P0844. WALTER GIESEKING: Sonata #20 in G; Waldstein Sonata #21 in C; Appassionata Sonata #23 in f; Sonata #28 in A; Sonata #30 in E (all Beethoven). (Germany) Naxos 8.112063, recorded 1938-40. Transfers by Ward Marston. - 636943206379
"Born in France of German parents, Walter Gieseking became recognized as one of the finest interpreters of the French Impressionist composers. Yet his concert debut was made playing Beethoven’s sonatas, and they were to become an important part of a career interrupted by two world wars. He traveled extensively, and prior to his questionable relationship with the Nazi party, was highly acclaimed in the United States where two of the sonata recordings were made in 1939. Critics at the time saw his performances as very different in approach to Schnabel and Kempff, the two leading Beethoven exponents of the time, Gieseking more interested in the passion and drama than the soul searching of his contemporaries. Certainly in his account of the Waldstein everything is staked on extracting the maximum degree of excitement, the pulse changing frequently as the mood takes him. At times in the outer movements racing forward faster than his extremely nimble fingers can control. I guess in the concert hall it must have been an energizing experience. Much the same can be said of his outgoing Appassionata where he keeps the central movement moving without sentimentality. I find his Twenty-eighth episodic, yet the most interesting on the disc, while his highly detailed account of the Thirtieth has much to commend it. The sound quality is variable, the Twentieth made in Berlin in 1940 sounding more akin to a forte piano, but two years earlier the Waldstein is admirable. The New York sessions—for the Twenty-third and Twenty-eighth—are outstanding for the era. The transfers are admirable."
- David Denton, Sept., 2011
“It was with the repertoire of French masters that the German pianist Walter Gieseking became most famous. The impressionistic piano writing of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel required the most sensitive touch and attention to color and nuance, and Gieseking's finger acuity, imaginative pedaling and above all, preternaturally alert ear made him an ideal interpreter of this music. Nevertheless, his own repertoire ranged widely across eras and national boundaries. Under the tutelage of Karl Leimer, he made his début in 1915. Gieseking was drafted into the German army a year after his first public performance but escaped combat by performing in his regimental band. After the war, he undertook the the life of a working musician, accompanying singers and instrumentalists, playing in chamber music ensembles, and working as an opera coach. He could hardly avoid the heady artistic atmosphere of postwar Germany, and he became an advocate of new music, playing works by Schönberg, Busoni, Hindemith, Szymanowski, and Pfitzner, whose Piano Concerto he premiered under Fritz Busch in 1923. Subsequent débuts in London (1923), the United States (1926, Aeolian Hall, New York), and Paris (1928) were highly acclaimed, with audiences and critics responding enthusiastically to Gieseking's subtle shadings and contrapuntal clarity.
The Second World War brought controversy to Gieseking: like many other artists who remained in Germany during hostilities, he was accused of collaborating with the Nazis. His 1949 Carnegie Hall engagements caused such an uproar that they had to be cancelled; but he was eventually cleared of all charges by an Allied court in Germany. His concert career resumed with the success it had formerly enjoyed. To this activity he added a heavy schedule of recording, committing to disc the complete solo piano music of Mozart and the Beethoven concerti, as well as complete sets of Debussy's and Ravel's piano works. At the time of his death in London (26 October, 1956), Gieseking was engaged on a project to record all the Beethoven piano sonatas. His recordings of Debussy and Ravel are regarded as benchmarks for every subsequent performer.”
- Mark Satola, allmusic.com