Showing posts with label Piano Sonatas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Piano Sonatas. Show all posts

Saturday, April 14, 2018

CHOPIN - Piano Sonata No. 2 'Funeral March'

English: Arthur Rubinstein Français : Arthur R...
Arthur Rubinstein  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Arthur Rubinstein (1887 - 1982) was a Polish pianist and one of the great virtuosos of the 20th century. He was declared a child prodigy at the age of four and had perfect pitch. By the age of thirteen, he had already made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic.

He toured all over the world during his long life. There may have been other pianists that could play a certain piece or composer with more insight, but everything Rubinstein played was rock-solid in interpretation and technique. His tone was golden, he was incapable of producing a harsh tone from the piano. His repertoire was huge. For example, he could perform in short notice 27 different piano concertos. He was also an excellent chamber music musician.

He made recordings from 1928 to about 1976, with most of his recordings being done for RCA. all of his RCA recordings have been issued on music CD, the entire set contains 94 CD's and runs to 106 hours. He concertized until his eyesight failed him and he retired in 1976 at age eighty-nine. His last concert was in Wigmore Hall in London where he had first played nearly seventy years previously.

Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin.
Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rubinstein is most well known for his Chopin performances. Rubinstein was one of the first pianists early in the 20th century to play Chopin as the music was written. That's not to say he played it coldly and analytically, but Rubinstein purposefully rids himself of the excesses in performance and interpretation that had become somewhat of a tradition in Chopin's music. There is no better player of Chopin's 2nd sonata than Rubinstein. He plays with expression and passion that totally serves the music.

Chopin's 2nd sonata confused music lovers when it was first published in 1837. Schumann said it lacked cohesion and Chopin "simply bound together four of his most unruly children." The sonata is in 4 movements and follows the layout of Beethoven's Piano Sonata #12, which was one of Chopin's favorite Beethoven sonatas. The sonata opens with what some have called a tribute to Beethoven, as it is very similar to Beethoven's opening of his final piano sonata, Opus 111 in C minor, another favorite of Chopin. 

The second movement is a scherzo, the third movement is the famous Funeral March. The enigmatic final Presto movement has been subject to many interpretations. In the preface to the American edition of the sonatas, James Huneker quotes from Karol Mikuli, the editor of the sonatas and one of Chopin's pupils, that Chopin said of this movement, "The left hand and right hand are gossiping after the March". Arthur Rubinstein himself said of the movement that, "One hears the winds of night sweeping over churchyard graves, the dust blowing and the dust that remains."




Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Keyboard Sonatas of MOZART

Family portrait: Maria Anna ("Nannerl&quo...
Family portrait: Maria Anna ("Nannerl") Mozart,
her brother Wolfgang, their mother Anna Maria (medallion) and father, Leopold Mozart
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mozart, born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756, was christened Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus. Born on the feast day of St. John Chrysostomus, his first two names honored the saint, and Theophilus came from Johannes Theophilus Pergmayr, his Godfather. Theophilus is Gottlieb in German, a name Mozart sometimes used, and Amadeus is Italian, the name Mozart preferred and the name with which he is identified by in the world of music.

Leopold, Mozart's father, was a fine musician and had a wide reputation as a wonderful violin teacher. It is he who was Mozart's first music instructor and who introduced Mozart to the public. At the age of five, with his father's guidance, Mozart began to give performances.

Mozart was a prolific composer of opera, keyboard works, vocal pieces, symphonies and chamber music. He was a gifted pianist, violinist, and conductor. Nearly all of his compositions were commissioned works, no commission being too small or too large. Mozart's music is a depiction of the man himself, ranging in moods of comical, noble tragedy, simplistic elegance, courtly majesty and heroic works full of the spirit of freedom.

In December of 1774, Mozart traveled to Munich where he composed a set of six sonatas, K. 282 in E-flat Major included. These six sonatas represent Mozart's earliest surviving works in this genre. Mozart's early works are a light, cheerful style associated with the Galant movement in Italy. The Galant movement was an emphasis on classical simplicity (such as less ornamentation, an increase in the importance of the melody, musical phrases of a regular length and so forth), as compared to the complexity and ornate nature of the Baroque era.

Mozart also modeled his compositional style after many of his contemporaries, including Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach, Johann Christian Bach, and Franz Joseph Haydn. It is Haydn's influence that is particularly noted in K. 280, 281, and 282.

Mozart's keyboard sonatas were not originally intended for the concert platform, but instead for a more private context. They were valuable tools for teaching and they also provided repertoire material for Mozart's performances in the homes of patrons.

The Sonata in E-flat Major, K. 282, begins atypically with an Adagio movement. The movement is in a two-part form or binary form. This first movement, in the key of B-flat Major, is very expressive melodically and demonstrates a strong interplay between forte and piano.

The second movement consists of two minuetts, in the keys of B-flat and E-flat Major. The first of the two minuetts is simple, yet energetic, and reminiscent of Haydn's style. The second of the minuetts has a livelier left-hand accompaniment and "snap-rhythms." This second movement also exhibits the same striking contrasts between forte and piano.


The third movement, in the key of E-flat Major, is in miniature sonata allegro form with a very short development and a full recapitulation. The upbeat motive recurs in a variety of forms, giving an impression of compact unity to the whole movement. This motive also serves as the thematic basis for the development section. The recapitulation begins exactly as the exposition. The coda, tail/ending extends the opportunity to show off the pianist's technical ability and ends almost as an afterthought. It is as though the pianist has stopped, but the music continues on.



Saturday, October 7, 2017

Joseph Haydn's PIANO SONATAS

Portrait of Joseph Haydn - younger by Ludwig G...
Portrait of Joseph Haydn -
younger by Ludwig Guttenbrunn, ca. 1770.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
Haydn's musical education began as being a choir boy at the St. Stephen Cathedral in Vienna. Still, the turning period inside his musical instruction has been the encounter with Porpora who tutored him singing and musical composition.

In 1757, Haydn penned his first quartets, op.1 and op.2. Those early creations created his fame inside the Viennese nobility. His primary consistent work had been proposed by Count Morzin in 1758. In 1761 he was hired by the Esterhazy family as music director at the castles of Eisenstadt and also Eszterhaza, palaces branded as "little Versailles". Both having two theaters. He remained in that standing up to 1790. Haydn has written for the Esterhazy all his operas, lots of symphonies and an important quantity of chamber music.

Joseph Haydn met with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the course of the winter months of 1781-1782. A significant companionship, full of shared appreciation will bind the two composers. In 1791, the year of passing of Mozart, Haydn, free from his engagements at the Esterhazy court, travels to London. He possessed a triumphal welcome. He authored the initial series of his "London Symphonies" (n.93 to 98). An additional stay in London, 1794-1795, again having a large achievement saw the publication and performance of six new "London" symphonies (n.99 to 104).

Returning to Vienna in 1795, Haydn composes a series of six Masses, a wide variety of string quartets, and most importantly, his two big Oratorios: "The Creation" and "The Seasons". His very last public appearance took place in 1808 on a public performance of his "Creation", this is an apotheosis. He will pass away the subsequent year.

Franz Joseph Haydn possessed a long, productive professional career, he had been a commendable composer with the completion of a sense of humor. His numerous production has embraced almost all types and types. Aside from the excellent symphonic works and the two delightful Oratorios one should not ignore the magnificent chamber music works; 68 string quartets, a good number of trios and "Divertimento"s. He also composed a variety of religious creations including the gorgeous "Last seven terms of Christ at the Crucifixion", cantatas, lieds and operas.

The piano works by J. Haydn, that felt a little bit neglected for a time, is now regaining favor among primary pianists. Performers like Wilhelm Backhaus, Lili Kraus, and Glenn Gould include mixed lots of sonatas and variations. Paul Badura-Skoda offers an "authentic" performance on a "pianoforte" of that epoch.

Inside the sizable productivity of Franz Joseph Haydn, compositions for the piano are solely overtaken in quantity by symphonies and string quartets. Compared with 106 symphonies and 68 quartets we have got "only" around sixty sonatas for the piano. The earliest ones are definitely meant for the "clavicembalo".




One needs to add into the list those pretty valuable works that are: the variations, a "Capriccio", a "Fantaisie" and particularly the 45 trios for piano, violin, and violoncello upon which the piano has got the best part.

Guaranteed, Joseph Haydn did not formulate the sonata form nor the symphony. But his expansion and emancipation of those musical types provided the style for all future composers. The constitutional frameworks produced by Haydn are even now alive. For this brilliant composer, the musical form had been by no means a pre-set rigid mold.

The "Haydn-Sonata" has by no means been a quickly arranged invention. The composer continually stated his references towards the "real" father of the sonata-form: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Since the years 1760 the style of C. Ph. E. Bach, typical with its "Empfindsamkeit" (sensitivity) and rapidly changing moods did impress rather very much Haydn. Even so, the Austrian master did infuse in those surfacing musical forms and styles a coherence, a balance that had been missing inside his famous Nordic forerunner.



One additional powerful influence is Domenico Scarlatti, even though in no way referred to specifically by F.J. Haydn. This is often to some degree evident in the melodic melody lines, but Scarlatti did not adhere to the emancipation of the "sonata" musical form.

The "new" edition of Haydn's works, published in 1960 by Christa Landon, enumerates some 62 sonatas. Most of those cannot be genuinely attributed to Franz Joseph Haydn. The definitive listing made by Anthony van Hoboken is created on the Breitkopf und Hartel publication and chronology. This Hoboken directory is counting 52 sonatas for the piano.

By Mehmet Okonsar - Article Source: EzineArticles


Friday, June 16, 2017

MOZART SONATA As Art and Education

Mozart in 1777, the year of the concerto. Pain...
Mozart in 1777, the year of the concerto.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
We all know that Mozart was an amazing pianist and composer who started his work at a very tender young age. Most of us also know that the Mozart sonata is a very important piece of musical history. However, do you know very much about these pieces? For example, did you know that these were not all pieces that he wrote specifically to play as a performer but also pieces that he wrote for the purpose of teaching his work to others? Taken as a whole, the sonatas represent a lifetime of creative work from one of the most amazing musical geniuses to have ever lived.

For those who don't know much about Mozart, what you really need to know is that he was a genius and a prodigy. He was a classical composer from the late eighteenth century who played both violin and piano. He began composing music at an age when most children are barely about to enter kindergarten. Although he died young (at the age of 35) his early start allowed him to have a lengthy career. The music that he composed throughout this career is a testament to the talent that this man held within him.

Français : Édition de la Sonate pour piano nº ...
Sonate pour piano nº 6 de Mozart, « 'Durnitz' »,
dans Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts Werke (1878)
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
The most famous thing that Mozart wrote was the Mozart sonata. This is not a single piece of composition. Instead it is a series of works known as sonatas that are each numbered sequentially. What we can hear when we listen to them is that he developed his musical abilities throughout his brief lifetime, always bringing new twists and turns to the work. Some of them are simple, light and airy whereas others are dark, dramatic and difficult to play. The circumstances that Mozart was experiencing as he went through his life are played out in the different styles that he composed within the pieces.

The majority of the reason that Mozart composed his work was because he wanted to perform it. He started performing music at a very young age and was proficient at playing multiple instruments. The music that he created was his art. The purpose of creating it was to find self-expression and then to share that expression with others by playing it on his own musical instruments. He created his music because it was his passion and his life's work to do so. He created it in order to play it. And one can assume that he was driven by an inner need to create this art; he would have probably created it even if no one would listen to it but himself.

However, the Mozart sonata was not only created so that Mozart could perform his art for others. He was also someone who was interested in teaching musical skills to other people who were interested in learning it. There are some that he wrote for the express purpose of using them as teaching tools. It takes different skills to compose a classical masterpiece than it does to compose a piece that you can use to teach music to someone. That he was able to do this so successfully says even more about Mozart's genius than does the fact that he started composing at such a young age.



The Mozart sonata is an important piece of work for a number of different reasons. It shows how much can be done with one type of musical form. The series of sonatas can be viewed together to show us the ups and downs in Mozart's personal and professional lives. And students can use the pieces individually to learn how to play the violin or piano with much of the same skill that Mozart had himself. No other body of work says as much about the artist and still provides so much function to others as do the Mozart pieces.

    By Andy West
    Andy West is a writer on a variety of topics, including music. Mozart was one of the greatest composer's that has ever lived, and he has left us with a large library of unforgettable pieces, including the Mozart sonata.

    Article Source: EzineArticles


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

BEETHOVEN's Sonatas - Learn How the Master Composed His Sonatas

The painting is described thus: "Ludwig v...
The painting is described thus: "Ludwig van Beethoven was recognised as a child prodigy. He worked at the age of 13 as organist, pianist/harpsichordist and violist at the court in Bonn, and had published three early piano sonatas. This portrait in oils is the earliest authenticated likeness of Beethoven." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beethoven is not a new name to the world of music. For the music buffs he is an inspiring icon. Beethoven's musical genius has inspired generations and is continuing to do so. He immortalized himself in the world of music with his sonatas. He composed music for operas, sonatas, quartets, pianos, violin concerts and orchestras. The talented musician's famous compositions are the Moonlight sonata, Fur Elise and Fifth and the Ninth symphonies.

Genius In The Making
Beethoven was born in the year 1770, on the 16th day of December in Bonn, Germany. Coming from a family of musicians, he showed his inclination towards music, even when he was young. He was gifted in music even as a child, and began performing in public at the tender age of six. He became a professional at the age of 13. He had to fight hearing impairment but emerged brave by countering the problem and composing beautiful tunes. The illustrious musician died at 56 but he still lives on, through his wonderful music. Such is the genius of Beethoven.

Beethoven's Sonatas
Beethoven composed over thirty two piano sonatas and each of them is considered to be a precious treasure in the world of music. He played a pivotal role in the evolution and transformation of the sonata form. Many traits followed by his predecessors like Mozart and Haydn were sustained in his sonatas but he projected his personality and emotions through them and made sonatas, an impressive art form.

The tonality is the fundamental principle on which Beethoven's piano sonatas are organized. Beethoven considered tonality vital for understanding any kind of musical form. In the thirty two sonatas composed by him, twelve of the sonatas have four parts, thirteen comprise three parts and remaining seven sonatas consist of two parts. A significant aspect of the Beethoven's Sonata is the distinguished diversity of the movement types and the succession order. The distinct feature of his sonatas is the diligence with which he creates a connection between the constituent parts of the Sonata.



Beethoven's Sonata No. 14
The piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor by Beethoven is known popularly as the Moonlight Sonata. He completed the sonata in the year 1810. During the composition of this piano Sonata, Beethoven began to lose his hearing faculty. He used a custom made rod that was attached to the soundboard of the piano. This helped him to sense the vibrations. The name of the sonata is 'Moonlight Sonata' since it is compared to moonlight which shines on lake Lucerne by a music critic, Ludwig Rellstab.



Beethoven's Sonata No.8 in C Minor
Beethoven's Sonata No.8 in C minor is called Pathetique. In 1799, this piano sonata was published. The work was dedicated to Prince Karl Von Lichnowsky, his friend. The beauty of the sonata is its tragic sonorities. The sonata has been performed in concerts and recordings frequently, owing to its popularity.

The musical theme of Beethoven's Sonata allures the listeners. The musical theme in his compositions becomes a concept that pervades throughout the composition. Beethoven's piano sonatas are played by both amateurs and professionals alike. His compositions are performed by pianists worldwide and are even recorded extensively.

The gifted musician has reflected his sorrows, joys and all kinds of emotions through his compositions. How else do you describe music? Is it not a channel to describe yourself, your emotions? His brave fight against the odds like his hearing disability did not stop him from composing and playing beautiful music. Playing his sonatas on a piano is like reading the life of this gifted and illustrious musician, full of all the colors and hues of human life - full of music - full of...Beethoven.

    By Yoke Wong
    Yoke Wong is the founder of http://www.YokeWong.net - a leader in providing high quality piano instructional home study courses to piano players throughout the world. She has developed many piano home study courses including Piano Improvisation DVD, Hand Coordination, Runs & Fillers piano course, Sweet Sounds of Jazz Improv, etc. Sign up for piano playing newsletter here http://www.playpianotips.com/pianochord.html
    Article Source: EzineArticles


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Joseph HAYND's PIANO Sonatas

Haydn's musical education began as being a choir boy at the St. Stephen Cathedral of Vienna. Still the turning period inside his musical instruction has been the encounter with Porpora who tutored him singing and musical composition.

In 1757, Haydn penned his first quartets, op.1 and op.2. Those early creations created his fame inside the Viennese nobility. His primary consistent work had been proposed by Count Morzin in 1758. In 1761 he was hired by the Esterhazy family as music director at the castles of Eisenstadt and also Eszterhaza, palaces branded as "little Versailles". Both having two theaters. He remained in that standing up to 1790. Haydn written for the Esterhazy all his operas, lots of symphonies and an important quantity of chamber music.

Portrait of Joseph Haydn - younger by Ludwig G...
Portrait of Joseph Haydn
by Ludwig Guttenbrunn, ca. 1770.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)

Joseph Haydn met with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the course of the winter months of 1781-1782. A significant companionship, full of shared appreciation will bind the two composers. In 1791, the year of passing of Mozart, Haydn, free from his engagements at the Esterhazy court, travels to London. He possessed a triumphal welcome. He authored the initial series of his "London Symphonies" (n.93 to 98). An additional stay in London, 1794-1795, again having a large achievement saw the publication and performance of six new "London" symphonies (n.99 to 104).
Returning to Vienna in 1795, Haydn composes a series of six Masses, a wide variety of string quartets, and most importantly, his two big Oratorios: "The Creation" and "The Seasons". His very last public appearance took place in 1808 on a public performance of his "Creation", this is an apotheosis. He will pass away the subsequent year.

Franz Joseph Haydn possessed a long, productive professional career, he had been a commendable composer with complete of sense of humour. His numerous production has embraced almost all types and types. Aside from the excellent symphonic works and the two delightful Oratorios one should not ignore the magnificent chamber music works; 68 string quartets, a good number of trios and "Divertimento"s. He also composed a variety of religious creations including the gorgeous "Last seven terms of Christ at the Crucifixion", cantatas, lieds and operas.

The piano works by J. Haydn, that felt a little bit neglected for a time, is now regaining favor among primary pianists. Performers like Wilhelm Backhaus, Lili Kraus and Glenn Gould include mixed lots of sonatas and variations. Paul Badura-Skoda offers an "authentic" performance on a "pianoforte" of that epoch.

Inside the sizable productivity of Franz Joseph Haydn, compositions for the piano are solely overtaken in quantity by symphonies and string-quartets. Compared with 106 symphonies and 68 quartets we have got "only" around sixty sonatas for the piano. The earliest ones are definitely meant for the "clavicembalo".

One needs to add into the list those pretty valuable works that are: the variations, a "Capriccio", a "Fantaisie" and particularly the 45 trios for piano, violin and violoncello upon which the piano has got the best part.

Guaranteed, Joseph Haydn did not formulated the sonata form nor the symphony. But his expansion and emancipation of those musical types provided the style for all future composers. The constitutional frameworks produced by Haydn are even now alive. For this brilliant composer, musical form had been by no means a pre-set rigid mold.



The "Haydn-Sonata" has by no means been a quickly arranged invention. The composer continually stated his references towards the "real" father of the sonata-form: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Since the years 1760 the style of C. Ph. E. Bach, typical with its "Empfindsamkeit" (sensitivity) and rapidly changing moods did impressed rather very much Haydn. Even so the Austrian master did infused in those surfacing musical forms and styles a coherence, an balance that had been missing inside his famous Nordic forerunner.

One additional powerful influence is Domenico Scarlatti, even though in no way referred to specifically by F.J. Haydn. This is often to some degree evident in the melodic melody lines, but Scarlatti did not adhere to the emancipation of the "sonata" musical form.

The "new" edition of Haydn's works, published in 1960 by Christa Landon, enumerates some 62 sonatas. Most of those can not be genuinely attributed to Franz Joseph Haydn. The definitive listing made by Anthony van Hoboken is created on the Breitkopf und Hartel publication and chronology. This Hoboken directory is counting 52 sonatas for the piano.



Friday, November 25, 2016

Playing The BEETHOVEN PIANO SONATAS

English: Photograph of bust statue of Ludwig v...
Photograph of bust statue of Ludwig van Beethoven by Hugo Hagen  

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


There are many series, suites and cycles of pieces which can be considered "up there" in the pianist's standard repertoire: Bach's '48', Schubert's Impromptus and Moments Musicaux, Schuman's Carnaval and Kreisleriana, Chopin's Etudes and Preludes, Liszt's Années or the Transcendental Studies, but none can quite come close to Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas, usually referred to as the 'New Testament' of piano music (the WTC is the 'Old Testament'!). Perhaps the primary appeal of these pieces, aside from the sheer Herculean effort of learning and absorbing them, is that they offer both a far-reaching overview of Beethoven's musical style and a glimpse into the inner workings of his compositional life and personality. Urban legend has it that Beethoven was a rough, irascible, grumpy and unapproachable sod, but this does not tell us much about his music. Living with his music, spending time with it to understand what makes it special, allows a more honest, rounded view of him, and, perhaps of all his music, the piano sonatas offer a really candid autobiography.

As pianists, whether amateur or professional, advanced or intermediate, or even just beginning on the great journey of exploration, we have all come across Beethoven's piano music, and many of us have played at least one of his sonatas during our years of study. As an early student, a taster of a proper sonata in the form of one of his Sonatinas (something my father is grappling with at the moment - and refusing any helpful advice from me!). Later on, we might encounter one of the "easier" piano sonatas, such as the pair of two-movement sonatas that form the Opus 49 (nos. 19 and 20), which are roughly Grade 5-6 standard (but don't be fooled by the comparatively "easy" notes!). As part of my Grade 8 repertoire, I learnt the No. 5 (Opus 10, No. 1, in C minor), which prefigures the far more well-known and well-loved Pathétique in the flourish of its opening measures, the "beautiful melody" of its slow movement, and its febrile final movement. A quick glance through the Diploma repertoire lists for any of the exam boards (Trinity, ABRSM, RAM etc) and there is a generous handful of sonatas to choose from, from well-known to less popular, to suit each level of Diploma right up to Fellow.

It is generally accepted pianistic wisdom that Beethoven composed the piano sonatas during three distinct periods of his life, and as such, like the Duo Sonatas for Piano and 'Cello (read my earlier post here), offer a fascinating overview of his compositional development. Setting aside the three "Electoral" sonatas, which are not usually included in the traditional cycle of 32 (though Beethoven authority, Professor Barry Cooper, who has edited new the ABRSM edition of the sonatas, argues that there is a case for including the three sonatas that Beethoven wrote when he was 12 in a complete edition), the early sonatas are, like the early duo sonatas (for violin and for 'cello), virtuosic works, reminding us that Beethoven was a fine pianist. While the faster movements may nod back to his teacher, Haydn (though Beethoven would strenuously deny any influence!), it is the slow movements which demonstrate Beethoven's deep understanding of the capabilities of the piano, and its ability, through textures and colours, moods and contrasts, to transform into any instrument he wishes it to be. Some of the writing could be for string quartet (Op. 2 No. 2). In the early sonatas, Beethoven's mastery of the form is already clear, and many look forward to the greater, more complex, and more revolutionary sonatas of his 'middle' period. His distinctive musical personality is already stamped very firmly on these early works.

The sonatas from the middle period are some of the most famous:

The 'Tempest' and 'La Chasse' (Op. 30, Nos. 2 and 3). The first with its stormy, passionate opening movement, the second of the opus rollicking and somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

The 'Moonlight' (Op. 27, No. 2): the first piano sonata to open with a slow movement. Too often the subject of clichéd, lugubriously romantic renderings, this twilight first movement shimmers and shifts. An amazing gesture, created by a composer poised on the threshold of change.



The 'Waldstein' (Op. 53). Throbbing quavers signal the opening of one of the greatest of all of Beethoven's piano sonatas, while the final movement begins with a sweetly consoling melody which quickly transforms into daring octave scales in the left hand and a continuous trill in the right hand. This is Beethoven at his most heroic.

'Les Adieux' (Op. 81a). Suggested to be early 'programme' music in its telling of a story (Napoleon's attack on the city of Vienna which forced Beethoven's patron, Archduke Rudolph, to leave the city, though this remains the subject of some discussion still). It is true that Beethoven himself named the three movements "Lebewohl," "Abwesenheit," and "Wiedersehen". One of the most challenging sonatas because of its mature emotions and technical difficulties, it bridges the gap between Beethoven's middle and late periods.

Late period:
The 'Hammerklavier' (Op. 106), with its infamous and perilously daring grand leap of an octave and a half at the opening (which, of course, should be played with one hand!); its slow movement of infinite sadness and great suffering; its finale, a finger-twisting fugue, the cumulative effect of which is overwhelming: an expression of huge power and logic.

The Last Sonatas (Opp. 109, 110, 111). I have written about these sonatas previously. They are considered to be some of the most profoundly philosophical music, music which "puts us in touch with something we know about ourselves that we might otherwise struggle to find words to describe" (Paul Lewis), which speaks of shared values, and what it is to be a sentient, thinking human being. From the memorable, lyrical opening of the Op. 109 to the final fugue, that most life-affirming and solid of musical devices, of the Op 110, that peaen of praise, to the "ethereal halo" that is contained in some of the writing of the Arietta of the Op 111, the message and intent of this music is clear. And this is Beethoven's great skill throughout the entire cycle of his piano sonatas.

So, what is the perennial attraction of performing a Beethoven Sonata Cycle? Glance through concert programmes around the world and it is clear that these sonatas continue to fascinate performers and audiences alike, and no sooner has one series ended than another begins, or overlaps with another. Playing the Sonatas in a cycle is the pianistic equivalent of reading Shakespeare, Plato, or Dante, and for the performer, it offers the chance to get right to the heart of the music, peeling back the layers on a continuous journey of discovery, always finding something new behind the familiar. One does not have favourites; just as when one has children, one should never have favourites, though certain sonatas will have a special resonance. The sonatas are like a family, they all belong together - and they are needed, ready to be rediscovered by each new generation. You can play the sonatas for over a quarter of a century, half a century, and yet there are still many things in these wonderful works to be explored and understood, things which still have the power to surprise and fascinate.

Every pianist worth his or her salt knows that presenting a Beethoven sonata cycle represents a pinnacle in one's artistic career (ditto the five Piano Concertos) and an important stepping stone to other great cycles (Schubert's sonatas, for example, which are, perhaps, less satisfying to play than Beethoven's because of problems such as incomplete or different versions of the same work), but once a cycle is complete, one cannot truly say one has conquered the highest Himalayan peak. And that is what is so special about this music: you can never truly say you have "arrived" with it, while its endless scope continues to reward, inspire and fulfil.

I have never heard a complete Beethoven cycle performed by a single performer, but I have heard plenty of concerts which form part of the whole: in the 1980s, it was John Lill, now one of the "elder statesmen" of British pianism; before him, my parents would have heard Brendel and Barenboim. Following in their footsteps, I heard some of Barenboim's concerts when he played a complete cycle at the Festival Hall three year's ago. At the same time, Paul Lewis was just finishing his own cycle at the Wigmore Hall (and beyond). I heard him play Nos. 15-18, some of the early sonatas, and the Last Sonatas. Then there was Till Fellner, a young Austrian with a clean, fresh approach, whose cycle began in 2008. On LP, I had Lill's complete cycle, released the same year as I heard him at RFH. On CD I have Arrau, whose account is hard to match. But I also have recordings of favourites, such as the Opus 10's, played by Angela Hewitt, or the Opus 110 (my absolute favourite), played by Glenn Gould and Mitsuko Uchida (whose Mozart playing I adore).

In concert, the sonatas are presented in halls large and small, famous and lesser known. The size of the hall can affect one's appreciation and understanding of the works. For example, sometimes the earlier sonatas, which were written for the salon, can be lost in a venue as big as the Royal Festival Hall. One's connection to the music is also affected, of course, by the performer. Lill, I remember, brought an extraordinary closeness and intimacy, something I have never forgotten, a sense that it was an entirely shared experience; while with Barenboim it felt as if an invisible barrier had been erected between us, the audience, and him the performer (I suspect he neither intended nor engineered this; rather, the over-awed audience brought it upon themselves!).

Further reading
Playing the Beethoven Piano Sonatas - Robert Taub. "Offers the insights of a passionate musician who performs all 32 of Beethoven's well-loved piano sonatas in concert worldwide. This book presents his intimate understanding of these works with listeners and players alike." (Amazon)
The Beethoven Sonatas and the Creative Experience - Kenneth Drake. "Drake groups the Beethoven piano sonatas according to their musical qualities, rather than their chronology. He explores the interpretive implications of rhythm, dynamics, slurs, harmonic effects, and melodic development and identifies specific measures where Beethoven skillfully employs these compositional devices." (Amazon)

Beethoven's Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion - Charles Rosen. A very readable analysis of all 32 sonatas by respected pianist and writer.




Rocket Piano - Learn Piano

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The "BAGATELLES" by BEETHOVEN

Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are three collections of bagatelles by Beethoven: "Seven bagatelles, Opus 33", "Eleven new bagatelles, Opus 119" and "Six bagatelles, Opus 126". They originate from his time in Bonn, were probably originally intended as middle movements for sonatas but presumably considered by Beethoven in the course of the work on those compositions as too light in character.

To determine the origin and the dating of the bagatelles are not altogether easy. As with many works of Beethoven the opus numbers themselves do not lead to a secure dating of the composition. Beethoven set the opus number only on the occasion of a publication. But even with extensive works the publication followed by no means immediately after the completion. For example, the big string quartets Opus 130, 131, 132 in A minor: Opus 132 the oldest, with Opus 130 following.

Besides, between the first design and the completion of single works with Beethoven often years lay, and the composer was known as very economical in regards to ideas, which he now and again after long breaks took up again, an exact dating especially of the smaller pieces, who filled the breaks between larger works, is especially difficult.

The bagatelles Opus 33 were published in 1803. The autograph carries the label "par Louis van Beethoven in 1782", therefore, one could presume, the whole work still belongs to the early years Bonn. However, the authenticity of the label is questionable, sketches are found for the first and sixth part next to sketches of the oratorio "Christ on the Mount of Olives" (composed in 1801, first performance 1803) and to the Symphony No. 2 in D major (composed in 1801/02, first performance 1803).

Thus, even without a critical review, it can be supposed that the bagatelles of Opus 33 belong mostly to the years of 1801 and 1802, nevertheless, single parts appeared or were sketched before.

The contemporary criticism did not receive the collection particularly benevolently. The only preserved report refers to the name "Bagatelle", with contemptuous poignancy: "Do earn this title in the farthest sense of the word".

More difficult still is the exact dating of Opus 119. Already Hans von Bulow, to whom still no reliable research material was available, doubts in his Beethoven edition the statement of Schindler that these bagatelles were written around the time of the Missa Solemnis in 1822.

"We are not able to believe to this insurance so absolutely: to us these sketches seem to come from a different era, even if the majority, this some special peculiarities leads one to believe, belong seem to belong to the so-called last period." Bulows assumption has proven right.


Single sketches of Opus 119 are already found in 1801, mixed with some of Opus 33. The whole collection is made up from two different groups: No. 7-11 appeared first in 1821 as a contribution to the "Viennese Pianoforte School" compiled by Friedrich Starke, further sketches are found together with sketches of the Sonata in E major, Opus 109, of the Benedictus and the credo for the Missa, belong to 1820. No. 1-6 were finished two years later. The remaining parts are probably treatments of sketches from 1800-1804.

The history of the "Six bagatelle Opus 126" and their origin are indisputable. The sketches are from the year 1823 and are found beside those to the Quartet in A minor, Opus 132, and to the final choir of the Symphony No. 9. Bülow wrote: "Bezuglich dieses letzten Heftes glaubt der Herausgeber auf Grund der darin ersichtlichen charakteristischen Stileigentumlichkeiten versichern zu konnen, dass sie samtlich aus der spatestens Schaffensperiode des Meisters stammen, was bei dem vorangehenden Hefte Opus 119 in Abrede gestellt werden musste." (Regarding this last collection, the publisher believes on grounds of the style characteristics to be able to affirm that it originates from the last period of the master, something that cannot be said for the preceding collection Opus 119."



Monday, July 25, 2016

The History of the MOONLIGHT SONATA

The first movement of Beethoven’s opus 27 no. 2 C# minor sonata was very popular in Beethoven’s day, to the point of exasperating the composer himself, who remarked to Czerny, ‘They are always talking about the C# minor sonata surely I’ve written better things.’ Nearly two hundred years later, it still remains the most popular and downloaded piece of ‘classical’ music.

The title Moonlight Sonata actually didn’t come about until several years after Beethoven’s death. In 1836, German music critic, Ludwig Rellstab wrote that the sonata reminded him of the reflected moonlight off Lake Lucerne. Since then, Moonlight Sonata has remained the “official” unofficial title of the sonata.

Beethoven Piano Sonata 14 - title page 1802.jpg




Sonata quasi una fantasia’ is the title Beethoven gave his fourteenth sonata. Unlike the formal Sonata form of the classical period, Fantasia commonly describes a free-form classical musical piece. Marking the beginning of Beethoven’s second stylistic period, opus 27 no. 2 does not follow the traditional sonata form. Beethoven additionally uses traditional musical mourning devices called Trauermusik, in a very untraditional way. Trauermusik consists of Lament Bass, repetitive accompaniment figures, and chant. Other famous examples of chant are Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music and the Requium. Dotted monotone anacrusis permeate the first movement reminiscent of the tolling of funeral bells, recall the previous piano sonata Opus 26, Marcia sulla morte de’un eroe, which anticipates Chopin’s opus 35 Bb sonata’s famous ‘Marche Funebre’ and later the main theme of Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony’s ‘Marcia Funebre’. What changes in Beethoven’s life led to these transformations in his music?

In 1800-1802 Ludwig van Beethoven experienced devastating internal turmoil in trying to come to terms with his hearing loss. To the outside world, his life seemed to be ideal, with his success as a virtuoso pianist and as a successful, sought after composer in Vienna. He gradually began to withdraw from society and friends, however, as he felt it would be detrimental to his successful career as a musician if people found out he was going deaf. People felt he was being misanthropic, yet it was quite the opposite. Beethoven lived in a great deal of solitude and loneliness due to his impending and eventual complete deafness, which would eventually have a profound effect on his spiritual and creative growth as a composer and a musician. The years of 1800-1802 were a transformative period in Beethoven’s life, and marked the beginning of his second stylistic period. As Beethoven’s outer hearing deteriorated, his inner hearing continued to grow.

Beethoven sought treatment in the village of Heilgenstadt in the late spring of 1802 until October of that year. Full of despair over the unsuccessful treatment, he considered ending his life. In a famous letter known as the Heilgenstadt Testament written to his brothers, he wrote “Thanks… to my art I did not end my life by suicide.”

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Over and over in Beethoven’s music themes of victory over tragedy abound. In the internal struggle he faced, although his music showed the greatest despair and sorrow, it always transcended into triumphant victory. With that same inner struggle, Beethoven learned to transcend deafness and still be victorious in creating greater and greater masterpieces. During the late 1790s, Beethoven’s music began to show changes, as well as enlargement of form. After the Heilgenstadt Testament, Beethoven expressed dissatisfaction with his compositions and according to Czerny was “determined to take a new path.” [1] The changes included strong links between sonata movements, intensified drama, harmonic instability, motivic elements affecting the larger form, twelve measure structures, registral gaps, recitative and pedal effects.

This sonata could be interpreted as Beethoven beginning to come to terms with his impending eventual deafness. The mourning and loss of the Adagio Sostenuto with its modal changes, dissonances, rhythms and chants representative of Trauermusik followed by the rage of the stormy third movement, were his way of expressing how he felt about this affliction of deafness while writing the most extraordinary music and not being able to hear it.

Beethoven would live most of his life in a great deal of loneliness and despair with most of his life devoted to the development of his art and creativity. As this sonata was written towards the beginning of his second stylistic period many masterpieces would follow the ‘Sonata Quasi Una Fantasia’.



Jamila Sahar

[1] Timothy Jones, BEETHOVEN The “Moonlight” and other Sonatas, Op 27 and Op 31, p. 15 http://www.theartofpianoperformance.com

Article Source: EzineArticles