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Beethoven Hammerklavier & Moonlight Sonatas – Murray Perahia

Murray Perahia has spent a lot of time with Beethoven throughout his long and successful career. Still, it was only when he passed the 70-year mark that he felt ready to perform and record the “Hammerklavier” — a sonata which is something of the ultimate test of a pianist’s technique, stamina, and musical understanding.

An Unsentimental but Still Expressive Experience

In his recently released album, Perahia couples the Hammerklavier Sonata, op 106 with the Moonlight Sonata, op 27 no 2; the juxtaposition of these two very contrasting works seems to highlight just how limitless and groundbreaking Beethoven was as a composer for the piano. Add Perahia’s unsentimental yet expressive playing, and suddenly even the old Moonlight turns into something of a new experience.

“… his insights into the motivations behind the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata are absolutely remarkable. Here we find an Aeolian harp – or what Beethoven’s idea of one may have been – and some imaginative associations with nothing less than Romeo and Juliet.” — Jessica Duchen

A Fast and Thrilling Ride

The Hammerklavier can feel like an overwhelming structure to get lost in, but here it’s a thrilling ride, sweeping you along. Perahia’s tempos are fast, but the music never feels hurried, thanks to his faultless technique and tasteful rubato. The slow movement has calm, tenderness and poise but it never loses its sense of direction. The sound is warm, rich and resonant without obscuring the impressive clarity of articulation — just listen to the concluding fugue, which is a real feat of transparency.

Doubtless, it’s been worth the wait to hear Perahia in this repertoire!

NEW! Click the album cover to listen to the complete album.
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Perahia Plays Beethoven Moonlight and Hammerklavier| Play album >> | Download CD cover >> |

Recording: Berlin, Funkhaus NalepastraĂźe, Saal 1, 11/2016 (op. 106) & 7/2017 (op. 27 no. 2)

Listen on Spotify >>
View the album on Amazon >>


Related discussions in Piano Forum


Sheet music to download and print

Beethoven Moonlight Sonata

Beethoven Hammerklavier Sonata - piano sheet music


/david
 
     

Moonlight Trapped in the Sonata Form?

Sonatas come in many shapes throughout the history of music. The name Sonata is derived from the Italian word “suonare” (to sound) as opposed to “Cantata” (to sing). Although we find many single movement pieces from the Baroque period and mid-18th century named sonatas, it is not until Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven develop a 3 (or 4) movement disposition that we can talk about the term ”sonata form”. They all added extra movements in order to create what Leonard Bernstein later explained: “… perfect three-part balance, and second, the excitement of its contrasting elements. Balance and contrast — in these two words we have the main secrets of the sonata form.”

The popular classical form

For both Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven it is still the first movement in the sonata which stands paramount in the construction. Additionally a slow movement and a fast movement could be added, each having a specific function in the musical argument of the complete piece. Beethoven eventually develops the form and strengthens each movement’s own specific character and even re-disposes the number of movements and alters the fast-slow-fast disposition of the Classial era.

How can we explain this immense popularity of the sonata for over two hundred years? What makes it so satisfying, so complete?
In Beethoven’s hands the piano sonata underwent a drastic development from his early works inspired by Haydn and Mozart until his late experimental and bold works with a much freer concept of form and drama. The term “sonata form” appears in the mid-19th century and Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas were the basis for the analysis.

The Moonlight Sonata is different

There are no specific reasons why Beethoven decided to title both the Op. 27 works as Sonata quasi una fantasia (“sonata in the manner of a fantasy”), but the layout of no. 2 (the Moonlight Sonata) does not follow the traditional fast–slow–fast. Instead, the sonata proposes an end-weighted journey, with the rapid music held off until the third movement. The sonata consists of three movements:
Adagio sostenuto-Allegretto-Presto agitato
The name “Moonlight Sonata” comes from the German music critic and poet Ludwig Rellstab, five years after Beethoven’s death.

Beethoven: Sonata Sonata Op. 27 no. 2, piano sheet music:
Moonlight Sonata piano sheet music

Two distinctly different interpretations

Here we listen to a recent performance of the Moonlight Sonata by pianist Yundi Li from a popular TV-show in Japan. His interpetation is quite traditional with a slow and beautiful rendition of the first movement while his last movement is very clean and polished – indeed not one of the more wild and stormy versions we have heard. But that is perhaps what to expect by Yundi Li, who is a former International Chopin Competition winner (2000).

On the other hand we have Andras Schiff who, in recent years, has proposed a completely different interpretation of the first movement for three resons:
1. The nickname “Monlight Sonata” is nonsense.
2. Since the meter is “Alla breve” we should count two beats (half notes) per bar, calling for a quite light and quick tempo.
3. Beethoven writes in the beginning of the piece “Si deve suonare tutto questo pezzo delicatissimamente e senza sordino” which means “This whole movement must be played with the utmost delicacy and without dampers. (i.e. with right pedal down). If that means that we should keep the right pedal constantly down throughout the piece or to change pedal in a traditional way when harmony changes is the big question for debate.
Listen to Schiff’s lecture below for a more detailed description.

Yundi Li plays Beethoven Sonata Op. 27 no. 2 (from Japanese TV 2014)
1. Adagio sostenuto
2. Allegretto
3. Presto agitato

Andras Schiff:
Lecture about the Moonlight Sonata (Wigmore hall, London)


Reader Poll

Which intepretation of the 1st movement do you prefer?

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After voting:
1. Feel free to post a comment below about your choice.
2. Share this page with any of your friends that would be interested in reading it and voting.


/patrick
 
     

Yuja Wang at Verbier Festival 2013

In this 3 minute interview Yuja Wang tells us, among other things, the secret of her harmony between fingers and spirit:

Interview
Yuja Wang & Joshua Bell play Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata, 3rd mvt.

Watch the 2013 Verbier Festival concerts in free replay on medici.tv!


/nilsjohan
 
     

Rudolf Buchbinder Embraces Beethoven and the Art of Live Performances

Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder confirms the Vienna legacy through two powerful Beethoven releases dated year 2011, a DVD/Blu-ray of the Piano Concertos Nos. 1 – 5 with Wiener Philharmoniker and a CD box with the complete 32 Piano Sonatas, both recorded live, in Vienna and Dresden respectively. Often considered being the shining successor of the legendary Viennese-trojka (Gulda, Demus, Badura-Skoda), Buchbinder explains the different creative power of live performance:

“In my new complete recording of the Beethoven sonatas, the main issue for me was the musical breath. This only materialises on the concert stage, when the artist is making music live in front of his audience. Whoever works in the studio – as I did during my first recording of the 32 works – plays in a far more controlled manner than on stage, is not nervous and focuses on completely different issues than in the concert setting.”

Ludwig van Beethoven – Rudolf Buchbinder:

Piano Concertos Nos. 1 – 5, recorded live at the Goldener Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, 2011 (DVD/Blu-ray).

“The Sonata Legacy”, complete piano sonatas, live from Dresden in 2011 (9 CD:s)


Watch the Piano Concertos from Goldener Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, 2011 on YouTube:

Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 1 in C-major Op. 15
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 “Emperor”

Beethoven’s Piano Concertos, sheet music to view or download and print:


Buchbinder discusses urtexts, improvisation, practice and performs Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, the “PathetĂ©tique,” and a transcription of Johann Strauss’s “Soiree de Vienne,” recorded in WGBH’s Fraser Performance Studio in November 2008:


Rudolf Buchbinder – Biography

Rudolf Buchbinder was admitted to the Vienna Musik Hochschule, at age five, and remains the youngest student to gain entrance in the school’s history. He is firmly established as one of the most important pianists on the international scene, he is a regular guest of such renowned orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, London Philharmonic, National Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has collaborated with the world’s most distinguished conductors including Abbado, Dohnányi, Dudamel, FrĂĽhbeck de Burgos, Giulini, Harnoncourt, Maazel, Masur, Mehta, Saraste, Sawallisch and Thielemann and is a regular guest at the Salzburger Festspiele and other major festivals around the world.

Buchbinder has over 100 recordings to his credit, including the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas, the complete Beethoven concertos, the complete Mozart piano concertos, all of Haydn’s works for piano, both Brahms concertos, and all of the rarely performed Diabelli Variations collection written by 50 Austrian composers. The 18-disc set of Haydn’s works earned him the Grand Prix du Disque.
His cycle of all of Mozart’s piano concertos with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, recorded live at the Vienna Konzerthaus, was chosen by Joachim Kaiser as CD of the Year.
Rudolf Buchbinder has also recorded live the Brahms piano concertos with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and all five Beethoven piano concertos with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra as soloist and conductor.
In 2006, in celebration of his 60th birthday, he performed twelve Mozart piano concertos with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Vienna Festwochen, the live DVD recording of which was released by EuroArts. In November 2010 a live recording of the Brahms piano concertos with the Israel Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta was released. His performances of the entire Beethoven Sonata Cycle on seven consecutive nights sold out at the Dresden Semperoper and the Mariinsky Hall in St. Petersburg earlier this year. The Dresden performances were recorded live and released worldwide by Sony.

Read more:
Rudolf Buchbinder – official website

Further listening:
Brahms’ Piano Concertos with Zubin Metha (2010)


/patrick
 
     

Can You Do the Beethoven G Major Concerto Blind Test?

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58, was composed in 1805-1806, although no autograph copy survives.
The first movement opens with the solo piano, playing simple chords in the tonic key before coming to rest on a dominant chord. After a poetic pause of two and a half beats, the orchestra then enters in B major, the major mediant key, thus creating a tertiary chord change. This becomes a motif of the opening movement.

It was premiered in March 1807 at a private concert of the home of Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz. The Coriolan Overture and the Fourth Symphony were premiered in that same concert. However, the public premiere was not until 22 December 1808 in Vienna at the Theater an der Wien. Beethoven again took the stage as soloist. This was part of a marathon concert which saw Beethoven’s last appearance as a soloist with orchestra, as well as the premieres of the Choral Fantasy and the Fifth and Sixth symphonies. Beethoven dedicated the concerto to his friend, student, and patron, the Archduke Rudolph.

Click to print the test sheet!

Tip: Listen to the video without looking and see if you can recognize who is who of the pianists! In random order they are: Backhaus, Gould, Aimard, Gilels, Fleisher, Pletnev, Arrau, Haskil, Schnabel and Gieseking

A review in the May 1809 edition of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung states that “(the concerto) is the most admirable, singular, artistic and complex Beethoven concerto ever” (Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, May 1809). However, after its first performance, the piece was neglected until 1836, when it was revived by Felix Mendelssohn.

Today, the work is widely performed and recorded, and is considered to be one of the central works of the piano concerto literature.

Print the test sheet and listen to ten famous pianists playing the beginning:

Who do you prefer and why?
Could you spot anyone blindfolded and if so, how?


/patrick
 
     



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