1977 - 2014 - DG
After almost 40 years in the making, Maurizio Pollini has completed his Beethoven cycle when Sonatas Nos. 16 through 20 (opp.31 & 49) were released in November of 2014. The following is from DGs website on the project, but since it's to the point, there's no point in fancifully re-phrasing into my own words what would amount to much the same thing:
Pollini’s recordings of Beethoven’s last five piano sonatas, issued on three LPs, attracted critical praise and were chosen as “Instrumental Album of the Year” at the inaugural Gramophone Awards in 1977. Gramophone’s reviewer wrote of the “noble purity” of Pollini’s interpretations, an observation inspired by the intellectual rigour and spiritual intensity of his music-making. The pianist’s account of the Late Piano Sonatas proved both a commercial and critical success. Today it remains among the best-selling titles in the Yellow Label’s Originals series.
It was also the subject of one of the earliest "Dip Your Ears" reviews written here on ionarts. His 2014 releases made our "Best of 2004" list, a decade ago: "...the literally brilliant interpretations go some way in shining light on the less popular, shorter opp. 54 and 90..."
2008 - 2014 - ATMA Classique
Five volumes of nine discs. A native of Catania, Italy, when Leotta "appear[ed] in Montreal in 2002, at the age of only 22, Christian Leotta was the youngest pianist since the youthful Daniel Barenboim ever to undertake a recital series encompassing the entire corpus of Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas."
2009 - 2014 - Azica
Timothy Ehlen is Associate Professor of Piano and Chair of the Piano Division at the University of Illinois School of Music.
2012 - 2014 - Avie
Recorded at the Duke’s Hall of the Royal Academy of Music, London.
Michael Houstoun II
2014 (?) - Rattle
Throughout 2013, Chamber Music New Zealand's ReCycle Series featured acclaimed New Zealand pianist Michael Houstoun performing all thirty-two of the Beethoven piano sonatas. As he says of this, his second, cycle:
This time it’s a different experience, because I’m older, and music is a whole different world for me than it was 20 years ago. I think I’m a more natural musician than I was before. I’m much more relaxed, and more in tune with the sonorities of the instrument. I still love clarity, people have always said to me that my playing is clear, and I think that’s important – clarity allows the audience to choose for themselves what they want out of the music. For me, I’ll be even less inclined to impose myself on the music, and to impose my own ideas. What is important is sincerity, and not getting in the way, and being true to the instrument.Here's him in an extended interview where he talks, explains, and plays.
2014 - Claves
Records are made to be broken, even in classical music. When then 24-year-old Korean HJ Lim recorded the complete Beethoven Sontatas for EMI, released for a tenner on iTunes, it made a splash mostly for audacity. Two years later she is bested in every way: Swiss-Chinese Mélodie Zhao has done it at 19… and much more gratifyingly. This cycle is tastefully individual instead of idiosyncratic, thought-through instead of overwrought, and to the point instead of proving one. Take the confident rhythms of the Largo of op.7, muscular Finale of op.10/1, the unsuspected sweetness of op.14/1, the staggered Andante of the Appassionata, the terrifically lilting op.27, or the wistful op.30: the fresh, vivid, never overwrought playing Mlle. Zhao's delivers much and promises even more.
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
* 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
Part 8: 2010 - 2013
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.
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 | Sibelius Symphony Cycles