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Classical - Released January 1, 2014 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Distinctions Diapason d'or

Classical - Released September 1, 2007 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Stephen Kovacevich and Colin Davis' Philips recordings of Bartók's piano concertos are contenders for top honors in an already crowded field. Kovacevich was young and hungry when these recordings were taped in 1968 (No. 2) and 1975 (Nos. 1 and 3), and his performances are fiery in the extreme. From his slightly earlier Beethoven sonata recordings for EMI, Kovacevich was already celebrated as a virtuoso, but nothing could have prepared listeners for the sheer force of his playing here. There's nothing in these immensely difficult works Kovacevich can't toss off with panache, and he tears into them with undisguised gusto. His flair for bravura playing is offset by equal soulfulness in the central movements. Davis, who had already delivered outstanding recordings of Mozart, Stravinsky, and Tippet on Argo, turns in accompaniments for Bartók that are fully supportive of Kovacevich but also interesting, even arresting, on their own. With the BBC Symphony in No. 2 and the London Symphony Orchestra in Nos. 1 and 3, the orchestral playing here is consistently first-rate, just like the utterly transparent stereo sound remastered into translucent digital sound from Philips. Even if you have a dozen recordings of these works, you owe it to yourself to hear Kovacevich and Davis'. © TiVo

Classical - Released August 10, 2003 | Warner Classics

This cycle of the complete piano sonatas of Beethoven by Stephen Kovacevich recorded between 1991 and 2002 is easily as good or better than the best cycles of the past 50 years. Bishop is a superb virtuoso, a seasoned interpreter, a profound thinker, and a mature man and he brings all these qualities to bear on the greatest cycle of piano sonatas ever composed. Kovacevich hears the depths as well as the excitement of the early sonatas and the breadth as well as the brilliance of the middle sonatas and he limns the face of the infinite in the late sonatas. EMI's digital sound is warm, clear, and real. The liner notes by Beethoven scholar Joseph Kerman are outstanding. For all the undoubted greatness of Arrau, Ashkenazy, Backhaus, Brendel, and Kempff's cycles, only Stephen Kovacevich's cycle comes close to the magisterial achievement of Artur Schnabel's cycle. It is impossible to over-recommend this set. © TiVo

Classical - Released August 4, 2008 | Warner Classics


Classical - Released November 21, 2008 | Onyx Classics

Though it might seem odd to see Stephen Kovacevich's recording of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations on the Onyx label rather than EMI, the label that issued his recordings of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas, it should not deter any listener from seeking it out. Kovacevich's Diabelli is every bit as recommendable as his sonata recordings. As always with Kovacevich, technical matters are never an issue, and the tone he elicits from his piano is as beautiful as ever. Kovacevich also possesses an uncanny sympathy for Beethoven's music, which leads him to turn up every emotional nuance and find full depth in each variation. Humor, pathos, serenity, fun, and despair all get their time in the sun. Coupled with a bright and buoyant reading of Bach's D major Partita (BWV 828), recorded in clear and colorful digital sound, and accompanied by lucid and insightful notes by scholar Joseph Kerman, this performance will surely please anyone who has heretofore enjoyed Kovacevich's way with Beethoven. © TiVo

Classical - Released January 1, 1968 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Thirty-eight years old and still fabulous, Stephen Kovacevich's 1968 recording of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations sounds as good as new in this 2006 reissue. Certainly, a large part of the reason is the quality of the sound. The Dutch Philips label was one of the great classical companies of the stereo era and its piano sound was highly regarded for its clarity, warmth, and depth. But the larger part of the reason is the quality of Kovacevich's performance. A superb pianist with a subtle touch and an effortless technique, Kovacevich excelled at many composers' music, but he was a born Beethoven player: a pianist with high ideals, deep sensitivities, and a commanding interpretive personality. In between his earliest EMI Beethoven recordings from the '60s and his much later EMI recordings of Beethoven's complete sonatas from the '90s, Kovacevich had a contract with Philips for which he recorded, among other things, Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. And what a recording it was, is, and remains! Kovacevich has the wit and the lightness of touch to make the slighter variations seem more evanescently transcendent than usual and the soul and the strength of will to make the heavier variations seem even more inexorably profound than usual. Plus, Kovacevich has the intellect to make the nearly hour-long work hold together as if performed in a single breath. While most Beethoven fans will already have multiple recordings of the Diabelli Variations, Kovacevich's 1968 recording is surely worth adding to the shelf. © TiVo

Classical - Released January 1, 1992 | Warner Classics


Classical - Released March 1, 2004 | Warner Classics


Classical - Released July 3, 2001 | Warner Classics


Classical - Released January 1, 2004 | Decca Music Group Ltd.


Classical - Released January 1, 2000 | Warner Classics


Classical - Released January 1, 1995 | Warner Classics


Classical - Released January 1, 2001 | Warner Classics


Classical - Released January 1, 1971 | Decca Music Group Ltd.


Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Decca Music Group Ltd.


Classical - Released February 15, 2010 | Warner Classics

Stephen Kovacevich, formerly Stephen Bishop and then (presumably to avoid confusion with the singer/songwriter of the same name) Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich, was born in the U.S. but moved to Britain to study with Myra Hess (whose style his own resembles very little) and has enjoyed a basically international career. For the EMI label he recorded a complete cycle of Beethoven's piano sonatas, beginning in the early '90s and issued as a complete set in 2003. This budget two-disc set offers a plausible greatest-hits selection from the cycle, with the four most famous sonatas ("Pathétique," "Moonlight," "Waldstein," and "Appassionata"), plus the Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, Op. 81a, "Les Adieux"; the short Piano Sonata No. 25 in G major, Op. 79 (which apparently doesn't rate space on the cover, whereas the Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28, the "Pastoral," is listed but does not appear!); and the mighty Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 "Hammerklavier." It's an effective selection, and, although there are other strong Beethoven cycles, this collection can be recommended to the newcomer as a first purchase of Beethoven's piano sonatas. There are keyboard pounders who find greater drama in Beethoven, technicians who clarify the passagework to a greater degree in sonatas that are as genuinely difficult two centuries after the fact as when they came on the scene, and intellectuals (Charles Rosen, if this is your bag) who take the sonatas apart in more detail as they play them, but perhaps none can combine these talents as well as Kovacevich. These two discs brim with excitement, for Kovacevich finds the audience-pleasing strain in each piece. The "Appassionata" and "Waldstein" strain with forward momentum; Op. 79 is a flawlessly intricate miniature that could put one in mind of atomic structure; and the "Moonlight" is a sequence of Romantic mood pieces with a demonic finale. And the "Hammerklavier" captures the real storm-the-barricades-of-the-impossible quality of that work as few other performances do. The CDs reveal various kinds of introductory material when inserted into a computer. An excellent choice for the first-time buyer and for Beethoven sonata collectors who haven't opted for the full set. © TiVo

Classical - Released January 1, 2000 | Decca Music Group Ltd.


Classical - Released April 6, 2004 | Warner Classics

Overshadowed by the more celebrated piano sonatas in Beethoven's cycle of 32, the first three that make up Op. 2 are nonetheless important, imaginative works that should be accorded more attention than they receive. It is possible to recognize signs of things to come in these pieces, and listeners may assume that many characteristics of the later sonatas are just in embryonic form here. However, to consider Beethoven's early works in light of his later achievements is to diminish their significance, as if they were mere trial pieces or insufficient in character and substance. Stephen Kovacevich certainly regards them as fully developed works of their time, and plays the first three sonatas with an awareness of their place in Beethoven's chronology. Shaping them properly along Classical lines, with appropriate nods to Haydn and Mozart, Kovacevich avoids the temptations of anachronism and portrays the Beethoven of 1796 as accurately as possible. With grace and wit, he conveys the sonatas' elegance and vitality; and he treats the occasional eruptions of storminess as expressions of late-eighteenth century Sturm und Drang, rather than as violent explosions of nineteenth century Romanticism. The disc's sound is clean, though EMI's recording seems a little too close to the piano, so volume is best kept to mid-level. © TiVo

Classical - Released January 1, 2012 | Decca (UMO) (Classics)


Classical - Released February 7, 2011 | Warner Classics