Incl: C.Arrau II • A.R.El Bacha • R.Benz • M.Bilson & Co • A.Brendel III • R.Goode • I.Hobson • M.Levinas • J.O'Conor • A.Perl
Claudio Arrau II
1984* - 1990 - Philips France (Arrau Heritage Edition)
Arrau, who started to record a cycle for Walter Legge with Columbia between 1947 and 1960 (only 11 sonatas were recorded), went on to produce one of the most cherished cycles for Philips in the 60s. Twenty years later, near the summit (if not technical peak) of his career, he recorded them again, this time in digital sound. Notably good digital sound, it should be pointed out. Broad interpretations meet with unforgiving clarity and regal rigor. Arrau died before he could re-record opp.27/2 and 106 which are taken from the earlier cycle. A 1952 Deutsche Grammophon Diabelli Variation recording is added as a bonus.
1984 - 1991 - Adès
Most of this cycle was recorded between 1988 and 1991, played on a Steinway.
Abdel Rahman El Bacha I
1984 - 1993 - Forlane
1986 - 1994 - Telarc
1988 - 1995 - Thorofon
Available only in individual volumes, and those spottily only.
1989 - 1993 - Nonesuch
Considered by many not just the great 'native' American sonata cycle, but one of the very best modern cycles anywhere. I've heard some of this that has had the greatest of promise, and I remember being turned off by the late sonatas... but I can no longer recall whether that was justified. If I were to get another LvB Sonata Cycle, this one is atop the list of those that intrigue me.
1992 - 1996 - Zephyr
1992- 1996 - Arte Nova / Oehms
Arte Nova & Oehms were ownership-intertwined at one point, which explains the occasional overlap in their issues. (I.e. also Stanisław Skrowaczewski's exemplary Bruckner Cycle.) The recordings are identical; the Oehms re-issues tend to be packaged considerably nicer.
Alfred Brendel III
1992 - 1996 - Philips (digital)
This cycle dominated the digital age and contributed in good part to Brendel being the face of Beethoven for so many listeners.
Availability: Reissued on Decca
Malcolm Bilson & Students
199? - 1996 - Claves
Played by Bilson and six students of his, on nine different fortepianos from around the time of the composition dates of the respective sonatas.
Availability (other than directly from Claves):
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 2: 1967 - 1974
Part 3: 1977 - 1989
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