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Classical - Released October 26, 2018 | APR

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 5 étoiles de Classica
When thinking of the great German pianist Wilhelm Backhaus, the image of an old master with a large pale forehead often comes to mind, frozen in his somewhat wise and austere performances. With his fierce young Beethoven-like appearance, Backhaus gave his first recital in 1899 while his last concert, by which time he was a respectable old man, took place on June 28 1969, a week before his death. The miraculous advances in recording preserved this brilliant seventy-year-long career, because, unlike his colleagues Rubinstein and Schnabel who shied away from vinyl, Backhaus was one of the pioneers of the medium, having made his first records in 1908. Created for His Master’s Voice (HMV) between 1925 and 1935 and carefully restored here, these recordings are mainly devoted to Chopin (with the first complete recording of the Études), Liszt and Schumann. In addition, the second part is reserved for the transcriptions that were popular in those distant times. While the young Backhaus’ technique is breathtaking, it also teaches us something about musical history. Styles of playing change over the years and no one today would dare to play at such a dizzying speed. It was after the Second World War that pianists became a little more relaxed and began to abandon the sacred "short pieces" to play Beethoven's or Schubert's great sonatas, finding more gravity in keeping with the spirit of the times. The tempos slowed down significantly while the invention of the microgroove made it possible to capture long pieces of music, more favourable to the outpouring of expression than the 78-rpm sides allowed. It is truly touching to return to these recordings that symbolise a world that was lost forever. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released October 26, 2018 | APR

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 5 étoiles de Classica
When thinking of the great German pianist Wilhelm Backhaus, the image of an old master with a large pale forehead often comes to mind, frozen in his somewhat wise and austere performances. With his fierce young Beethoven-like appearance, Backhaus gave his first recital in 1899 while his last concert, by which time he was a respectable old man, took place on July 5 1969, a week before his death. The miraculous advances in recording preserved this brilliant seventy-year-long career, because, unlike his colleagues Rubinstein and Schnabel who shied away from vinyl, Backhaus was one of the pioneers of the medium, having made his first records in 1908. This album contains all his Beethovenian recordings produced in London before the war. We find extraordinary performances of four sonatas and Concertos No. 4 and No. 5, with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Landon Ronald. Recorded in 1927, the Emperor was easy for both the pianist and the orchestra and required few takes. In 1928, Backhaus told the British press that his recording of Concerto no. 5 was the most beautiful thing he would ever make, without knowing that he still had over forty career years ahead of him. The sessions for the 4th Concerto were very different. Three sessions were needed in September 1929 and two more were added in March 1930 following technical problems. Contrary to the myth that the takes were all unique at the time of the 78 rpm, it took seven or eight of them (the faces lasted two minutes, during which time "no" mistakes were allowed) to complete the work in March 1930, because Backhaus and the musicians – who were probably very tired at this point - were constantly tripping up. The result is nevertheless stunning, as the rendition is characterised by a breath-taking fluidity. The difficulty of recording at the time was that you could easily lose the tension or tempo from one side of the record to the other. However, Backhaus' winged touch, probably on one of the very light pianos of that time, spins like a spring-time wind. The rest of this double album is devoted to four sonatas and a few of Bach's Preludes and Fugues. Let us add that the softness and precision of these recordings perfectly illustrates the mastery acquired in a short time by the sound engineers. As with old films, today's restorations allow us to see and hear these testimonies from a distant past in such a quality that our elders would never have thought possible. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released March 9, 2018 | SWR Classic

Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Classical - Released July 1, 2010 | Audite

Distinctions Choc de Classica
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Classical - Released July 31, 2020 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res
After having recorded Beethoven’s entire sonata catalogue in mono between 1950 and 1953, Wilhelm Backhaus, at DECCA’s request, delivered a second version of this album, between 1958 and 1969, this time in stereo and re-released on Qobuz in Hi-Res. But Backhaus would not live to see the recording of Sonata n°29 "Hammerklavier", a great shame as he was an outstanding interpreter of this piece - Beethoven (and Brahms) was his favourite composer.According to those who saw his live performances, it was in public that Backhaus’s artistic spontaneity shined. The richness and power of his performances are clear in the rare live recordings available. Indeed, his studio recordings presented a much more restricted and controlled musician, less taken by Beethoven’s musical momentum, which he performed so spectacularly. Backhaus’s discography remains to this day a great testament and an ode to Beethoven’s music.
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Classical - Released April 16, 2021 | Profil

Booklet
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Classical - Released November 20, 2020 | APR

Booklet
This new publication from the historic label APR dedicated to Wilhelm Backhaus is of undeniable musical and political interest. The first ever publication of the recordings that marked the end of the German pianist’s collaboration with HMW (His Master’s Voice) which started in 1908 and was brutally interrupted in 1948. The recordings took place in Switzerland, an escape and refuge for more or less active sympathisers of the Nazi regime, like Alfred Corto and Wilhelm Backhaus. The latter refused to return to London and demanded the pieces were recorded in his adoptive country.Claiming that there were cutting problems on the masters upon their arrival in London, Walter Legge (the producer at the label HMW) never published these recordings, being neither satisfied with the pianist whose playing he found dry and heartless, nor the acoustics and the bad piano at the Zurich studio. The real reason clearly being the fact that Legge was not able to act as the artistic director for these recordings. Furious, Backhaus wrote a long letter to Legge putting a definitive end to their collaboration, the pianist then returned back to the “rival” label Decca, with whom he recorded his interpretations up until his death in 1969.Among the chosen works by Bach (Italian Concerto, Prelude and Fugue in B flat major), Mozart (Sonata K. 331), Beethoven (Sonata no. 18) and Schubert (Impromptu in E flat major), one finds of Wilhelm Backhaus’ typical sobriety and virtuosity whose pared down playing is distinguished by its great polyphonic clarity. His interpretation of Mozart’s rather unpopular “Coronation”, his Concerto K. 537 was recorded in Berlin in November 1941 when the Third Reich controlled a Europe on its knees. While we know that Backhaus had played for the Führer in private, here we find him alongside Fritz Zaun, a supporter of the regime, for this homage to Mozart. Backhaus plays with his own cadences and never hesitates to ornament or embellish some of the chords that Mozart had left bare, a practice often used by Backhaus in line with the traditions of the time. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released May 22, 2020 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released January 1, 1992 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released June 26, 2020 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released June 26, 2020 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released January 1, 1967 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released January 1, 1957 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released April 10, 2020 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released July 31, 2020 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released January 1, 1967 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released May 8, 2020 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released January 1, 1992 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released May 29, 2020 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released June 5, 2020 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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