Ludwig van Beethoven.
Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas have been called, by a few, the New Testament of solo keyboard music; J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, the Old Testament.
Let’s get to the matter of the topic: performance. For over thirty years I have been listening to recordings of the 32. Within the music, and between the notes, are essences of Beethoven and his classical/romantic world. Beethoven’s family and family life, and educational development; his forebears and teachers; his own established life as a pianist and composer; antiquity and culture of his time; his muse and acquaintances; even war and politics of his era — all made the man: Beethoven.
Beethoven’s early solo keyboard sonatas were written to be played on harpsichord or fortepiano — this includes sonata no. 8, op. 13 named grand sonate pathétique by the publisher. In my opinion this is because of the soothing, gentle, rocking and emotionally atmospheric elements of the second movement. As harpsichords do not have a sustain pedal, I have played this particular music without pedal — and, to my delight and wonder, it is more poetic. All my sheet music scores shows pedal.
Several years ago I went to Robert Morley & Company based in Lewisham, London looking for a piano. I had a collection of scores as test pieces. Piano after piano were left wanting. And so I took a leap: I tried a piano out of my bracket. It was Beethoven; I heard Beethoven! The piano was a British made Broadwood. Needless to say, Broadwood gave one of their pianos to Beethoven. Could the truth of the 32 be heard in a Broadwood?
Earlier today I received a subscribed email that linked to an article on the thirty-two sonatas. All extracts played on pianofortes. All eminent pianists or musicians with fine interpretations. All Beethoven…?
Michael Bobb – Artist • Author • Occasional Composer
Friday 26th August 2022
This recording includes Sonate Pathétique — without pedal. It is played on an Elysian piano, not a Broadwood. Listen for the poetry… and enjoy the poem!