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Topic: late Beethoven - what it takes  (Read 2602 times)

Offline florestan9

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late Beethoven - what it takes
on: May 06, 2006, 01:59:43 AM
I have read that in competitions, judges frown on young performers who attempt late Beethoven, owing to the fact that they are not musically mature enough.  I remember seeing a special on PBS last year highlighting performances from the last Van Cliburn competition where a young woman was taken aside by a judge and essentially told that she should not be performing late Beethoven simply because she was so young (I hope I'm remembering this correctly).  However, I went to a recital this past year where a pianist in his early 30s performed Beethoven's op. 111 extremely well, possibly the best that I've heard.

What kind of "maturity" do you think it takes to successfully perform one of these works?  Is it a matter of one's age, pure technical ability, experience with learning other works by Beethoven, or some combination of these (or other) things?  I am an amateur in my mid 20s and I don't expect to attempt any late Beethoven anytime soon, but this question has come to my mind before.  Guess it's my fantasy to learn op. 111 some day   :)

Offline invictious

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #1 on: May 06, 2006, 02:10:24 AM
You need to go through experience in life.

You just need to mature over matters, it will come to you naturally, through experience and difficulties.

You can play the earlier late beethoven judging by your age, but not terribly well. Don't worry, you will get there naturally and eventually ;)

Late Beethoven - Musically Obscure
Bach - Partita No.2
Scriabin - Etude 8/12
Debussy - L'isle Joyeuse
Liszt - Un Sospiro

Goal:
Prokofiev - Toccata

>LISTEN<

Offline stevie

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #2 on: May 06, 2006, 02:20:24 AM
thing is, beethoven was expressing in his music feelings and thoughts he had never felt until then, they show a man looking back over his life, and a man looking forward to the end with fear, and at the end of op111 with profound contentment...

so, if youve thought about those things, and been an emotional state similar to his, you are more likely to 'get' the music and interpret it musically the way he intended it to be expressed.

of course, the thing aside from this, is that the sound that comes out of the piano is an end, not the process in which the interpretive decisions were made.
so with musical reasoning, and interpretive intelligence, a young person can just as well come out with the same interpretation as the old perso, its technically completely possible, and this is why i think the cliburn statement was mildly BS.

the factor people percieve is also psychological, it just doesnt seem right for a 15 year old to be playing the op111, even if it sounds identical to an old dudes performance.
same with a really old dude playing scriabin's 5th sonata, about sex and orgasms, you DO NOT wanna see a 90 year old dude with white stains on the piano, even if it sounds awesome.
this is superficiality, its wrong, but its there, and it aint goin away, a bit like me :D.

Offline zheer

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #3 on: May 06, 2006, 07:33:14 AM
I think the key in understanding the late 5 piano sonatas by Beethoven is firstly by accepting the fact that classical music is not a universal language, hence what might sound like perfect sence to one listner, to another listner it may sound like complete rubish. Infact to fully appreciat the late sonatas one must have heard and digested the early-er sonatas.
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Offline crazy for ivan moravec

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #4 on: May 06, 2006, 08:13:12 AM
the most logical reason i can think of why young pianists learn these very mature sonatas is that the music grows in them over time. when we learn something, say the Op. 109 sonata, and either leave it for years or play it from time to time, it grows pretty well in us. it matures.

but this kind of progress in maturity is quite different from our own maturity through life experiences, the non-musical ones. like said above, life is what will make it sound more great.
Well, keep going.<br />- Martha Argerich

Offline mephisto

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #5 on: May 06, 2006, 12:00:37 PM
Infact to fully appreciat the late sonatas one must have heard and digested the early-er sonatas.

No.

Offline verywellmister

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #6 on: May 08, 2006, 09:10:15 PM
Yeah.  Earlier on this bboard people told me that Op.111 was special and not supposed to be played by kids.  I suppose this "You are not musically mature enough" only applies to Opp. 106, 110, and 111.

FYI...

There was one 14-year old boy who played the 1st 2 movements of Op.109 and won the national MTNA competition this year (had to compete against him  :'().

There was a 16 year old girl this year who played also played Op.109.  She won the the local university piano competition, competing against Scriabin Sonata no.4.

So I guess Op.109 CAN be done by kids.

I asked my teacher about working on it towards the end of my high school years and he said...Yes!  whoo-hoo.  He said to do these Sonatas, you need to work on tone production, such as Brahms and Debussy.


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Offline florestan9

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #7 on: May 09, 2006, 01:23:24 AM
Yeah.  Earlier on this bboard people told me that Op.111 was special and not supposed to be played by kids.  I suppose this "You are not musically mature enough" only applies to Opp. 106, 110, and 111.

FYI...

There was one 14-year old boy who played the 1st 2 movements of Op.109 and won the national MTNA competition this year (had to compete against him  :'().

There was a 16 year old girl this year who played also played Op.109.  She won the the local university piano competition, competing against Scriabin Sonata no.4.

So I guess Op.109 CAN be done by kids.

I asked my teacher about working on it towards the end of my high school years and he said...Yes!  whoo-hoo.  He said to do these Sonatas, you need to work on tone production, such as Brahms and Debussy.




Op. 111 is my favorite Beethoven sonata.  I think I might be able to pull off the first movement, assuming that I could actually play the notes (!), but I wouldn't know where to begin on the second movement.  I am definitely not at the point where I can interpret it in a meaningful way.  I'll have plenty of time to get to it though.   :)

Offline kriskicksass

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #8 on: May 09, 2006, 07:44:37 PM
A girl my age and I are the only two teenagers my teacher has ever assigned late Beethoven. I am technically the first because I was assigned Opus 109 a few weeks before she was given Opus 110. I'm not going to say anything about who we are as pianists, as it'll most likely come off as pretentious and self-gratifying, but I will say this: my teacher is the best in the region (central New York) and he is very musically responsible about what music he will give to his students. The fact that he's assigned not only one but two late Beethoven sonatas to teenagers says to me that you don't have to be at the end of your life to play the last 5 sonatas. If anything, I agree with the poster who said that late Beethoven should be learned young and given time to mature. It's like all the 'big' works in the repertoire; if you don't tackle it when you're young and confident, when are you gonna do  it?

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #9 on: May 19, 2006, 03:26:19 AM
I don't believe in this end-all idea, actually, that only age can confer wisdom or supply the appropriate musicality for certain works.   Schubert, Mozart, Mendelssohn and others wrote great, mature works when they were teenagers, that disprove the theory immediately!

Also there is another element, of a certain evolution in culture, (please be patient to see how I mean this!), of a sort of common source of humanity's knowledge and culture.  Busoni once commented, I am sorry I cannot find where and must paraphrase, that the eletrical experiments of Edison, which were genius at the time, were now executed with the greatest frivolity by young boys around the world.  That knowledge became absorbed into the greater human source, and became available to all. 

So it is with culture, I believe; that is why you see so many pianists now who fancy themselves conductors.  Difficult pieces will always be difficult, but certain difficulties we as humanity can overcome, and pass on from generation to generation.  It was even said by Liszt's pupil Friedheim, that Liszt didn't have the greatest technical tools of all!  That is not counting the sheer force of his personality of course.  But at the time what Liszt achieved was unheard of, and would have taken anyone else years, if not decades, of practice (ie, maturity and age and experience).  According to Friedheim, Liszt was surpassed in many ways by pianists of the next generations.  And now, our knowldge of the mechanics of piano playing has become so scientific that it can be easily transmuted from teacher to student.

When we hear the recordings of Schnabel, of Serkin, of Richter, of whoever recorded the late Beethoven sonatas, we don't necessarily copy them, but a certain amount of the work in udnerstanding them has already been done for us.  It is up to us to take this point into a new direction, to understand the pieces in terms of our times and epoch.  In that sense, the idea of certain music requiring a certain age is really null.

Walter Ramsey

Offline alwaystheangel

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #10 on: May 20, 2006, 05:05:42 PM
I saw a 20 year old play a Chopin piece (I don't remember what it was but it was played with the symphony ORchestra and was 30-45 minutes long)  I was completely enthralled by the performance, to me it was magic, it felt like it was only a instant long, it was that incredible to me.  My piano teacher also saw the performance and said it was fine, but he was too young to play it, maybe in 10 years or so, she said.  Maybe our age/maturity have an effect on how we perceive the performance?  I am younger than the performer so it seemed mature to me, but my piano teacher is a great deal older so it seemed childish to her...?
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Offline mike_lang

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #11 on: May 20, 2006, 10:42:30 PM
I am replying directly to the title, not the posts, but some advice my piano teacher gave me was to become well-acquainted with middle period works of his.  He also suggested to become familiar with his late quartets.

Best,
Michael

Offline maxy

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #12 on: May 21, 2006, 06:00:05 PM
one should consider dying twice and come back from the dead before attempting late Beethoven.   ::)

Seriously, I think expectations are just too high. 

Offline tompilk

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #13 on: May 21, 2006, 06:30:22 PM
i saw a masterclass with barry douglas and 2 of the kids played beethoven sonatas - one was op. 109. Barry Douglas said that it was too early in teh day (10.00am) to be listening to such good music as that... I guess he's kind of saying that it is very serious music...
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Offline krittyot

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #14 on: May 22, 2006, 01:42:41 AM
Wait till you are old, 40+, and you will play Beethoven late sonatas well. This happens to Mozart too.
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Offline panic

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #15 on: May 22, 2006, 01:52:23 AM
I haven't listened to 109 often enough to use it as an example. But to me, op. 110 and 111 actually SOUND like an old man looking back on his life (the best example I can think of of that is actually string quartet op. 132, 3rd mvmt). In my view the 111 Arietta is nothing if not a peaceful reflection, so I can't imagine playing it until an age in which I have something substantial to reflect on.

Offline kriskicksass

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #16 on: May 22, 2006, 03:56:49 AM
In my view the 111 Arietta is nothing if not a peaceful reflection, so I can't imagine playing it until an age in which I have something substantial to reflect on.

I'll take that one step farther: I can't even listen to the second movement of Opus 111. It's too serene and too profound for me right now. I'm a teenager, and we're moody people, so that Arietta is just too much for me. I hope I can listen to the whole thing at some point.

Offline jlh

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #17 on: May 22, 2006, 09:10:54 AM
Seriously, I think expectations are just too high.


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Offline ramseytheii

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #18 on: May 22, 2006, 08:32:28 PM
I'll take that one step farther: I can't even listen to the second movement of Opus 111. It's too serene and too profound for me right now. I'm a teenager, and we're moody people, so that Arietta is just too much for me. I hope I can listen to the whole thing at some point.

That doesn't make any sense to me. If you know it's good qualities, you can listen to it.  Garrick Ohlsson said once when he was young he wasn't "interested" in slow music.  That's one thing, but you didnt' say you weren't interested.  This whole thread reminds me a little of the old-fashioned notion that someone needs to undergo a lot of trauma or suffering to be an artist.  It's true - in a way!  Emily Dickinson never left her house, barely maintained face to face contact with people outside her family, and still wrote some of the most consoling poems about death, or the most chilly poems about death, ever written!  Trauma is all relative, and even from a little pain, we can imagine a lot of pain.  Plant a seed and a tree will grow.  Who cares if you haven't been abused by a parent?  If you haven't suffered through extreme gastro-intestinal disorders?  If you haven't been arrested? It doesn't mean you can't understand essential things about life.  Those things all happened to Beethoven.  Must we be arrested in order to understand his music?

Walter Ramsey

Offline kriskicksass

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #19 on: May 23, 2006, 12:39:11 AM
I guess I wasn't clear enough. I do recognize that the individual pieces are incredible music, but I can't listen to the whole thing because I lose interest. It's not that I'm bored per se, but I always just end up stopping the recording.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #20 on: June 15, 2006, 02:15:20 AM
An old topic, but I just discovered this pertinent quote from Tovey:

"Of the five last sonatas op.110 is technically the easiest, and except in the stretto of the Fugue it does not puzzle the listener.  Hence the young player will find it even more discouraging than op.109.  The grotesque trio of the Scherzo is the only passage that promises to capitulate to technical practice; and elsewhere the player has not even the safeguard that where he does not play convincingly the music will at least sound mysterious.  But it is no use deferring the study of such music until you feel ripe for it.  Those who think it unimpressive are beyond the reach of advice.  Those who recognise that they are unready for it must remember that experience cannot come except by experience; and therefore its foundations must be well and truly laid in youth.  No criticism is so mean and mischievous as that which discourages young players from playing great music accurately because 'correctnesss is not enough.'  Who supposes that it is?  But when your accuracy has become habitual you will be able to think of the music without thinking of yourself; and the listener may then receive more fo Beethoven's message than you thought you knew."

Walter Ramsey

Offline mike_lang

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Re: late Beethoven - what it takes
Reply #21 on: June 15, 2006, 02:53:44 AM
Another good piece of advice regarding the late Beethoven sonatas - my teacher, Emilio del Rosario, said that these are like fine wine.  They need to age, and so if you wait until you are 50 to play them, it is too late.

Best,
ML
 

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