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Piano Works: 1822-1828 Box set
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A reissue of Alfred Brendel's DIGITAL recordings of Schubert's major piano works recorded 1987-88. This is one of several releases to mark Alfred Brendel's 80th birthday on 5 January 2011 [other releases include Beethoven Sonatas & Concertos; 3-CD Artists Choice Anniversary collection; 2-CD set of live Concertos [Brahms & Mozart]
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Top Customer Reviews
All the CDs have surprisingly good sound quality, considering they were recorded in the late 1980's where the quality of DDD recording was still evolving. I have to give hats off once again to Decca for their brilliant engineering and mixing. The piano sounds rich, brilliant and loud.
I highly recommend this set, especially if you are Schubert or romantic music lover, because it contains so many tunes with which we would already be familiar with and shows us how wonderfully romantic but simultaneously deep, Schubert's music really was!
Some of the Greatest solo piano works ever written played by a great pianist .
The first disk of the set I got has a defect.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
No less than nine Sonatas, Moments musicaux, complete Impromptus, German Dances, Hungarian melody and other pieces, along with the mighty "Wanderer" fantasy are lined up in 7 CDs recorded within a few months at the end of 1980s. Schubert has for long been a close musical friend of Brendel. The graceful style - though unfolding at times deep passions and hard tensions - along with a subtle sense of melody and a crystal-clear finger-work are the features that singled out this very special musician, so suitable for the Viennese classicism. Brendel has been always craving for clarity and poise, seeking in his performances the truths of the scores, the very intentions of the composers. Everything has to make sense in Brendel's playing. Everything has to touch the soul of the listener in an elegant manner. Yet inner coherence of the piece and its logical substance are mandatory.
His mature reading here proves a keen insight in Schubert's music highlighting an otherworldly delicacy. Harsh accents are carefully avoided. Lyrical dimension is potentiated al the time, whilst even the bleak anguish of the last sonatas gains a serene light. What a controlled firework in the "Wanderer" fantasy! How precisely and charmingly the tender side comes out from the impromptus!
What a more proper present could we offer Alfred Brendel on his anniversary than our loving thought for him, a deep bow for his presence in music, and the nostalgic regret that he decided in December 2008 to stop concertizing? So that from then on the unique flavor of his unmatched music-making can marvel us only from his recordings. A musical treasure that we are happily cherishing....
In the case of Schubert, who Brendel has a special affinity for, there are some early recordings made for Vanguard and then there are the late sonatas and impromptus recorded for Philips in the 1970's (Schubert: The Last Three Piano Sonatas D. 958-959-960 and Schubert: The Complete Impromptus), and then the digital series undertaken for Philips between 1987-88 which make up this newly reissued box set. As it happens, these recordings aren't the last word on Schubert from Brendel, given that Philips has issued various live recordings from the pianist under it's "Artist's Choice" program. Indeed, there are mixed messages from the pianist about which of his recordings he preferred. In an introductory note accompanying a Schubert anthology of four sonatas recorded in recitals from 1997-1999 (Schubert: Piano Sonatas, D575, 894, 959 & 960), Brendel calls the performances "correctives, alternatives or supplements to my previous studio recordings." While one of these sonatas (D. 575) makes its first appearance in Brendel's discography, we're left to ask which of the others the pianist feels are "correctives" vs "alternatives." Since Brendel was known to be a perfectionist, it should come as no surprise that the differences between the studio and live readings are matters of subtlety, not substance. The recital readings have a tension that comes with live performance; the studio readings are sharply etched in a way that is also appealing. I like them both.
Brendel has a well-deserved reputation as a distinguished Schubert player. His awareness of the difficulties in Schubert's writing translates into sensitively nuanced interpretations that are grounded in the composer's weltanschauung. While Brendel communicates the proximity of death in the composer's late works, this isn't the thematic focus of his Schubert. Instead, there is detailed structure and forward momentum against a backdrop that reflects a genuine understanding of Schubert's musical world. Brendel's approach to Schubert has much in common with Kempff's - both are focused on architecture, tend toward extroversion and play in a relatively straightforward, non-rhetorical way. Kempff is more congenial than Brendel, reflecting a generally sunny disposition that was a trademark of his playing. Both project a Viennese flavor without overdoing it, and while Brendel is more tuned into the sublime element in Schubert, capturing this is not an easy thing to do. Because of the structure of the scores, which are more like extended fantasies than sonatas, the pianist is challenged to strike a delicate balance between extroversion and introversion, to find and display subtleties that can easily be passed over, and to do this without getting bogged down in excessive point-making. Brendel is successful in this respect and while there may be individual recordings that I love from Richter and Zacharias, to name two of my favorite Schubert pianists in addition to Kempff, overall Brendel's tight, stylish readings are among the best I've heard.
I've complained in other reviews about the recorded sound in Brendel's Schubert series, which tends to be rather on the hard side, and wonder whether this can attributed to the instrument - perhaps a Bosendorfer. But this is not enough of an issue to deter prospective purchasers from acquiring this outstanding set, especially given the bargain price Decca has assigned to it.
At the end of 2010 Mr. Brendel retired from the stage (sadly) and will be surely missed by the music world in live performance.
Philips seems to have disappeared, and now Decca is reissuing previous releases from the past, and also new never issued recordings.
This particular one, Brendel's "tribute" or "salute" to Schubert (if you will) is a blockbuster and in turn can be viewed as a "salute" by Decca to Mr. Brendel in itself. Of high value it is sure to be appreciated and loved by all his many fans (both previous and those to come) and it, along with Radu Lupu's and Andras Schiff's recordings of Schubert's masterpieces belong in everyone's collection (surely). These three musicians, for me, embody what the piano and Schubert were all about. All three artists hold the architectural line of these great works and yet give sway to a warmth and introspective dimensions yet never become saccharin to those feelings/interpretations. Kempff was also a great interpreter of Schubert, but I find the sound lacking on these older recordings and am wondering if a remastering by DG might lead to an improvement.
Regardless, this set at the crazy "give away" price that Decca is asking for it is an absolute steal, and you should not hesitate to grab this up before it is either gone or they change their mind on how much it is worth asking for price wise.
Having had many of these recordings on lp's years ago, this striking little "red, white, and blue" box is especially welcome back into my collection and is nestled in with the Lupu, Schiff, and Kempff recordings quite comfortably!
Additionally, may I draw your attention also to a few other recent releases that I also consider part of this awesome "Salute" to Alfred Brendel by the folks at Decca. Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas & Concertos, Farewell Concerts, The Artist's Collection: Alfred Brendel [Box Set], Birthday Tribute. Each and every one of these releases are "front row center" worthy of being on your shelves.
You are sure to enjoy this Awesome boxed release of Brendel's Schubert!
In this bargain-priced 7-CD set of Schubert's late piano writing (1822-28), Philips did not pick and choose to find Brendel's best of the best. What we have are his early digital recordings from 1987-88 (Brendel has expressed a preference for them), and it's evident that he did not significantly rethink each interpretation, or really need to. To my ears, the whole set sounds like prime Brendel, yet it's only a shade different from Brendel at any time, even the earliest outings. Whatever subtle distinctions his devotees find, they are lost on me. If you begin with the first piece, the Sonata in D, D. 850, his style becomes immediately evident: very clear tone in a bright timbre, minimal pedaling, with alert tempos, clipped attack, discreet rubato, and so on--the familiar Brendel approach in music form Haydn to Liszt.
Let me aver that it's a style I tend to dislike, especially in Schubert, where such brittle clarity has the same effect on me as when Boulez applies his intellect like an x-ray technician. Philips doesn't help with sound that is full enough but which retains a hard edge of digital glare at loud volume or whenever Brendel delivers his trademark punch of sforzando. Yet I can stand back and see why his artistry is so admired. There's a purity and honesty that gives us a bracing kind of musical rigor. In that sense, Brendel is a modernist among players of romantic music, as far removed from the Golden Age as any postwar pianist could be. If only it all didn't seem so mental and humorless to me. I feel the temperature in the room drop as soon as Brendel begins to play. There's never a surprise or any real gusto, either, never a moment when he seems motivated by exuberant joy.
In the end, I am not the audience for this box set, yet I recognize that Brendel has achieved mastery on the order of, say, Wilhelm Kempff, and even if his blood runs thin, he's positively swollen with passion compared to the Schubert one gets from Andras Schiff and Radu Lupu. Among recent Schubertians I find myself very impressed by two rising stars, Paul Lewis and Jonathan Biss.
P.S. 2013 - As expected, four stars wasn't enough to fend off the ire of Brendel worshipers and a hail of disgruntled Unhelpfuls.
Some Brendel fans will prefer the earlier set (which does also include one CD from the digital versions). If you're not familiar with the pianist, maybe you should do some comparative listening before you buy. Some people appear to find A.B. dour, grey, even boring, whereas followers appreciate how he takes e.g. Schubert every bit as seriously as he does Beethoven, thereby perhaps missing out on some of the "Viennese charm" that some people don't want to be without, but gaining so much more in other respects.
I heartily recommend Brendel, this or the older version, and Kempff, and Uchida.