Quiet tea, talky tea

Butsuma--a space for the Buddha. Chanoma--a space where people drink tea, eat, chat.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Revisiting high school Beethoven

Ah! The mistakes of youth!

I have recently gone back to work on a Beethoven piano sonata that I first studied in high school.  It is no. 19, op. 49 no. 1 in g minor.  I dug out the old score that I used at that time, published by G. Schirmer, edited by Hans von Bülow and Sigmund Lebert.  The price marked is sixty cents.  (Another factoid related to those ancient days: my book of a selection of ten Haydn piano sonatas does not have any catalogue numbers.  Apparently the Hoboken catalogue finally included numbers for the piano sonatas in 1971--although the question remains: why would a catalogue of Haydn's music be based in New Jersey?)

Anyway, this is one of the 'easy sonatas' (leichte sonaten), so it was quite appropriate for my technique level at that time.  However, I didn't have the kind of technique concept for playing piano music of this period.  That was not to come for several decades. But as an adult piano student, I was able to repair some of those deficiencies in my early studies.  I finally studied all of the the two-art and three-part Inventions of Bach, and started plowing into the Well-Tempered Clavier, and some sonatas by Mozart and Haydn.  My piano teachers in Japan emphasized the ways to differentiate among baroque, classical and romantic playing techniques and styles.  Applying these to the Beethoven sonata made it much more interesting and satisfying.  Here is a clue--I never paid much attention to slurs, phrasing indications and the like.  These make a big difference!  I suppose that just reading the notes was a big enough task--not enough RAM space to deal with all the extraneous markings!  When it comes to baroque keyboard music, there are lots of ways to play it on the piano--Glenn Gould certainly pushed the envelope on that.  But when it comes to the classical repertoire, things are a lot more strict.  I am glad I am finally 'getting it!'

In googling, I discovered a sound file of a lecture on this piece by Andras Schiff.  It is a good reference, especially for those looking for more Beethoven basics.

The picture shows a Bluthner piano I found in the old Sogakudo concert hall at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music.  I had never heard of this brand, but it was a favorite of Rachmaninov and lots of other famous musicians. Originated in Leipzig, famous for aliquot strings and cylindrical sound board. 

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