Incl: D.Barenboim I • P.Badura-Skoda I • D.Ciani • C.Frank • M.Grinberg • Gulda II • E.Heidsieck • A.Kuerti • R.Riefling • T.Sonoda I • D.Zechlin
1964 - 1967 - Melodiya
This was available only in individual volumes, and spottily at that, until recently... Now the recordings have been re-released by Melodiya in a convenient box earlier this year (2013)!
Friedrich Gulda II
1967 - Amadeo / Decca
Friedrich Gulda's second set came at the very height of his technical facility and blew the (perceived) cobwebs off the 'heroic' Beethoven sonatas. It is a marvel of consistency and wondrous for the speed with which Gulda breezes through these works with a sense of joy and occasionally irreverence.
Although I have other favorites for about every individual sonata (save the Moonlight) this is my go-to and reference set (even as Backhaus II remains my favorite). More intense than Kempff, never lumbering like Kuerti, nor professorially sincere like Schiff, consistently more engaging in the late Sonatas than Ashkenazy, more flexible than Backhaus, not as patricianly flowing as Arrau, Gulda somehow manages to combine a highly personal reading with a compromising stance that appeals to the many rather than offending most. It could be argued that the "fresh" approach isn't necessary anymore and that Gulda has a tendency toward the superficial, but to my ears that does not detract from this astonishing achievement.
This cycle is part of what makes Brilliant's Complete Beethoven Edition so attractive and I've written a bit about it for WETA. [Links dead.]
1960 - 1969 (?) - Eterna / Berlin Classics
Daniel Barenboim I
1965 - 1969 - EMI
Daniel Barenboim is one of the few pianists who have recorded the complete cycle trice (Twice on CD, once on DVD). Quantity doesn't necessarily make up for quality, though, and I have yet to truly appreciate either of his two first surveys or even watch his third.
1960 - 1970 (?) - Valois
Robert Riefling, 1938 Queen Elizabeth Competition winner, studied with Kempff and Edwin Fischer, among others.
Not currently available and to my knowledge never issued on CD.
1967 - 1969 - RCA Victrola
Takahiro Sonoda I
1968 - 1969 - Denon
Apparently one of the grand figures in Japanese music and someone of whom I hitherto, somehow, knew nothing. He is to have recorded the complete Beethoven sonatas three (!) times, as only Barenboim and Brendel have (so far). I cannot track down the third (there may be confusion on this point, as he also issued an edition of the Beethoven sonatas as scores), but this one on Denon can still be found.
Paul Badura-Skoda I
1969 - 1970 - Gramola
Paul Badura-Skoda's "Viennese" Beethoven survey on a Boesendorfer Grand. Overshadowed at the time by the more famous to have come just before him and those who would come just after him, but a connoisseur's Echt-Austrian cycle. The cycle had been released previously on Intercord on LP and I presume (unless I find out otherwise) it is identical to the one that appeared on the Musical Heritage Society's recordings for Beethoven's bicentenary in 1970. Gramola has internationally re-released the set in late last year (Nov. 2012), so it should have become more readily available.
196? - 1970 - Dynamic
Live, and notably so.
1967 - 1973 - EMI France
1974 - 1975 - Analekta
One of the first complete sets of the Sonatas I had, and ever declining in my estimation. Wherever Kuerti is very slow (which he is very often), the speed does not seem to be justified by an equivalent increase in musicality, lyricism, or other notable facet. And where Kuerti isn't very slow, he does not impress with the polished technique that many of the competitors display. Interesting, but hardly essential.
This listing of all Beethoven Sonata Cycles will continue as more sets reach completion or as I find more information about sets already completed.* There are certainly plenty sets under way that should or may reach completion soon: Among them Angela Hewitt (Hyperion), Igor Tchetuev (Caro Mitis), Jonathan Biss (Onyx), Paavali Jumppanen (Ondine), Yusuke Kikuchi (Triton) et al. I will also add a selection of historically important attempted cycles that were never finished but include >20 sonatas. That would add Rudolf Serkin (CBS, 10 sonatas missing), Bruce Hungerford (Vanguard / Piano Classics, also 10 sonatas missing), Emil Gilels (DG, opp.2/1, 14/1, 54, 78, 111), and Glenn Gould (CBS/Sony, opp.7, 22, 49, 53, 79, 81a, 90 missing, op.106 separate, opp.7 [partly], 49/1, 101 available on CBC recordings).
* If you count, as I did, Backhaus II and Arrau II as complete, despite one and two (respectively) missing sonatas. I do not count Walter Gieseking (tapes of 4, 5, 7, 20, 22 for a radio cycle are lost, a studio cycle for EMI was missing seven sonatas when he died), Wilhelm Kempff "0" (Polydor, opp.2/3, 22, 27/1, 28, 31/2, 101 missing).
The (Great) Incomplete Cycles
Part 1: 1935 - 1969
Part 3: 1977 - 1989
Part 4: 1990 - 1996
Part 5: 1996 - 1999
Part 6: 2000 - 2005
Part 7: 2006 - 2009
Ronald Brautigam Special
Part 8: 2010 - 2013
Part 9: 2014 - onward
If you have additional information about recording dates, availability, cover art -- or corrections and additions -- your input is much appreciated.
This survey is meant to list all complete sets of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas and their availability in different markets, not to review them.
Discographies on ionarts: Bach Organ Cycles | Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycles I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX | Bruckner Symphony Cycles | Dvořák Symphony Cycles | Shostakovich Symphony Cycles | Dvořák Symphony Cycles | Sibelius Symphony Cycles