Every man's death diminishes us all, but the death of a man so close to completing his greatest achievement and the summation of his life's work diminishes us all greatly – very, very greatly. When Emil Gilels died in 1985, he had completed recordings of most but not all of Beethoven's piano sonatas, released here in a nine-disc set. What's here is unimaginably good: superlative recordings of 27 of the 32 canonical sonatas, including the "Pathétique," "Moonlight," "Waldstein," "Appassionata," "Les Adieux," and the majestic "Hammerklavier," plus the two early "Electoral" Sonatas and the mighty Eroica Variations. What's missing is unimaginably priceless: five of the canonical sonatas, including the first and – horror vacui – the last. But still, for what there is, we must be grateful. Beyond all argument one of the great pianists of the twentieth century, Gilels the Soviet super virtuoso had slowly mellowed and ripened over his long career, and when he began recording the sonatas in 1972, his interpretations had matured and deepened while his superlative technique remained gloriously intact straight through to the last recordings of his final year.
Part of Warner's Mozart 250th Anniversary Edition, this set of 12 discs contains all the complete piano sonatas and violin sonatas, most of the works for piano duet, and several solo piano works. The recordings all date from the late '80s to early '90s and have very good sound. The solo piano works are all performed by Swiss pianist Karl Engel, while the duets are by sisters Güher and Süher Pekinel.
In this recording of the complete piano sonatas on period instruments, the Viennese master Paul Badura-Skoda delivers the work of a lifetime: Schubert's music with his passion, his suffering, and that inimitable tone which makes his native city the place so essentially and existentially identified with music. This collection of the twenty Sonatas for period piano recorded by Paul Badura-Skoda on the instruments in his own collection has every chance of being considered by posterity as one of the most creative and most significant achievements.