The 25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: Rudolf Serkin Plays Sonatas

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This recording – containing four of Beethoven's named sonatas – provides an excellent introduction to the unique music-making of Rudolf Serkin.

The Bohemian-born pianist (1903-1991) was not considered by keyboard connoisseurs to be one of the great, naturally talented pianists. Yet he approached his craft with intensity and dedication, and was widely considered the most authoritative Beethoven interpreter in the decades after World War II. He recorded many of Beethoven's sonatas and concertos several times and gave them a unique brand of austere, even severe, intensity and directness.

Serkin's avoidance of the rubato – that push and pull of melody – is said to have characterized Beethoven's own performances in their day. The opening of the “Moonlight,” for instance, traces a lucid and dramatic narrative – no blurred dreaminess here. A charged intensity characterizes his “Appassionata” performance, yet nothing feels forced.

“What he hears within him is unsurpassed in purity and nobility; and what he feels is felt with the utmost sincerity and selflessness,” wrote WQXR music director Abram Chasins in 1957.

Rudolf Serkin
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Op. 27 No. 2 ("Moonlight"); Op. 13 ("Pathetique"); Op. 57 ("Appassionata") and Op. 81a (“Les Adieux”)
Available at Arkivmusic.com