Friday, June 26, 2020

Beethoven 250: Piano Sonata No. 9 (Stephen Kovacevich, 1997)

Cover art for CD 19/80: Carl Blechen: Waldlandschaft mit Wasserfall (1833). 31,1 × 35,5 cm. Gemälde. Öl auf Papier. Aufbewahrungsort: Berlin. Sammlung: Schloss Charlottenburg. Epoche: Romantik. Land: Deutschland. Permalink: Lizenz: Gemeinfrei. From:

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
Op. 14
Der Baronin Josefa von Braun gewidmet.
Stephen Kovacevich, 1997.

Opus 14 Nr. 1: Klaviersonate Nr. 9 in E-Dur (1799)
Erster Satz: Allegro, E-Dur, 4/4 Takt, 162 Takte
Zweiter Satz: Allegretto, e-Moll, 3/4 Takt, 116 Takte
Dritter Satz: Rondo, Allegro commodo, E-Dur, 4/4 Takt alla breve, 131 Takte.

Wikipedia: "Die zwei Sonaten op. 14 entstanden zur gleichen Zeit wie die Pathetique, bilden jedoch ein lyrisch-entspanntes Gegengewicht und sind von eher kammermusikalischem Charakter. Die Sonate op. 14 Nr. 1 hat Beethoven selbst 1801/1802 für Streichquartett umgearbeitet."

AA: Beethoven's ninth piano sonata is not among the best-known, but it is a sparkling masterpiece, like a string of pearls. The more I listen to it the more delightful it gets.

András Schiff emphasizes the fact that Beethoven also composed a string quartet based on this piano sonata (Streichquartett F-Dur nach Sonate op. 14,1) and that one can already hear a string quartet quality in the piano sonata itself.

He underlines that by now Beethoven's piano sonatas have acquired an integral psychological stage. The movements are no longer separate; they form a single psychological course. Schiff also repeats his conviction that it is important to play these sonatas in chronological order to appreciate their organic evolution and development.

Schiff tells that this sonata had no success, but it did not matter for the composer whose work was based on an inner urge. For Schiff, this sonata is "frightfully difficult to play and to interpret". It has to be played with a singing and imaginative approach.

From the gracious first movement we proceed to the second movement, characterized by Anton Rubinstein as "gloomy" ("мрачной", a word resonant in Pushkin, Dostoevsky and Chekhov). The third movement is in allegro commodo, a "comfortable allegro". All doubts are overcome. Despite being "comfortable", there is also a quality that has been called "Sturm und Drang", for the first time in Beethoven. The pre-classical period of the original Sturm und Drang (Werther, Die Räuber) had taken place over 20 years ago, and in Beethoven it transformed into a highly personal stance of facing the wildest storms in proud defiance.

Stephen Kovacevich plays this sonata with panache.


Robert Cummings (, n.d.)

"By the time Beethoven wrote this sonata, his ninth, he was already displaying a strongly individual voice in his piano works and would shortly embark on his First Symphony (1800) and other large works. Perhaps less compelling than its predecessor, the celebrated "Pathétique," this Sonata is an immensely interesting work, containing many subtle turns, surprises, and fresh ideas."

"Cast in three movements -- Allegro, Allegretto, Rondo (Allegro comodo) -- this composition begins with a lively, optimistic theme, against repeated chords in the left hand which accompany, and goad, the main narrative line. Initially a harbinger of light and joy, the main theme, introduces some tension when repeated, and the mood slightly darkens.

In Beethoven's musical narrative, it seems, an initial mood, or impression, often leads to unexpected developments, creating a richly textured poetic substance. Thus, for example, when the second subject appears, its four descending notes transform the musical canvas into a space ruled by different varieties of doubt and mystery, considerably expanding the emotional and intellectual range of the narrative."

"Eventually, this episode proceeds to a triumphant ending, and the exposition material is repeated. The development section begins with the main theme transformed, but then a new idea comes to the fore. Somewhat derivative, this idea ushers in a rather atypical development episode. Although this is quite surprising from an intellectual standpoint, the appearance of this theme seems utterly natural, a logical outgrowth of a remember discourse."

"In the reprise, which follows this brief excursion, the main theme occurs with new accompaniment -- ascending scales in the left hand -- which imparts an ecstatic character to the music. A brief, brilliant coda concludes the movement."

"The ensuing Scherzo, though it carries the normally lively marking of Allegretto, operates as the slow movement. There is much tension in its restless main theme, and even the brighter music of the trio sections is not free of a sense of struggle."

"The finale begins with a rush of energy which traces a downward-moving trajectory. Despite the downward motion, the mood is one of wit, playfulness, and humor. While the second theme introduces some calm, the narrative line is driven by fast rhythms. Interestingly, there is some thematic development in this Rondo, which sounds almost symphonic.

No comments: