For Tempo Robbery
I resisted his Beethoven piano cycle at first because the sound quality of the recordings I first heard were frankly awful - mono and with Niagara Falls in the background...or it may have been the piano that was in the background. Additionally I heard he made mistakes in these recordings and I thought it would be a waste of time to hear "wrong" versions. After a year of listening to "correct" versions, a friend recommended the Schnabel again and I decided to give them another go. Wow - was I surprised! My past recollection was of a very dusty interpretation of no great distinction - listening to it now it sounds exciting, practically reckless! And most importantly, full of life. I did notice some rough phrasing, especially in some of the denser runs where Schnabel tends to "mush" them together in a kind of tonal smear - but I've really grown to love this unique facet. And despite that these recordings were 75 years old, I came across a restoration which removed pretty much all the hiss and so I could actually hear the music. The version I'm speaking of is the set out on the EMI label - on Amazon it's been kind of criticized for being "flat" or "overly-restored" but I compared it with a couple other sets (Pearl and Historical) and those are just too hissy, sorry. The hiss on those is probably louder than most string sections on a piano concerto recording...
If the EMI set is out of your budget however (I wonder of I should start "monetizing" this blog one of these days with all these recommendations) you can actually download the Schnabel set for free from archive.org - but these are transfers from 78 rpm records to expect a little hiss (sometimes). Nonetheless purists stand by them and these are very listenable and enjoyable.
Here's a couple examples:
Sonata No 16 in G major, Op 31 Nr 1
Beethoven. Piano Sonata # 16 in G, Op. 31, No. 1. In three movements: Allegro vivace, Adagio grazioso, Rondo (Allegretto).
Sonata No 18 in G major, Op 31 Nr 3 "The Hunt"
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 18 in E flat, Op. 31 No. 3. In four movements: Allegro, Scherzo (Allegretto vivace), Menuetto (Moderato e grazioso), Presto con fuoco.
I don't think the Schnabel set would make a "perfect" representation of Beethoven's piano sonatas but they are very deep and very human. Beethoven would have given them 2 thumbs up.
Artur Schnabel at NotableBiographies.com