The 25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: Paul Lewis Plays the 'Waldstein' Sonata

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Free Download: Paul Lewis performs the "Waldstein" Sonata, Second Movement *

When we recently featured Paul Lewis's new album of Schubert works as an Album of the Week, it was a chance to get better acquainted with this fine English pianist has recorded a broad swath of Classical and Romantic repertory.

Born in Liverpool, Lewis studied for a time with the great Austrian pianist Alfred Brendel. He clearly inherited his interests in Austro-Germanic repertoire as well as his thoughtful, decidedly un-flashy stage demeanor. Lewis spent about three years (2005-2007) recording the complete cycle of 32 Beethoven sonatas for Harmonia Mundi, during which time he also brought them on international tours. The individual CDs have been repackaged on a single box set (also via download) and earn a spot on our list of the 25 essential Beethoven recordings.

For the purposes of this survey, we're especially impressed with Lewis's interpretations of the middle-period works including the "Waldstein" Sonata. Throughout this recording one is impressed by the unfailing beauty of his playing, particularly in the lyrical passages. Yet he doesn't prettify the harsher aspects of the music, and allows the finale to explode in a hard-edged virtuoso energy.

The other sonatas in the set, including the popular favorite "Pathétique," all have moments of profound insight.

Tell us what you think of our choices and share your own favorites in the comments below.

Paul Lewis, piano
The Complete Beethoven Sonatas
Harmonia Mundi
Available at Arkivmusic.com

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