Day 243: Piano Sonatas Op. 57 “Appassionata” Op. 54, Op. 81A “Les Adieux” & Op. 31 No. 1

BeethovenCD48Just when I think it’s not possible for Beethoven’s piano sonatas to get any more majestic, compelling, or mind blowing, along comes today’s CD, and another stunning set of performances by Alfred Brendel.

Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor Op. 57 “Appassionata”

From its entry on Wikipedia:

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 (colloquially known as the Appassionata, meaning “passionate” in Italian) is among the three famous piano sonatas of his middle period (the others being the Waldstein, Op. 53 and Les Adieux, Op. 81a); it was composed during 1804 and 1805, and perhaps 1806, and was dedicated to Count Franz von Brunswick. The first edition was published in February 1807 in Vienna.

Unlike the early Sonata No. 8, Pathétique, the Appassionata was not named during the composer’s lifetime, but was so labeled in 1838 by the publisher of a four-hand arrangement of the work.

One of his greatest and most technically challenging piano sonatas, the Appassionata was considered by Beethoven to be his most tempestuous piano sonata until the twenty-ninth piano sonata (known as the Hammerklavier), being described as a “brilliantly executed display of emotion and music”.[citation needed] 1803 was the year Beethoven came to grips with the irreversibility of his progressively deteriorating hearing.

Beethoven was Continue reading

Day 196, Part 2: Beethoven Symphonies 1 and 3

BeethovenCD1The premiere of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 took place on 2 April 1800.

Beethoven was 30 years old.

According to its entry on Wikipedia,

Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21, was dedicated to Baron Gottfried van Swieten, an early patron of the composer. The piece was published in 1801 by Hoffmeister & Kühnel of Leipzig. It is unknown exactly when Beethoven finished writing this work, but sketches of the finale were found from 1795.

The symphony is clearly indebted to Beethoven’s predecessors, particularly his teacher Joseph Haydn as well as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but nonetheless has characteristics that mark it uniquely as Beethoven’s work, notably the frequent use of sforzandi and the prominent, more independent use of wind instruments. Sketches for the finale are found among the exercises Beethoven wrote while studying counterpoint under Johann Georg Albrechtsberger in the spring of 1797.

The beginning of the twelve-bar introduction of the first movement is sometimes considered a “musical joke”. For example, the English musicologist Donald Tovey has called this work “a comedy of manners”. In fact, Symphony No. 1 can be regarded as a result of Beethoven’s bold musical experimentation and advancement which he presents five years after Haydn’s last symphony and twelve years after Mozart’s final Jupiter Symphony.

Fascinating. I had no idea Beethoven was so heavily influenced by Haydn and Mozart.

I can tell from the first few bars of Symphony No. 1 that this is a very mature composition, quite solid, and absolutely listenable. In fact, Continue reading