Monday, April 7, 2014

Beethoven, finally

I played the Op. 90 Beethoven sonata this past weekend at an AMSF event, a small house concert. Aside from the six of us performing, there were only two people in the audience, one of them my husband, so it certainly wasn't a high-pressure situation.

Listening to it, I was not happy with the second movement; it was a bit too slow and way too clunky. The piano was a good one but balky, with a heavy touch and a stiff pedal, so in many places my pedaling didn't hold the notes I was intending to hold. One of the other performers turned pages for me, which was a big help, but because I'd never played the piece with a page turner before it threw me off a little as well.

The sonata is dedicated to Beethoven's friend, Count Moritz von Lichnowsky. From Wikipedia:
Unlike a typical sonata, this piece consists of two highly contrasting movements:
Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus mit Empfindung und Ausdruck (With liveliness and with feeling and expression throughout)
Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen (Not too swiftly and conveyed in a singing manner) (cantabile)
The first movement is written in a 3/4 tempo, sounding mysteriously agitated and restless, described by Beethoven as "a contest between the head and heart," based on the situation of the Count deciding whether he should marry a young Viennese dancer. It starts out with powerful chords, responded by more subdued material. The falling semitone, particularly the G-F sharp, dominates the first and second subject groups, and most of the episodic work between.
The second movement, a rondo in the tonic major, however, quiets down into a beautiful melody with a 2/4 rhythm. The two contrasting movements suggest an agitated situation calmed by restful contentness. Notably, Beethoven uses German tempo marks for both movements.
English composer Bramwell Tovey characterized the movement as one "full of passionate and lonely energy." This contrasting gesticulation of emotion is especially evident in the piece's discernible dialogical form, where the head exposes an idea which is thereafter disputed by the heart.
Here is my performance. The sound level is unfortunately too low, so you may need to turn up your volume.

Beethoven, Sonata in E minor, Op. 90, complete

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