Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Beethoven 250: Piano Sonata Number 25 "Sonatine" / "Kuckuck" (Stephen Kovacevich, 1999)


Carl Friedrich Lessing (1803–1880) : Tausendjährige Eiche / The Thousand-Year-Old Oak. 1837. Öl auf Leinwand. 123 x 165,7 cm. Sammlung: Städel. Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt am Main. Provenienz: Erworben 1865 als Schenkung der Erben von Friedrich John. Herkunft: Projekt Kunstgeschichte, Uni München. Please click on the image 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 79: Klaviersonate Nr. 25 in G-Dur "Sonatine" / "Kuckuck" (1809)
    Erster Satz: Presto alla tedesca, G-Dur, 3/4 Takt, 201 Takte
    Zweiter Satz: Andante, g-Moll, 9/8 Takt, 34 Takte
    Dritter Satz: Vivace, G-Dur, 2/4 Takt, 117 Takte

AA: The 25th piano sonata is one of Beethoven's comic numbers. It's the second of the carefree sonatas composed between Appassionata and Les Adieux. It is all about fun and joy.

It is immediately obvious why this sonata has been called "the Cuckoo Sonata". Beethoven had already amused himself with the cuckoo sound in his humoristic 16th Piano Sonata, and the cuckoo motif also appears in the Pastoral Symphony. In the sonatas I cannot help being reminded even of J. E. Jonasson's "Gökvalsen" ("The Cuckoo Waltz", 1918).

The presto alla tedesca attribute refers to German dances, and the sonata can be seen belonging to a lineage of German dances from Mozart to Schubert. I imagine a distant echo from Mozart's Dreizehn deutsche Tänze, K. 605, No. 1 (1791) that opens Jean Renoir's La Règle du jeu (1939), its unbridled joy attaining a tinge of tender irony in the context. Russians hear in this sonata also an affinity with Russian dances.

My favourite passage among the sunny pair of sonatas 24 and 25 is the Andante in Number 25. It is like a song, "romanza senza parole" (Hans von Bülow), and it could easily be arranged as one, a Beethovenian one preceding the romantic songs of Schubert, Schumann and Mendelssohn. This is one of the passages in which we hear the happy heartbeat of the composer. Andante tranquillo, sereno, calmo. For András Schiff it's a gondoliera, conveying the poetry of canaletto paintings, with two lovers singing in harmony.

The third movement is made of flimsy material. The Menuetto of the 11th Piano Sonata was like a dance of dragonflies. This one is similar, like the flight of a hummingbird or a butterfly. Joie de vivre. Pure joy of movement. Finally disappearing into sunlight.

This sonata has resonated in my mind for almost three weeks. I kept re-listening to it because I had no time to "blog it away", but I never tired of it. Next to the Andante the most memorable feature for me is the richly resounding sonority immediately after the cuckoo introduction.

No comments: