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Brendel Plays and Introduces Schubert – 5 DVD Set

Alfred Brendel is an outstanding modern exponent of Schubert’s piano music. He is capable of bringing not only the verve of this music but also its poetic intensity and intellectual depth to life with a special vibrancy. In this unique collection – a 5 DVD box (on Naxos) at a very attractive price – he plays all of Schubert’s major works for keyboard and introduces each piece, throwing light on its compositional substance and at the same time revealing his own highly personal relationship with these masterpieces of Romantic music. Read more >>

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Author Topic: Beethoven - Waldstein Pedaling  (Read 128 times)
didi100
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« on: October 22, 2017, 05:29:46 PM »

I noticed that throughout most of the piece with the exception of the 3rd movement, there is no notation for pedaling. Is it unacceptable to play with pedal? It sounds very staccato without it. I was wondering how most of you play this piece.
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chopinlover01
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« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2017, 03:49:56 PM »

A lot of early-mid Beethoven is played dry, or sparingly pedaled, b/c their pedals were a lot less resonant.

That said, on a modern grand, you may choose to half pedal some sections (like the opening of the 1st movement). The pedals were too different back then for any pedal markings Beethoven wrote in to be practical; instead, look at them as an indication of the sound he wanted, applying the context of the pedals of fortepianos.
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nw746
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« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2017, 07:16:24 AM »

With the Waldstein in particular Beethoven cultivated a very dry and stripped-down piano sound in the opening movement, with lots of percussive chords in the bass. When he does want notes sustained he singles them out specifically.


Here, only the down-stemmed notes in the right hand should be sustained, thus the pedal is contraindicated because that would also sustain the up-stemmed notes.


Or here, where only the left hand should be sustained, in the manner indicated. Using pedal would also sustain the right hand notes which Beethoven doesn't want.

I do think it's appropriate to play the first movement completely without pedal, or using very little. Beethoven's pedals also aren't used to sustain harmonies and connect notes the way pedalling was used from Chopin onwards: so legato passages should be executed with finger legato instead of the pedal, and the pedal markings in the rondo should therefore also be taken literally as well as seriously.


Beethoven did want the pedal to be held down through the changes in harmony, and this is not just an artefact of the pianos of his day—if you've ever played a fortepiano from the early 1800s you will quickly find out that holding down the pedal through a change in harmony still blurs the chords together, even if it is not as loud as on a modern piano. The pp dynamic helps to make this less dissonant than it looks on the page, and half-pedalling on some of the changes can help so long as the initial bass note of each pedal is still audible. I think the primary means of interpreting Beethoven's pedals here though should be through a delicate and light touch, and only secondarily should one look at half-pedalling or 3/4-pedalling certain changes in harmony. Beethoven evidently wasn't averse to blurring discrete harmonies together though.

For other passages where one might be tempted to use the pedal but Beethoven didn't indicate it, I would play those without pedal, e.g.


Also: there is no "pedal off" sign at the end of the piece indicating that Beethoven either a) forgot it, or b) he wanted the pedal to be held down after the music is over until the sound has died away. (There's some debate about this iirc.) On a modern piano, this takes a bit over 30 seconds which is probably way too long. On a fortepiano, all the built-up C major dies away within 5-10 seconds depending on the instrument and the hall. If you want that pedal effect, probably better to gradually lift the pedal over the course of 5-10 seconds than to just leave it down until silence has fallen. (I personally go with the people who thought he just forgot a sign at the end of the bar, lol)
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