The English pianist explains why five particular masterworks have him endlessly coming back for more.

Do you remember when you first came into contact with Beethoven’s music?

I must have been eight-years old – it was when I started going to the local library where we lived, just outside Liverpool. They had all these records and it just so happened that they were really well stocked with that repertoire in particular – Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert. That’s where I first got to know all this music. I remember my first contact with the Beethoven Symphonies was the early ’60s Karajan recordings of Berlin Phil. The library had all of those and lots of other things.

Was there something that particularly drew you to the Beethoven or was it simply a matter of what was available?

I don’t know what it was. I do remember being really enthusiastic about it and certain things stick out in my mind from that time. Like the transition in the first movement of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony from the slow introduction to the main part of the first movement, with those repeated dominant seventh chords. I just couldn’t stop playing it over and over again. There was...