Kempff: Beethoven - The 32 Piano Sonatas (24/96 8 CD FLAC)
Kempff: Beethoven – The 32 Piano Sonatas (24/96 8 CD FLAC)

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor: Wilhelm Kempff
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 8 CD box set
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Size: 11 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

CD 01
Piano Sonata No.1 in F minor, Op.2 No.1
01. 1. Allegro
02. 2. Adagio
03. 3. Menuetto. Allegretto
04. 4. Prestissimo

Piano Sonata No.2 in A, Op.2 No.2
05. 1. Allegro vivace
06. 2. Largo appassionato
07. 3. Scherzo. Allegretto
08. 4. Rondo. Grazioso

Piano Sonata No.4 in E flat, Op.7 “Grand Sonata”
09. 1. Allegro molto e con brio
10. 2. Largo, con gran espressione
11. 3. Allegro
12. 4. Rondo. Poco allegretto e grazioso

CD 02
Piano Sonata No.3 in C, Op.2 No.3
01. 1. Allegro con brio
02. 2. Adagio
03. 3. Scherzo. Allegro
04. 4. Allegro assai

Piano Sonata No.5 in C minor, Op.10 No.1
05. 1. Allegro molto e con brio
06. 2. Adagio molto
07. 3. Finale. Prestissimo

Piano Sonata No.6 in F, Op.10 No.2
08. 1. Allegro
09. 2. Allegretto
10. 3. Presto

Piano Sonata No.7 in D, Op.10 No.3
11. 1. Presto
12. 2. Largo e mesto
13. 3. Menuetto. Allegro
14. 4. Rondo. Allegro

CD 03
Piano Sonata No.8 in C minor, Op.13 -“Pathétique”
01. 1. Grave – Allegro di molto e con brio
02. 2. Adagio cantabile
03. 3. Rondo. Allegro

Piano Sonata No.9 in E, Op.14 No.1
04. 1. Allegro
05. 2. Allegretto
06. 3. Rondo. Allegro comodo

Piano Sonata No.10 in G, Op.14 No.2
07. 1. Allegro
08. 2. Andante
09. 3. Scherzo. Allegro assai

Piano Sonata No.11 in B flat, Op.22
10. 1. Allegro con brio
11. 2. Adagio con molto espressione
12. 3. Menuetto
13. 4. Rondo. Allegretto

CD 04
Piano Sonata No.12 in A flat, Op.26 “Funeral March”
01. 1. Andante con variazioni
02. 2. Scherzo. Allegro molto
03. 3. Marcia funebre sulla morte d’un Eroe
04. 4. Allegro

Piano Sonata No.13 in E flat, Op.27 No.1 “Quasi una fantasia”
05. 1. Andante – Allegro – Tempo I – attacca
06. 2. Allegro molto e vivace – attacca
07. 3. Adagio con espressione – attacca
08. 4. Allegro vivace

Piano Sonata No.14 in C sharp minor, Op.27 No.2 “Moonlight”
09. 1. Adagio sostenuto – attacca
10. 2. Allegretto – attacca
11. 3. Presto agitato

Piano Sonata No.15 in D, Op.28 -“Pastorale”
12. 1. Allegro
13. 2. Andante
14. 3. Scherzo. Allegro vivace
15. 4. Rondo. Allegro, ma non troppo

CD 05
Piano Sonata No.16 in G, Op.31 No.1
01. 1. Allegro vivace
02. 2. Adagio grazioso
03. 3. Rondo. Allegretto

Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor, Op.31 No.2 “Tempest”
04. 1. Largo – Allegro
05. 2. Adagio
06. 3. Allegretto

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Piano Sonata No.18 in E flat, Op.31 No.3 “The Hunt”
07. 1. Allegro
08. 2. Scherzo. Allegretto vivace
09. 3. Menuetto. Moderato e grazioso
10. 4. Presto con fuoco

Piano Sonata No.19 in G minor, Op.49 No.1
11. 1. Andante
12. 2. Rondo. Allegro

CD 06
Piano Sonata No.20 in G, Op.49 No.2
01. 1. Allegro, ma non troppo
02. 2. Tempo di Menuetto

Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 “Waldstein”
03. 1. Allegro con brio
04. 2. Introduzione. Adagio molto – attacca
05. 3. Rondo. Allegretto moderato

Piano Sonata No.22 in F, Op.54
06. 1. In Tempo d’un Menuetto
07. 2. Allegretto

Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 “Appassionata”
08. 1. Allegro assai
09. 2. Andante con moto – attacca
10. 3. Allegro, ma non troppo – Presto

Piano Sonata No.24 in F sharp, Op.78 “A Thérèse”
11. 1. Adagio cantabile – Allegro, ma non troppo
12. 2. Allegro vivace

CD 07
Piano Sonata No. 25 in G major, Op. 79 “Cuckoo”
01. 1. Presto alla tedesca
02. 2. Andante
03. 3. Vivace

Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, Op. 81a “Les Adieux”
04. 1. Das Lebewohl. Adagio – Allegro
05. 2. Abwesenheit. Andante espressivo
06. 3. Das Wiedersehen. Vivacissimamente

Piano Sonata No.27 in E minor, Op.90
07. 1. Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus mit Empfindung und Ausdruck
08. 2. Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen

Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 “Hammerklavier”
09. 1. Allegro
10. 2. Scherzo. Assai vivace
11. 3. Adagio sostenuto. Appassionato e con molto sentimento
12. 4. Largo – Allegro risoluto

CD 08
Piano Sonata No.28 in A, Op.101
01. 1. Etwas lebhaft und mit der innigsten Empfindung. Allegretto, ma non troppo
02. 2. Lebhaft, marschmäßig. Vivace alla marcia
03. 3. Langsam und sehnsuchtsvoll. Adagio, ma non troppo, con affetto – attacca]
04. 4. Geschwind, doch nicht zu sehr und mit Entschlossenheit. Allegro

Piano Sonata No.30 in E major, Op.109
05. 1. Vivace, ma non troppo
06. 2. Prestissimo
07. 3. Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung. Andante molto cantabile ed espressivo

Piano Sonata No.31 in A flat major, Op.110
08. 1. Moderato cantabile molto espressivo
09. 2. Allegro molto
10. 3. Adagio, ma non troppo – Fuga. Allegro, ma non troppo

Piano Sonata No.32 in C minor, Op.111
11. 1. Maestoso – Allegro con brio ed appassionato
12. 2. Arietta. Adagio molto semplice e cantabile

Purely Poetic Beethoven!

I only now, at age 65, have discovered Wilhelm Kempff’s masterful recording of the entire Beethoven Sonata Cycle, which interestingly he recorded also when he was in his mid-60s. This is the third and final time he recorded the complete cycle. The sound quality of these Deutsche-Grammophon recordings is magnificent, the piano is wonderful and a delight to listen to in this virtuoso’s capable hands.

Kempff knows how to change moods according to Beethoven’s explosive temperament. He can switch from tender sensitivity to brilliancy without breaking the continuity.

Another nice feature of this recording is that he recorded all the repeats. These were not just copy-and-paste inserted repeats. Rather, he makes subtle changes on the repeats which illuminate the music.

I was brought up on the Artur Schnabel recordings of the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. I was told that Schnabel played as Beethoven would have. The problem I have come to have with Schnabel’s interpretations is his tendency to rush passages and blur passages with excessive rubato. I honestly don’t believe Beethoven, with all his impetuosity as a composer, would have played his own music with such distortions. Kempff is much steadier in tempo, yet he achieves real heights of feeling appropriate to this great oeuvre.

I have heard it said that Kempff’s tempi were “slow”. I do not find this to be the case at all. The fast-paced movements move right along at a fine clip. He has all the dexterity needed to bring off Beethoven at his most dramatic, with delicacy or bravura as the context dictates.

Poetry combined with brilliancy, a wonderful combination and Kempff has it all.

Old time favorite

Kempff’s Beethoven was my first favorite from long ago. There are more modern sets that are better in terms of sound reproduction, and there are slicker performances by more technically skilled pianists that can make you wonder why these old sets are still around. But Kempff has his own unique character and sound that really appeals to me. I absolutely love his cello sonatas with Fournier (live recording), where the Kempff persona really shines. So I will never give up this set. It sounds like home to me. Kempff is great to return to after overdosing on Pollini. Pollini’s mid-to-late Beethoven is nothing short of awesome, but darn it, there’s just something cold in his soul that after a while leaves me wanting something more, shall I say, human. Kempff is my old remedy for the new age.

If you want a set that’s really well recorded and technically solid get Paul Lewis or Igor Tchetuev (not yet complete cycle), and of course, if you like the Chandos sound, by all means, get the other Looey (Louis Lortie). But listen to sample clips of Kempff and see if you like his musical persona/sound.

a must-have!

i thought i knew these sonatas quite well until i heard this set. if you’re on this page at all reading this review, stop now and just buy it, is all i can say. i’m very happy that i did. this may be the best music purchase i’ve ever made (Itunes library currently displaying 174 GB of music, 71.6 days worth of audio!)

i may be a sucker for slightly oldschool sounding recordings, but really the audio quality is charming. the performance cannot be praised enough. a particular favorite is the second movement of sonata #15. buy this set! you’ll be happy you did.


I must admit that I stayed away from this set for many years. With sets by Goode, Gilels, Fischer, Schnabel’s Pearl recordings and one Paul Lewis volume, I didn’t need yet another set by a pianist disparaged ever since my long-gone college days. (Rubinstein, when asked about Kempff, dismissively replied “Kempff!”, with a look a bemused contempt on his face”)

Apologies to Rubinstein – who if we are to be honest was never too successful in his attempts at Beethoven – but Wilhem Kempff’s recordings of the sonatas are astounding. Never too fast, never too slow, no eccentricities, and an air of improvisation (which, I imagine to be true of Beethoven himself wen he composed these sonatas). The sonatas sound joyful and profound.

There is a reason why SIbelius, upon hearing Kempff play the Hammerklavier said “You played not like a pianist, but like a human being”. In humanizing these works – compositions better than they can ever be played – Kempff allows the listener to probe deeply, and once again discover unknown facets and relationships to emerge. The music flows from him naturally. These are not mannered performances (something that plagues Paul Lewis in his recent – though at times mesmerizing – cycle).

I really cannot add much to the other reviews posted for the earlier versions of this set, lest I become unnecessarily verbose and pedantic. I suggest you read those. Let me just say that at the current pricing of the re-released set you simply cannot afford NOT to own this cycle. It seems to be listed at less than $30, or even $20 from some third party sellers. True, for this price you sacrifice a detailed book of discussion in English/French/German and the discs themselves come in cardboard sleeves rather than multi-disc jewel boxes, but in all honesty, at this point in my life, I don’t need all that that. What I need is more shelf space!

The sound of the recordings is first-rate. No compromises there.

If you are sitting on the fence about yet another sonata set, – don’t hesitate. This is beautiful piano playing, bar none. If I betray my own naivite by acknowledging my own unfamiliarity with – and aversion to – this set for decades so be it. I was foolish, and wrong.

Listen to Kempff and re-discover the joy within this “new testament” of the piano bible. You will not be disappointed.

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