Day 248: Piano Sonatas Op. 13 “Pathetique,” Op. 22, Op. 26 “Funeral March,” Op. 78

BeethovenCD53Today’s CD, like so many others, features some of Beethoven’s best work – at least, to my ears.

For example, the first composition – Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor Op. 13 “Pathetique,” which is analyzed on Wikipedia in this entry:

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, commonly known as Sonata Pathétique, was written in 1798 when the composer was 27 years old, and was published in 1799. Beethoven dedicated the work to his friend Prince Karl von Lichnowsky. Although commonly thought to be one of the few works to be named by the composer himself, it was actually named Grande sonate pathétique (to Beethoven’s liking) by the publisher, who was impressed by the sonata’s tragic sonorities.

Prominent musicologists debate whether or not the Pathétique may have been inspired by Mozart’s piano sonata K. 457, since both compositions are in C minor and have three very similar movements. The second movement, “Adagio cantabile”, especially, makes use of a theme remarkably similar to that of the spacious second movement of Mozart’s sonata. However, Beethoven’s sonata uses a unique motif line throughout, a major difference from Haydn or Mozart’s creation.

This sounds more like Beethoven than the pieces he dedicated to Haydn. It’s dynamic, with an emphasis on introspection and melancholy.

Coincidentally, as I was listening to this piece, I wondered if Continue reading

Day 201: Beethoven Piano Concertos No. 1 & No. 2

BeethovenCD6Some parts of Beethoven’s Piano Concert No. 1 in C Op. 15 remind me of Chopin - dreamy, ethereal, and very pretty.

Other parts, remind me of something Glenn Gould would play – a dramatic flurry of notes that astound for their speed and complexity, the musical equivalent of one of those tour buses that winds its way along narrow mountain roads with one wheel hanging over the precipice.

There’s also a bit of Rachmaninoff‘s brazen complexity in this music. It reminds me of the movie Shine in which pianist David Helfgott (played by Geoffrey Rush) suffers a mental breakdown during a competition at which he plays the “Rach 3″ (Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Concerto).

And that’s just in the first movement (“Allegro con brio”).

Now’s a good time to bring back the link to Wikipedia’s Tempo and Mood Markings entry.

Movement II (“Largo”) brings it down, retards the pace a bit, makes it more ponderous, give listeners a chance to recover from the con-brio onslaught of Movement I.

Movement III (“Rondo: Allegro scherzando”) ramps it back up again. Its tempo and mood markings indicate this is to be played briskly and playfully. And it is that. In spades.

I hate to sound like a moron. But I had no idea Beethoven was this gifted. These compositions rock me back in my chair. I’m astounded.

I keep waiting to find a favorite. But they’ve all been favorites. I’d listen to everything I’ve heard so far again. And again. It’s perfect music as Continue reading