July 2011

July 2011

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Opus 57

God exists! And every now and then it becomes apparent in the flesh! It is not the first time Beethoven attempted to bring the piano sonata to the level of a concerto. He did so in his first sonata opus 2 no. 3! But in writing the Appassionata it had arrived. 

The theme in a concerto is called the 'ritornello' which returns in the orchestra and the solo instrument. As such of course the first movement is composed through and analysts who regard it as composed through sonata form really haven't understood this Sonata. It is a concerto and the theme is that of a Scottish Folk tune 'On the banks of Allen Water'

Have we mentioned before that Beethoven around this time was extending his publishing efforts to England? If you like the 'UK'? 

Again the title was not provided by Beethoven himself but was attributed to the Sonata post humus in 1838 but Beethoven may have subtitled it 'La Passionata' but is was not marked as such in the manuscript.

I am not sure whose stains are on the manuscript, perhaps they may be Beethoven's. Beethoven had trouble keeping a maid longer than a couple of weeks, after which she would quit in despair.

The theme is played first in unison an octave apart and it is fun to try them 2 octaves apart after which it becomes apparent immediately why the Russians favoured to play unison themes like that instead of 1 octave apart. Alas, just as an experiment of course.

What most analysts see as the 2nd theme is really the second part of the folk song and not at all contrasting with the 1st theme. The theme is constantly given in a solo and tutti form. Then of course we see on the left a large part of what really is the Cadenza! 

And I have no problem at all seeing after the cadenza the orchestra taking up the Adagio and the Coda afterwards.

The second movement is a set of four variations of an exceedingly simple but beautiful theme. 

And then the third movement. We know of Beethoven's habit to turn Rondos into Sonata form, but here he is concealing it and directs only to repeat the second part. 

Who would not hear the orchestra opening, after which the piano will come in bar 5. And the final coda - very much fun for the pianist  - would sound great with orchestra too!

Enjoy Claudio Arrau in the following recording of this - ahum - concerto sans orchestre.

Claudio Arrau playing Appassionata (full)

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