July 2011

July 2011

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Quasi una fantasia

Two in one

Opus 27 consists of two Sonatas 'quasi una fantasia'. One of them adored and played until the sheet music turned to dust and the other hardly looked at and entirely unknown by the public at large, even though it is in Beethoven's favourite key: three flats.

Beethoven stayed on his course of his middle period and the idea in no.26 to start with a variation must have evaluated positively in his mind. But the variation - too Czerny for my liking - doesn't really take off and Beethoven, deciding that an Allegro is more appropriate after all, continues in frenzied broken chords, to return afterwards to the beginning. 

Which reminds me of my composition teacher who reprimanded me for my habit to end exactly as I begun. 'For me that is a cycle completed.', I retorted. 'But nobody does that', he retorted, which resulted in my mind the question arising: 'So?' 

But it is not true. Bach does it often and Beethoven does it quite often too. Admittedly. John Cage doesn't..

So far this sonata left me quite un-impressed, but this is going to change. Admonishing to continue immediately with the next Allegro Molto Vivace:

The fantasia here is about sonata form. What Beethoven is discovering here is one continuous flow of music and doing away with different movements. Something composers as Liszt and the progressives will do later on and claim their invention. Not so... Beethoven is discovering just that here and doing it. 

No wonder that again the performer is admonished to continue into the Adagio immediately. Attacca subito... and so unto the last part. (I won't call it movement here)

Suddenly I am so impressed...

Here you can hear Barenboim playing the first part (unfortunately the editor is stuck in the movement idea still and stops):


There is no connection between this sonata and the following 'quasi una fantasia' opus 27. no. 2 apart from them being in the same opus set and both being 'quasi una fantasia'. 

But this no.2 took the world by storm, with the public giving the name: Moonlight. This time Beethoven was not impressed. For him this was surely not his best sonata and apart from opening with the slow middle movement this Sonata in form is very very traditional. 

Every students wants to play this, unfortunately too soon. But even my brother who never learnt to play the piano could play the first 8 bars...

The minuet is one of the most beautiful ones around, very similar in ideas though to the opus 26 one. Just taken a bit further. 

And then of course the final movement. Not as hard as people think with the right approach. Again a Beethoven 'rondo' in pure Sonata Form. 

The 'quasi una fantasia' bit for the Moonlight we put into dance. Music lovers enjoy. Dogmatics who think you can't dance on Beethoven Sonatas: '*****' . 

Moonlight Movement 1 with dance

Moonlight Movement 2 with dance

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