Author Topic: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas  (Read 752370 times)

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Scarpia

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #760 on: February 08, 2011, 12:56:40 PM »
Yes, his technical command is often less than satisfying. And in those sonatas where this is all too evident, I tend to prefer other pianists.
With Schnabel I feel  that he has almost always something to say (a lot in fact), often more than most other pianists I know. But in Schubert, this is not enough for me. I think his Schubert speaks, but it does not sing (to my ears).

I just wish Schnabel had been born 100 years later.  Then some admission committee at Juliard or Curtis would have got a good laugh out of his mangled audition tape, and he could have had a productive life selling car insurance.   Of course our main loss would be the interminable discussions of how miraculous his interpretations would have been if could actually play the piano.  ::)   I'll take Angela Hewitt's Beethoven Sonata over Schnabel's any day, if she ever gets around to finishing it, although it is a let-down that they are not issuing them in SACD anymore.

Bulldog

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #761 on: February 08, 2011, 01:00:51 PM »
I just wish Schnabel had been born 100 years later.  Then some admission committee at Juliard or Curtis would have got a good laugh out of his mangled audition tape, and he could have had a productive life selling car insurance.   Of course our main loss would be the interminable discussions of how miraculous his interpretations would have been if could actually play the piano.  ::)   I'll take Angela Hewitt's Beethoven Sonata over Schnabel's any day, if she ever gets around to finishing it, although it is a let-down that they are not issuing them in SACD anymore.

Sounds like a good time for a Schnabel vs. Hewitt smack-down.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #762 on: February 08, 2011, 01:28:53 PM »

The Cziffra is the reverse. The first movement, like the Argerich, doesn't seem to be going anywhere. It's fast but it's also like it's jogging on the spot.



Cziffra's Beethoven interests me a lot. I'm not at all clear yet about what he's doing.

It's as if he sees the  music as studies in proportion, colour and texture. Rather than as exercises in bravura, or as emotional expression.

I've just been listening to his WoO 80, where you hear the same sort of restraint, same sort of refinement, same sort of stasis as you hear in the primo to the Waldstien.

The things he seems to value in Beethoven -- elegance, poise -- are maybe a bit unfashionable.

One thing I'd like to do is listen to the bits of Beethoven we have from Cortot -- the stuff on youtube, the master class recordings and even the piano rolls. From memory there's a similar texture to Cortot's Beethoven as there is to Cziffras. The two were friends of course.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 01:30:39 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Clever Hans

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #763 on: February 08, 2011, 03:13:01 PM »
I just wish Schnabel had been born 100 years later.  Then some admission committee at Juliard or Curtis would have got a good laugh out of his mangled audition tape, and he could have had a productive life selling car insurance.   Of course our main loss would be the interminable discussions of how miraculous his interpretations would have been if could actually play the piano.  ::)   I'll take Angela Hewitt's Beethoven Sonata over Schnabel's any day, if she ever gets around to finishing it, although it is a let-down that they are not issuing them in SACD anymore.

How disrespectful.
Artur Schnabel studied with Leschetizky, performed and kept company with the greatest players and conductors of Europe. He also taught many significant students.
I don't think a committee decision or any emphasis of technicality over musicality is relevant. How far would Cortot get in the Chopin competition?

I do, however, completely understand the preference, especially in the late sonatas, for Serkin, Solomon, Richter, Gulda, Gilels, Pollini, Rosen, Hungerford, Brautigam i.e. pianists both with great technical command and individuality. Or Kempff and Nat.

Angela Hewitt is an accomplished but safe pianist. Never mind her simplistic characterization of the harpsichord or her sometimes pretentious and self-styled demeanor or shilling of Fazioli (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAeLjliS1LY&feature=related), her Beethoven (like most of her playing) is over-elegant, smooth, moderate, melodious and pretty but lacking urgency, exertion, wit and brio. She's not exactly a virtuoso either. 

If you want elegant, thoughtful and lyrical Beethoven just get Paul Lewis and be done with it. He has many more virtues.
 

Offline Todd

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #764 on: February 08, 2011, 03:18:43 PM »
If you want elegant, thoughtful and lyrical Beethoven just get Paul Lewis and be done with it. He has many more virtues.



And what would those virtues be?  Perhaps one is an aid for those who have a hard time falling asleep.
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jlaurson

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #765 on: February 08, 2011, 03:23:01 PM »

Angela Hewitt is an accomplished but safe pianist. Never mind her simplistic characterization of the harpsichord or her sometimes pretentious and self-styled demeanor or shilling of Fazioli..

...I see we feel the same about that aspect: http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2008/03/angela-hewitt-lectures-us-on-bach.html

Quote
...her Beethoven (like most of her playing) is over-elegant, smooth, moderate, melodious and pretty but lacking urgency, exertion, wit and brio. She's not exactly a virtuoso either.

...but this may be an element of her recordings more so than her performances. I've seen her raw and ready in the Brahms f-minor, for example... and that was rough and excessive and wild and urgent and, although not virtuosic, a real ride.

There are many sides to most artists...

Scarpia

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #766 on: February 08, 2011, 03:23:38 PM »
If you want elegant, thoughtful and lyrical Beethoven just get Paul Lewis and be done with it. He has many more virtues.

Never heard of him.  I do have Lortie's set, as well as O'Conor and Pommier, who might fall into that catagory.  So far only heard a tiny bit of Hewitt's set.

Offline Clever Hans

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #767 on: February 08, 2011, 03:34:45 PM »


And what would those virtues be?  Perhaps one is an aid for those who have a hard time falling asleep.

As you could gather from my other comments, his is not my favorite style, but at least he has a lyrical point of view and is something of a virtuoso (op 106). I don't really care enough to defend him more than that.

Offline Clever Hans

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #768 on: February 08, 2011, 03:37:59 PM »
...I see we feel the same about that aspect: http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2008/03/angela-hewitt-lectures-us-on-bach.html

...but this may be an element of her recordings more so than her performances. I've seen her raw and ready in the Brahms f-minor, for example... and that was rough and excessive and wild and urgent and, although not virtuosic, a real ride.

There are many sides to most artists...

I see your point, but don't think she is worth the trouble when there are so many greater artists who no doubt go unnoticed. Plus, the recordings are still her fault.

Offline Todd

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #769 on: February 08, 2011, 03:39:47 PM »
Never heard of him.  I do have Lortie's set, as well as O'Conor and Pommier, who might fall into that catagory.  So far only heard a tiny bit of Hewitt's set.



Lortie and O'Conor are both better than Lewis to my ears.  Unless you like elegant, pretty (and boring) LvB, I would suggest spending your money on other recordings.

That written, I do agree with Clever Hans about 106 - why wasn't more of the cycle like that?
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Scarpia

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #770 on: February 08, 2011, 03:42:04 PM »
I see your point, but don't think she is worth the trouble when there are so many greater artists who no doubt go unnoticed. Plus, the recordings are still her fault.

I saw her live performing Franck and thought she gave a wonderful performance.  You clearly take great pride in finding fault with her, so you owe her a debt of gratitude for that, at the very least.   ;D

Offline Clever Hans

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #771 on: February 08, 2011, 03:46:59 PM »


Lortie and O'Conor are both better than Lewis to my ears.  Unless you like elegant, pretty (and boring) LvB, I would suggest spending your money on other recordings.

That written, I do agree with Clever Hans about 106 - why wasn't more of the cycle like that?

I won't argue with that, since I don't know Lortie and O'Conor. Perhaps the success of Lewis' first set will allow him to produce another down the line, when he has matured, widened his performing repertoire, and maybe become more eccentric or cranky.   

I saw her live performing Franck and thought she gave a wonderful performance.  You clearly take great pride in finding fault with her, so you owe her a debt of gratitude for that, at the very least.   ;D

That is a psychologically complex and funny thought.  :-*

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #772 on: February 08, 2011, 10:54:21 PM »
His performances in the 'name' sonatas leaves a lot to be desired and much of it is lack of technical ability. . .Where I love Schnabel is in the earlier sonatas. He still has what could be considered a very fresh approach after all these years.


Is it only his technique which bothers you, or do you have other problems? In fact I find his approach rather unsatisfying in the early sonatas but I very much like him in the later ones.

For me his  Op 109 through op 111 and the diabelli variations and the bagatelles are rich in ideas, intelligently and sensitively phrased, beautiful sounding  . . . 

How disrespectful.
I do, however, completely understand the preference, especially in the late sonatas, for Serkin, Solomon, Richter, Gulda, Gilels, Pollini, Rosen, Hungerford, Brautigam i.e. pianists both with great technical command and individuality. Or Kempff and Nat.

 

Well I certainly don't -- except maybe for Richter. What is wrong with his 109, or the remakes of 110 or 111? (I haven't heard Nat)
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 11:04:47 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #773 on: February 08, 2011, 11:03:38 PM »
His performances in the 'name' sonatas leaves a lot to be desired and much of it is lack of technical ability. . .Where I love Schnabel is in the earlier sonatas. He still has what could be considered a very fresh approach after all these years.


Is it only his technique which bothers you, or do you have other problems? In fact I find his approach rather unsatisfying in the early sonatas but I very much like him in the later ones.

For me his  Op 109 through op 111 and the diabelli variations and the bagatelles are rich in ideas, intelligently and sensitively phrased, beautiful sounding  . . . 

How disrespectful.
I do, however, completely understand the preference, especially in the late sonatas, for Serkin, Solomon, Richter, Gulda, Gilels, Pollini, Rosen, Hungerford, Brautigam i.e. pianists both with great technical command and individuality. Or Kempff and Nat.

 

Well I certainly don't -- except maybe for Richter. What is wrong with his 109, or the remakes of 110 or 111? (I haven't heard Nat)
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Offline Holden

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #774 on: February 09, 2011, 02:04:22 AM »
Is it only his technique which bothers you, or do you have other problems? In fact I find his approach rather unsatisfying in the early sonatas but I very much like him in the later ones.

For me his  Op 109 through op 111 and the diabelli variations and the bagatelles are rich in ideas, intelligently and sensitively phrased, beautiful sounding  . . . 

Yes, it is more than his technique that bothers me in the well known sonatas. Schnabel is a very thoughtful Beethoven pianist and in many of the lesser PS his approach has a very fresh appeal.

Listening to much of Beethoven's earlier works you become aware of the 'statement' in one hand and the 'reply' in the other that is quite pervasive in these works. I sense that Schnabel understood this dialogue very well and that there are a number of ways of making the statement and couching the reply musically. This is what fascinates me about AS' interpretations of the early and middle sonatas.

Beethoven moved away from this after his middle period and I don't think that Schnabel moved with him. The one exception is his superb recording of the Diabelli Variations.

The one area where Schnabel excels in the late sonatas is the adagio of Op 106 but apart from that I'd rather listen to Pollini, Solomon, Hess, Hungerford, Levy or Richter in nos 28- 32
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Offline Verena

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #775 on: February 09, 2011, 04:56:29 AM »
How disrespectful.
Artur Schnabel studied with Leschetizky, performed and kept company with the greatest players and conductors of Europe. He also taught many significant students.
I don't think a committee decision or any emphasis of technicality over musicality is relevant. How far would Cortot get in the Chopin competition?

I do, however, completely understand the preference, especially in the late sonatas, for Serkin, Solomon, Richter, Gulda, Gilels, Pollini, Rosen, Hungerford, Brautigam i.e. pianists both with great technical command and individuality. Or Kempff and Nat.

Angela Hewitt is an accomplished but safe pianist. Never mind her simplistic characterization of the harpsichord or her sometimes pretentious and self-styled demeanor or shilling of Fazioli (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAeLjliS1LY&feature=related), her Beethoven (like most of her playing) is over-elegant, smooth, moderate, melodious and pretty but lacking urgency, exertion, wit and brio. She's not exactly a virtuoso either. 

If you want elegant, thoughtful and lyrical Beethoven just get Paul Lewis and be done with it. He has many more virtues.
 

Completely agree re your characterization of Hewitt. In fact, I'd probably take mistake-ridden Schnabel over Hewitt any day. Luckily, there are some other pianists who excel where Schnabel's technique is indeed too messy. Well, to each his (her) own, I guess.

Offline Clever Hans

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #776 on: February 09, 2011, 01:44:25 PM »
Well I certainly don't -- except maybe for Richter. What is wrong with his 109, or the remakes of 110 or 111? (I haven't heard Nat)

I'm not saying I actually prefer other pianists, just that I understand the preference for technical perfection (e.g. some of the pianists Holden named) in the complex fugues and variations and difficult playing from 101 on. Interpretively, however, I still rate Schnabel tops, including in the opening of the Hammerklavier. While very interesting on their own terms, many others recast Beethoven with grand and expansive tempi: Richter (beyond op 106 i. e.g. allegro molto 110), Gilels (e.g. 109 prestissimo), Kempff (everything), Levy (everything). 

Personally I more often prefer those who do not do this--Rosen, Solomon, Gulda, Pollini, Hungerford, Brautigam, and Serkin (especially his earlier recordings), who makes the best case for a steady and powerful Hammerklavier opening (which I still think is wrong).

Yves Nat is less technically secure but raw, intense and expeditious. Basically the opposite of Hewitt.
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« Last Edit: February 09, 2011, 01:55:35 PM by Clever Hans »

Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #777 on: February 09, 2011, 02:21:10 PM »
When a performer chooses tempi which are faster than he can handle, he will always seem uncomfortable, and very little energy is left for expression. So he will disappoint his listeners, because music communicates first and foremost expression. Whether he is Schnabel or someone else. In Schnabels Beethoven I much prefer his slow movements, in which he often delivers wonderful expression, while many of his fast movements (the fugue of the Hammerklavier even more than the first movement) are at best uninteresting. Another disappointing pianist is Gulda, who manages to play very fast, but has to concentrate so much upon perfection to do it, that expression often suffers. So in a way a similar situation to Scnabel´s.
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Offline Clever Hans

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #778 on: February 09, 2011, 04:11:33 PM »
When a performer chooses tempi which are faster than he can handle, he will always seem uncomfortable, and very little energy is left for expression. So he will disappoint his listeners, because music communicates first and foremost expression. Whether he is Schnabel or someone else. In Schnabels Beethoven I much prefer his slow movements, in which he often delivers wonderful expression, while many of his fast movements (the fugue of the Hammerklavier even more than the first movement) are at best uninteresting. Another disappointing pianist is Gulda, who manages to play very fast, but has to concentrate so much upon perfection to do it, that expression often suffers. So in a way a similar situation to Scnabel´s.

Obviously your points are carefully justified.

Not arguing taste, but I think Gulda had plenty left in reserve, was an astonishing pianist technically, and chose to give straightforward and refreshing interpretations. You can hear the same style in his cello sonatas with Fournier and Mozart. I recall you used to like Gulda's style. Why did you like him before and how did you change your mind?

Although there are specific examples of stunning broad interpretations, such as Giulini's eroica, I usually prefer that players follow a composer's indications. Especially in the case of Beethoven, where there is considerable evidence that he favored very fast tempos where indicated. The modern piano adds considerable weight already. On the other hand, one may also infer based on descriptions of Beethoven's performing and conducting, that he went for utmost expression and fantasy (at least compared to Classical standards), was not the most even-tempered man and was a great improvisor. So it may be argued that players like Gulda run counter to this aspect of his personality.     

Still, I generally don't like allegros played as andantes and prestos played as allegro ma non troppos. Often it transforms the entire character of a piece, usually for the worse. The Hammerklavier first movement is to me the most obvious example. As Charles Rosen says:

"It does not matter what metronome marking a pianist chooses for this movement providing it sounds Allegro; there is no excuse, textual or musical, for making it sound majestic, like Allegro maestoso, and such an effect is a betrayal of the music. It is often done because it mitigates the harshness of the work, but this harshness is clearly essential to it. A majestic tempo also saps the rhythmic vitality on which the movement depends"



 

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
« Reply #779 on: February 09, 2011, 10:27:07 PM »

Listening to much of Beethoven's earlier works you become aware of the 'statement' in one hand and the 'reply' in the other that is quite pervasive in these works. I sense that Schnabel understood this dialogue very well and that there are a number of ways of making the statement and couching the reply musically. This is what fascinates me about AS' interpretations of the early and middle sonatas.

Beethoven moved away from this after his middle period and I don't think that Schnabel moved with him. The one exception is his superb recording of the Diabelli Variations.


I think I can hear what you mean -- in the primo of Op 110 for example I think I hear something of the statement/reply structure that you're thinking of, more than I do in Richter's Leipzig performance.

But why is it a problem? Why do you say that Beethoven moved away from this mode of expression? Are you saying that, as a matter of fact, Schnabel plays Op 110 in a way which isn't in line with Beethoven's ideas? Or are you saying that poetically Schnabel's style compromises the music?

When a performer chooses tempi which are faster than he can handle, he will always seem uncomfortable, and very little energy is left for expression. So he will disappoint his listeners, because music communicates first and foremost expression.

But  in the primo of the Waldstein, there's plenty of expression in Schnabel's performance. But according to Hoden he's playing it faster than he can handle.

More generally  speed itself is a form of expression. An example where it's very clear to me  is Yudina's Tempest sonata.

And so is a sense of discomfort and struggle and even near failour. I can think of lots of examples of this in Bach.  Weissenberg in the Bach/Busoni prelude Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gmein and maybe Gould in the second English suite.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2011, 10:50:13 PM by Mandryka »
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