Between the early 1970s and early 1980s Rudolf Buchbinder recorded Beethoven’s complete solo piano music, surpassing Alfred Brendel’s similarly comprehensive survey from the early 1960s in terms of sonic and artistic consistency. In the main, Buchbinder’s Beethoven fuses the best of disparate yet equally valid traditions, from Kempff’s tasteful rhetorical gestures and Serkin’s gaunt propulsion to Gieseking’s Apollonian poise and Backhaus’ communicative immediacy.
In the sonatas, tempos are generally faster and phrasing is less subjective yet no less flexible in comparison to Buchbinder’s live 2010/11 remakes. The sonatas also are arranged into sensibly contrasting CD-length programs, rather than in numerical order. I preferRead more certain earlier readings, like the tauter “Hammerklavier”, Op. 2 No. 2’s more straightforward Rondo (sound sample), the leaner and brisker “Appassionata” central variations, and a far less pulled about Op. 90 second movement. The numerous variation sets also benefit from Buchbinder’s suavely unified tempo relationships and vivid characterizations.
Incidentally, Buchbinder recorded the complete collection of variations Anton Diabelli commissioned from various composers. Only Beethoven’s monumental Op. 120 contribution is included here, yet you certainly can’t complain about Buchbinder’s dramatically charged and spiritually uplifting interpretation. Buchbinder won’t displace your favorite versions of individual sonatas or variation sets, yet his finished technique and sense of style certainly lend distinction to this bargain-priced, 15-CD boxed set. It is the finest complete Beethoven solo piano music cycle on the market featuring a single pianist.