Thursday, June 25, 2020

Beethoven 250: Piano Sonata No. 8 "Pathétique" (Stephen Kovacevich, 1997)

Hildegard Koegler (1904–1981): Beethoven Sonate pathétique: Adagio. Etching. 40 x 30 cm. From: SJSU King Library Digital Collections.

Orfeo circondato dagli animali. Mosaico pavimentale romano, da Palermo. Museo archeologico regionale di Palermo. / Orpheus surrounded by animals. Ancient Roman floor mosaic, from Palermo, now in the Museo archeologico regionale di Palermo. Foto di Giovanni Dall'Orto, 28 Sep 2006. From: Wikipedia.

Beethoven: The Complete Works (80 CD). Warner Classics / © 2019 Parlophone Records Limited. Also available on Spotify etc. I bought my box set from Fuga at Helsinki Music Centre.
    Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827.
    Beethoven 250 / corona lockdown listening.

From: CD 19/80  Piano Sonatas Nos. 8–11
Stephen Kovacevich, 1997.

Opus 13: Klaviersonate Nr. 8 in c-Moll (1799)
Grande Sonate Pathétique.
Dem Fürsten Karl von Lichnowsky gewidmet.

Erster Satz: Grave / Allegro di molto e con brio, c-Moll, 4/4 Takt alla breve, 310 Takte
Zweiter Satz: Adagio cantabile, As-Dur, 2/4 Takt, 73 Takte
Dritter Satz: Rondo allegro, 4/4 Takt alla breve, 210 Takte.

AA: In June I have been listening to four piano sonatas, Nos. 8–11, by Ludwig van Beethoven, published by him in 1799–1800. Twelve days ago I moved to a forest retreat in Punkaharju, but that did not cause a break to my listening, on the contrary.

For the forest quarantine I bought a good portable CD stereo system with solid speakers and learned in the process that CD systems are becoming hard to come by due to the decline of the format.

Here Beethoven sounds better than at home. In the city I live in the middle of the heavy traffic of Tehtaankatu. The busiest tramline of the city passes by in both directions. Three motorcycles are parked in front of the house where I live. The house trembles and the windows rattle with the traffic.

Here I enjoy deep silence. I only hear the wind in the trees. Now in June, the forest is filled with birdsong. Birds are giving singing lessons to their offspring.

Beethoven's piano sonatas in the forest retreat are a perfect fit. There is no incongruity. During his daily three hour walks in Vienna woods Beethoven was inspired to compose, and I can hear that in his piano sonatas. Here I imagine that even the birds are listening.

I am thinking about Orpheus playing the lyre. His musical magic mesmerized all living things (and even stones). Väinämöinen, the great shaman of Finnish mythology, achieved the same with his kantele. The beloved Finnish composer Oskar Merikanto took his piano to his forest retreat, and it is told that the birds gathered around him to listen.

Beethoven's eighth piano sonata, la grande sonate pathétique, is a treasure of world culture, one of the best-known compositions of all times. I never tire of it. All Beethoven's piano sonatas are great, but melodically, this one is more engrossing than the previous ones. And more than in the preceding piano sonatas, there is a quintessentially Beethovenian sense of heroic and tragic grandeur, comparable with the composer's symphonies, piano concertos and the violin concerto.

This piano sonata is also a pop hit. Particularly the adagio cantabile has become widespread in popular culture. It is also one of the most beloved compositions in motion picture soundtracks. Even in films released in Finland this year I have heard it twice: in Greta Gerwig's Little Women (2019) and Lulu Wang's Farewell / Bie gaosu ta (2019).

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