Incl: el Bacha • R.Buchbinder II • H J Lim • S.Goodyear • F.F.Guy • M.Kodama • M.Korstick • L.Lortie • P.Rösel
1991 - 2010 - Chandos
Louis Lortie got started in the early nineties on this cycle, with discs released individually, and worked on it until 2000 and then it went nowhere... until, seemingly out of nowhere, Chandos remembered the project late in 2009 and hurried it to an end when it recorded the 8 outstanding Sonatas and published the whole thing in a box. Almost as if they were contractually obliged to give Lortie a happy end, clearing house before Jean-Efflam Bavouzet got to take a crack at the full Ludwig on the label. The set, which has exemplary liner notes—little essays for each sonata by Bryce Morrison, Beryl Chempin, and William Kinderman, also includes the rarely recorded op.6 Sonata for Four Hands.
1997 - 2011 - Oehms
Michael Korstick, one of the premiere Nicolas Sarkozy impersonators when he’s not busy playing the piano, has been recording on his cycle since 1997 and finished in 2011. The cycle, except for volume 1, which holds the Diabelli Variations, was released on SACDs. The complete set, released late 2012, contains regular, "Red Book", CDs and does not apparently contain the Diabelli Variations.
2008 - 2011 - King Records (Japan)
Live recordings from Tokyo's Kioi Hall.
Availability (in eight individual volumes, imported):
2010 - 2011 - RCA
Recorded live at the Semperoper in Dresden, 30 years after he recorded his first cycle for Telefunken.
2010? - 2011 - Zig Zag Territoirs
Certainly the design is, to my eyes, of the spectacularly tasteful and clever aesthetic typical for the label. FFG had taken a crack at Beethoven sonatas for the Naïve label in 2006, and finished a Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle with Philippe Jordan. The sonatas were recorded live in concert.
H J Lim
2011 - EMI
Impetuous, ambitious, unaware of her naïveté, recorded over two months in the summer of 2011, HJ Lim presents a complete Beethoven sonata cycle, choc full of opinions. Even "complete" is subject to her opinions: She contends that the two Op.49 Sonatas were educational pieces and published against Beethoven’s will, so her set includes only the 30 sonatas she believes are Beethoven’s intended statement in that genre. Then she divides the Sonatas into eight sections, each with its own thematic title: "Assertion of an inflexible personality", "Extremes in collision", "Eternal feminine - Youth", "Nature", "Resignation and action", "Destiny", "Heroic Ideals", and "Eternal feminine - Maturity". Finally the whole cycle was released, with some PR fanfare, for $9.99 on iTunes. Well, one might as well make a splash when recording the complete Beethoven Sonatas at 24, and one might as well be impetuous, ambitious, and perhaps naïve. Beats adding yet another forgettable traversal to the bulging catalog of 78+ such cycles that have come before her. In fact, I kind of want to hear it now. (The late sonatas I did hear on Spotify did not suggest I really do want to hear the whole thing; but she has impressed me in concert, since.)
2010 - 2012 - Marquis Classics
Young promising Canadian pianist whose liner notes are apparently a joy to read... Cycle recorded in the Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, on a 1993 Steinway ("Bertha"), which was chosen for GG-Studio by L. Lortie. (For a bit of trivia.)
Abdel Rahman El Bacha II
2012 - Mirare
In the 80s and early 90s, El Bacha already recorded a complete Beethoven Sonata Cycle (for Forlane). This is his autumnal effort, apparently, with slower tempi throughout and of course for a much nicer label, the French boutique-label Mirare.
2003 - 2013 - PentaTone
Some seven years ago I first hit upon a new Beethoven Sonata cycle-in-the-making on PentaTone SACDs with Mari Kodama and was very pleasantly surprised by three middle Sonatas, Nos. 16-18. (Dip Your Ears, No. 61 (Mari Kodama's Beethoven)). I've not heard every release since, and of those I've heard not every one blew me away, but this latest and last release to complete the cycle immediately made my ears perk. Madam Nagano brings her unfussy, rigorously elegant style brings to mind what I had said about the earlier releases then: '[She] employs masculine power towards feminine-sensitive ends – and rather errs on the side of subtlety, if err she ever does... all to great effect.' In Sonata op.101 she reminds me in her nonchalantly un-bothered ways of the nearly-forgotten great, Hans Richter-Haaser.
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 Mari Kodama (PentaTone), Maurizio Pollini (DG), Angela Hewitt (Hyperion), Michael Korstick (Oehms), Igor Tchetuev (Caro Mitis), Jonathan Biss (Onyx), Paavali Jumppanen (finished? Claves?), 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).
Part 1: 1935 - 1966
Part 2: 1967 - 1975
Part 3: 1977 - 1989
Part 4: 1990 - 1996
Part 5: 1996 - 1999
Part 6: 2000 - 2005
Part 7: 2006 - 2009
Ronald Brautigam Special
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. If you are looking for recent releases, like the Ponelle-filmed cycle of Barenboim's Beethoven Sonatas, or his "Beethoven for All" set, they are included with the sets of which they are actually re-releases.