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Artur Schnabel was the first pianist to record the complete Beethoven Sonatas, undertaking the mammoth project for the Beethoven Society in the early 1930s.
Today he has innumerable competitors in an overcrowded market, yet his interpretations have never been supplanted. It’s hard to imagine a more magnificent mingling of power and humility, of mystical reflection and ready wit or of structural awareness and spontaneous statement.
There are cleaner performances around, but few that offer quite the same feeling of absolute unity between composer and performer. Schnabel could trace his musical heritage back to Czerny and thence Beethoven himself – this is as close to the Beethovenian horse’s mouth as we can get.