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Artur Schnabel Beethoven: The complete 32 Piano Sonatas

Artur Schnabel made in London at Abbey Road Studio n°3, between January 1932 and November 1935 (with some corrections in January 1937), the very first complete recording of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas.

He also gave four complete performances of the 32 Sonatas as a cycle of seven recitals, always organized in the same way, each one being comprised of either four or five Sonatas from different periods.

Program I : Sonatas n°15 Op.28 – n°31 Op.110 // n°1 Op.2 n°1 – n°16 Op.31 n°1

Program II: Sonatas n°18 Op.31 n°3 – n°28 Op.101 // n°22 Op.54 – n°8 Op.13 – n°3 Op.2 n°3

Program III: Sonatas n°2 Op.2 n°2 – n°23 Op.57 // n°19 Op.49 n°1 – n°27 Op.90 – n°11 Op.22

Program IV: Sonatas n°12 Op.26 – n°17 Op.31 n°2 // n°5 Op.10 n°1 – n°6 Op.10 n°2 – n°26 Op.81a

Program V: Sonatas n°4 Op.7 – n°14 Op.27 n°2 // n°10 Op.14 n°2 – n°29 Op.106

Program VI: Sonatas n°13 Op.27 n°1 – n°21 Op.53 // n°20 Op.49 n°2 – n°30 Op.109

Program VII:Sonatas n° 9 Op.14 n°1 – n°7 Op.10 n¨3 // n°25 Op.79 – n°24 Op.78 – n°32 Op.111

Between 1924 and 1927, Schnabel  published (Ullstein) his printed edition of the complete 32 Sonatas.

The first complete performance was given in 1927 at the Berlin Volksbühne for the Centenary of Beethoven’s death. The recitals were on Sundays at 11:30 on the following dates: 9, 16 & 23 January; 6, 13, 20 & 27 February. The detailed programs are HERE

The second complete performance was given at London’s Queen’s Hall in October-November 1932.

The third one, again in Berlin, but at the Philharmonie, in January-April 1933, was given complete in spite of Hitler’s taking of power.

The dates of the were as follows: 5 & 20 January; 21 February; 3 & 16 March; ? ; and 28 April 1933, which was Schnabel’s very last concert in Germany. His answer to the German authorities notifying him at the end of this concert that he was barred from taking part in the Berlin concerts celebrating Brahms’ centenary has remained famous: « I may not be pure-blooded, but I am cold-blooded. Good-bye! » He was obliged to leave for ever Berlin where he lived since 1900.

During this cycle, Schnabel travelled twice to London in February and in April for Beethoven recordings (3 et 17 February: Sonata n°15; 16 February: Concerto n°4; 17 February:Concerto n°3; and from 9 to 19 April: Sonatas n°2, 6, 11, 14, 20, 22, 23 & 26).

For the first time, Schnabel allowed broadcasts of at least a part of each recital. They were brutally forbidden after the fourth program (3 March). The last Sonata to be broadcast was thus n°26 Op.81a « Das Lebewohl »…

The excerpts broadcast by Radio-Berlin are listed below:

Radio Berlin:Programme I (Part I) 5 January – Programme II (Part II) 20 January

Radio Berlin:Programme III 21 February – Programme IV (Part II) 3 March

Radio Berlin: Programme V 16 April (broadcast cancelled)

The last complete performance was given in January-February 1936 at Carnegie Hall in New York on a Steinway piano (instead of the Bechstein for the earlier cycles). Schnabel arrived in New-York on 9 January on bord the liner Île-de France. He gave his 7 recitals on Wednesdays 15, 22 & 29 January, et 5, 12, 19 & 26 February 1936.

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