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 Recording of the Week  Paul Lewis's Beethoven

“Only three weeks until the completion of the one of the greatest Beethoven Piano Sonata cycles ever committed to disc.” As you can imagine it is a highly competitive field and such a statement can’t be made lightly. Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas are the cornerstone of almost every pianist’s repertoire and there are many truly outstanding cycles already in the catalogue.

Dating right back to Arthur Schnabel who made the very first complete set in the 1930s, through the likes of Solomon and Wilhelm Kempff (who made two cycles although his earlier mono cycle from the 1950s is generally regarded more highly). Then there is one of my favourites Emil Gilels who unfortunately died just five sonatas short of the complete set but still leaves a great legacy. Alfred Brendel recorded three complete cycles and then there is Richard Goode and Stephen Kovacevich who both come very highly recommended. There are several pianists currently in the middle of cycles – most notably András Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida. Last year Uchida released a stunning account of the Hammerklavier which is up for a BBC Music Magazine award this week and I think might just do rather well.

We’ve put a page together on the website which summarises some of the best options to consider when looking at Beethoven Piano Sonatas.

Paul Lewis
Paul Lewis

It is fair to say that joining such illustrious company is not easy, yet such is the excitement and widespread critical success enjoyed by the first three volumes of Paul Lewis’s cycle on Harmonia Mundi, that the release of the fourth and final volume on April 28th will put him very much up there.

He is such a complete musician and his performances are utterly compelling. Every phrase and tempo seems so well considered. Speeds are I suppose often slightly more measured than some but with his deep understanding of the structure and the harmonic rhythm they can afford to be, while he never loses sight of the power or beauty of the music.

You’ll be pleased to hear that over the next three weeks we’re making the first three volumes of the Paul Lewis cycle the Harmonia Mundi Golden discs – I suppose a sort of countdown to the release of the final volume at the end of the month. So this week Volume 1 is available at 50% off, next week it will be volume 2 and the week after that volume 3. And with a special price on pre-orders for Volume 4 as well this month is definitely the time to top up your Beethoven selection.

I’ll leave you with this fabulous quote from Gramophone critic Bryce Morrison on Volume 2:

"Faced with such excellence a mere critic can only abandon paper and pencil and listen to this heroic but deeply moving young artist with awe and amazement. These are early days but Paul Lewis's superbly recorded and presented Beethoven may well turn out to be the most musically and ultimately satisfying of all recorded Beethoven piano sonata cycles."

Beethoven - Piano Sonatas Volume 4

Paul Lewis (piano)

Released April 28th - but you can pre-order your copy now

Available Formats: MP3, CD Quality FLAC