Monday, October 26, 2020

Beethoven 250: Piano Sonata Number 24 "À Therese" (Stephen Kovacevich, 1992)

Carl Friedrich Lessing (1803–1880) : Bewaldete Landschaft bei der Abenddämmerung / A Wooded Landscape at Sunset. Oil on canvas. 38 x 74 cm. Please click on the photo to enlarge it.

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 22/80  Piano Sonatas Nos. 21–25
Stephen Kovacevich, 1992 (Nos. 21, 24) and 1999 (Nos. 22, 23, 25)

Opus 78: Klaviersonate Nr. 24 "À Therese" in Fis-Dur (1809)
Erster Satz: Adagio cantabile, 2/4 Takt; Allegro ma non troppo, 4/4 Takt, Fis-Dur, 106 Takte
Zweiter Satz: Allegro vivace, Fis-Dur, 2/4 Takt, 183 Takte
    Der Gräfin Therese von Brunsvik gewidmet.

AA: After the devastating Appassionata Beethoven took a four year pause before publishing his next piano sonatas: two presumably "small" ones (Nrs. 24 and 25) followed by Les Adieux during the same year 1809.

Beethoven was not exactly idle in the meantime. He published his Violin Concerto, the three Rasumowsky quartets, three symphonies (among them the Fate and the Pastoral), the Trio Op. 70, his last piano concertos (4 and 5) and the Coriolanus overture, among others.

The sonatas 24 and 25 are not at all like the "Leichte Sonaten" that were published after the three experimental sonatas 16–18 of Opus 31 and before Waldstein. Those "Leichte Sonaten" could be seen as "prequels" to Beethoven's entire sonata project.

The sonatas 24 and 25 are a big step forward, into a new direction, a new dimension even. Appassionata was a grandiose epic tragedy. Sonata Number 24 is a graceful, elegant piece of lyrical poetry.

The dedication to Therese von Brunsvik seems to be, according to biographical sources, no mere formal gesture of respect and gratitude. Romain Rolland, who had read Therese von Brunsvik's diary, called her "a great dreamer", a very talented person, "the woman who was able to appreciate his music the most deeply". She was also a brilliant dancer, the queen of salons and balls.

Sonata Number 24 is rarely played in concerts. It has never been a popular favourite, and also specialists have tended to dismiss it. But it was one of Beethoven's own biggest favourites next to Appassionata and Hammerklavier.

It belongs to Beethoven's bright and cheerful pieces. There is a feeling of mature tenderness, expressed in full sonorities that seem to emanate from within. In the second movement, allegro vivace, András Schiff recognizes a comical, anti-heroic paraphrase of "Rule Britannia", a theme that Beethoven would later incorporate in Wellington's Victory.

Although the duration is only ten minutes, there is a rich variety of moods, including mysterious murmurs of the forest, sweet oblivions and soul harmonies. The sparkling, mock-heroic second movement proceeds in a mood of jovial brevity. Anton Rubinstein found in it amazing laconicism while Franz Liszt stated that "this frugality is very lavish, indeed".

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