piano collection. However, I would definitely avoid this EMI set and explore the alternatives. My choice is the Dante set.
The sound quality isn't that dull, lifeless or muffled as one critic noted, but possibly the Pearl set or the recent NAXOS series is a better sonic choice. All I know for sure is this EMI set has done me right for many, many years. The human ear adjusts quickly and the sound quality soon becomes "good enough" so you can enjoy these incredible (sparkling and flowing) recordings from the 1930's.