Conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler already enjoyed a worldwide legendary standing during his lifetime he was considered the German conductor and performances were greeted with rapturous applause. Today, more than 50 years after his death, Wilhelm Furtwängler is still an icon and his work has become an integral part of the music scene.
The Vienna Philharmonic is one of the world's leading recording orchestras. Ever since its very first recording of Beethoven's 6th Symphony under Franz Schalk in 1928, work in the studio has taken up a considerable part of its "free time", which is, on account of its duties at the Vienna State Opera, in any case very limited. There are not many major 20th-century conductors, many important works of the operatic and concert repertory, or indeed many important labels that do not figure in its large and comprehensive disco-graphy.
This disc presents one of the 20th century's greatest and most distinctive pianists in music of two pianist-composers, Schumann and Beethoven, who were among his most treasured specialties. The playing is fluent, brilliant without ever being flashy, and phrased and accented with a totally unique flavor. Kempff has power to spare, but he uses it with a restraint that heightens its impact.
Russian pianist Mikhail Pletnev has an astoundingly clean and virtuosic technique. He has the ability to bring out inner voices that in some other recordings are completely lost. These skills are sometimes enough to make his interpretations of these three early and middle period Beethoven sonatas completely satisfying. The third movement of the "Moonlight" Sonata, for example, is absolutely electrifying in its virtuosity. The first movement of the"Waldstein" and the final movement of "Appassionata" are brisk, energetic, and always completely under control. Movements such as these, where the performer's technique truly comes to the forefront, are absolutely satisfying here.
Maria João Pires “shapes and colours every phrase, and with immaculate taste, and she makes sure the phrases end as eloquently as they begin,” wrote Gramophone in 1974. “She conveys not just the details but the relevance of every note to the whole … Best of all, she communicates everything she has discovered about the music, and it is worth having.” This Portuguese pupil of Wilhelm Kempff, Pires was one of the artists who defined the Erato label in the 1970s and 1980s. This 5-CD box gathers together the recordings she made over the period from 1976 to 1985 and it reflects the consistent focus of her repertoire, with its special emphasis on Austro-German composers of the Classical and early-Romantic periods. Embracing solo works, piano duets and concertos, it contains works by Mozart, Schumann, Beethoven, but also by Bach and Chopin.