By Rachel Silver with interview by Jason Victor Serinus
The time is here! We are now making a set of 23 Beethoven piano sonatas available to the public in MQA, High-res, CD-quality, and MP3 formats (if there is enough demand we may release the other nine sonatas at a future date). The MP3 files are available for free, and the other recordings are available with a small donation to Silver Linings, our non-profit organization, 100% of which goes to various projects that this organization funds. Please see the popup box for the minimum donation amounts for each file type.
To make a donation and download the high-quality files, please proceed below. To download the mp3 files for free, click here.
To download the liner notes (which are also included with the music files), click here.
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Twice in a Lifetime
In 2010, Canadian pianist Robert Silverman took on a rare challenge: to perform and record, for the second time, all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. Few have performed the entire suite of piano sonatas, and far fewer more than once. Unlike many pianists of earlier generations who generally took years to work through the entire cycle, Silverman completed this eight-concert series of Beethoven sonatas over the course of only seven months in San Jose’s elegant Le Petite Trianon Theatre. This is like MadBum pitching all seven games of the World Series and then coming back a few years later and doing it again. No, this is better.
These recordings are also historic in that they represent the first original content recorded and produced for MQA* encoding. It’s only taken six years (we joke), but the MQA recordings are now available, along with CD-quality and standard high-resolution formats.
* MQA is a new audio format that offers music listeners a way to hear studio quality audio in a file that is considerably smaller than standard high-res recordings but sounds better. It’s groundbreaking. And it’s a big deal. Conventional streaming audio formats remove data to keep file size down, but this comes at great cost. Part of this lost data is timing information that helps our brains construct a 3D soundscape of the audio. Without these timing details, audio becomes flat and loses fidelity. MQA doesn’t alter (or remove) any sound details, and it compresses high-resolution audio into a file small enough for streaming. Enter: a whole new way to experience music. MQA offers listeners the original performance, as the artist intended it. MQA is simply awesome. And now you can hear Beethoven’s sonatas in MQA format. (If you can’t tell, we are excited.)
The concert series was produced by Michael Silver, the owner of Audio High, who is a trained concert pianist himself. The sonatas were recorded and mastered by Mark Willsher (a brilliant audio producer and engineer whose credits include the soundtracks for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, as well many other important films and albums). Final editing was done by Zach Miley.
All proceeds from the concerts and recordings go to Audio High’s non-profit organization, Silver Linings (www.silverlinings.org). Silver Linings is a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to enhance people’s lives through music, film, and art and which has contributed to many causes, including cystic fibrosis research, Stanford Hospital, and local music programs for kids. One project funded by Silver Linings is a special room at the Stanford Children’s Hospital where kids can go to see unique events, music performances, and films, including Pixar movies before they hit the theaters.
A portion of every sale at Audio High also goes to Silver Linings, and Audio High pays for all overhead costs, so 100% of the money we raise through efforts like this goes to the causes we support.
Stereophile Review (reprinted with permission)
Jason Victor Serinus from Stereophile sat down with Silver and Silverman to get their thoughts on their shared passion for Beethoven and how this incredible concert series came to be:
Michael Silver first encountered the artistry of Robert Silverman in 2003, when he reviewed the latter’s Live at the Chan Centre: 19 January 2003 (CD, OrpheumMasters KSP880, out of print, though limited quantities are still available at this website’s Robert Silverman e-commerce page). “I listened to it over and over,” he explained by phone. “I just loved it, especially the Liszt B Minor sonata. I’d listened to a lot of interpretations of this particularly difficult piece, and I just loved what he did. And I still do. It’s a great performance.”
After they’d gotten to know each other, Silverman became Silver’s audio client and friend. “We have talked about doing this Beethoven for years,” says Silver. “Robert is a great pianist, very smart, with wonderful and interesting interpretations. We actually brought Robert to San Francisco to perform the complete Mozart sonatas a few years ago, but we didn’t record them.” Those honors have instead gone to Ray Kimber, whose eight-disc set of multichannel SACDs of the Mozart sonatas, mastered by Graemme Brown, should be out on Kimber’s IsoMike label by the end of 2010.
Reached in Vancouver, British Columbia, Silverman, now 78, explained that his interest in high-end audio began in his teens. “In the late ’50s, I owned a Leak DL10 mono amp. (Put it in—some people will remember it.) Eventually I got connected with Stereophile through a friend of Larry Archibald’s. Though them, I met all the other guys. My first Stereophile recording was Intermezzo, the Brahms album, in 1991 [CD, Stereophile STPH003-2].”
Beethoven and Silverman’s career
Robert Silverman expounds at length on Beethoven’s masterworks for solo piano at beethovenodyssey.blogspot.com. Asked to sum them up, he declared Beethoven’s sonatas “absolutely central” to the canon of piano music.
“There have been many other great works written for piano, but Beethoven’s have never been surpassed. The only thing more exhilarating than studying them for the first time was restudying them again fifteen years later and seeing what I’d missed the first time around. It’s been an exploration of what a smart musician Beethoven was and how many things he took care of. No matter what insights you come up with, Beethoven is ahead of you.”
Silverman’s discography of more than 30 CDs and a dozen LPs includes a disc of Liszt works that received a Grand Prix du Disque from the Liszt Society of Budapest. His out-of-print 1990 recording of the Beethoven sonatas was short-listed for a Juno Award (Canada’s equivalent of the US’s Grammy Awards). A member of the faculty of the University of British Columbia for 30 years, Silverman served for five years in the 1990s as Director of the institution’s School of Music, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in 2004. While he now devotes himself full-time to concertizing and recording, in the 2010-11 academic year, e was also a visiting professor at the McGill University’s Schulich School of Music.
“The question of building a career is something I come back to many times,” he said toward the end of our talk. “I did what I did. I decided, for whatever reason, that I was going to teach. I always enjoyed it, and I didn’t mind not having to worry about where my next dime is coming from. I think I know me pretty well, and probably I did what I should have been doing.
“One place where I really was very lucky was that I got enough opportunities to make recordings that did get heard. While some pianists are too busy running around from one festival to another to have time to record, I’m leaving a legacy I’m fairly proud of. How many pianists get to record the Beethoven sonatas twice in their career? Besides Arrau, Barenboim, Brendel, and Kempff, I don’t think anyone else has traversed them more than once.”
The companies below have generously sponsored the Robert Silverman recordings so the public can download this music for free.
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