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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!

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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)

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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)


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/patrick
 
     



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