Author Topic: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites  (Read 4166 times)

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Offline Todd

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Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« on: July 18, 2017, 08:22:13 AM »
I'm currently doing an A/B of two sonatas cycles (one of which I've not listened to in its entirety before), and I have at least two new (for me) cycles in the queue, with a possible third being considered, and that got me thinking about the relative qualities of the sonatas.  Now, I like all of the sonatas, but I do not like them all equally.  Every time I start in on a new cycle, there are some sonatas I eagerly listen to, and some that I listen to out of a sense of duty, hoping they will exceed expectations.  (I always enjoy it when that happens.)  I can't really list them in descending order of preference since performance quality can alter how much I like one sonata relative to another, but I can tier them, rather like the various cycles I've heard.  My tiers are below.  Anyone else have any sonatas that jump out as especially good, or not so good?


Top Tier
2/1
10/1
10/3
28
31/1
31/2
31/3
109
110
111

Middle Tier
2/3
7
10/2
13 (can be top tier based on performance)
22
26
27/1
57 (can be top tier based on performance)
106 (can be top tier based on performance)
78

Bottom Tier
2/2
14/1
14/2
49/1
49/2
27/2
53 (can be second tier based on performance)
54 (can be first or second tier based on performance)
79 (can be second tier based on performance)
81/a
90 (can be second tier based on performance)
101 (can be first or second tier based on performance)
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Offline Brian

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2017, 08:38:13 AM »
Oooh, this is fun!

However, remembering all the opus numbers is a little less fun.

Top Tier
12 (Op. 26)
18 (Op. 31 No. 3)
21 "Waldstein" (Op. 53)
30 (Op. 109)
31 (Op. 110)
32 (Op. 111)

Pretty Great but Just Short Tier
9 (Op. 14 No. 1)
11 (Op. 22)
15 (Op. 28)
16 (Op. 31 No. 1)
23 (Op. 57)
24 (Op. 78) (top tier in a great performance, e.g. Penelope Crawford)
25 (Op. 79)
26 (Op. 81a)
27 (Op. 90)
28 (Op. 101)

Okay Tier
13 and 14 (Op. 27 Nos. 1 and 2)
17 (Op. 31 No. 2)
19 and 20 (Op. 49 Nos. 1 and 2)

Not a Fan
Pathétique
Hammerklavier

Not Familiar Enough to Rank Just Yet
Early sonatas not otherwise ranked (Nos. 1-7 and 10; Opp. 2, 7, 10, 14/2)
22 (Op. 54)

bwv 1080

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2017, 09:00:03 AM »
Hard to say that I actually dislike any of them, but the top tier is easy:

13 (op 27 no.1) - where is the love here, Beethoven never wrote anything more rockin than the last movement
15 (op 28 "Pastorale")
18 (op 31 no.3) love the extended harmony and simple motive -  and the piece even has the Tristan chord in the first movement
21 (Waldstein) duh
27 (op 90) early late period
then all the late ones

Parsifal

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2017, 09:05:46 AM »
Favorites:

Op 101
Op 110

Least favorites

n.a.


Offline Jo498

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2017, 09:07:47 AM »
Top: 106, 109, 110, 111, 101, 81a, 31/2, 10/3

almost Top: 28, 2/3, 31/3, 53, 57, 10/1, 13, 14/2

Middle: 2/1, 2/2, 7, 10/2, 78, 79, 14/1, 27/2, 90

Bottom: op.49,1+2, 22, 26, 27/1, 31/1, 54

some of them are hard to rate for me. I love the variations in op.26 but don't care for the rest. I also like the first movement of op.31/1. I like the first movement of op.14/2 far more than the rest of this piece.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 12:57:31 PM by Jo498 »
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Offline Brian

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2017, 09:35:32 AM »
13 (op 27 no.1) - where is the love here, Beethoven never wrote anything more rockin than the last movement
Definitely one of the most underrated. Pithy and often hits the spot.

Offline Todd

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2017, 10:07:20 AM »
However, remembering all the opus numbers is a little less fun.


I'm at the point where that's the only way I remember them.  Same with the string quartets and violin sonatas.
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Drasko

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2017, 10:34:02 AM »
first tier - 26, 28, 109, 110, 111

second tier - 2/3, 13, 27/1, 27/2, 31/2, 31/3, 53, 57

the rest

Never could get into Hammerklavier.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 10:39:27 AM by Draško »

Offline BasilValentine

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2017, 01:07:26 PM »
My favorite run of three is Op. 53 "Waldstein," Op. 54, and Op. 57 "Appassionata." All from Op. 90 on are superb. I really like Op. 31 nos. 2 & 3 as well. Don't want to do the tier thing.

SymphonicAddict

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2017, 01:42:27 PM »
On the Top:

Op. 26
Op. 27-2
Op. 31-2
Op. 57
Op. 106
Op. 111

In the middle:

Op. 13
Op. 28
Op. 53
Op. 81a
Op. 109
Op. 110

In the bottom:

The other ones

All of the 32 sonatas are a milestone in the music form, the same happens with the string quartets and symphonies of course.

kishnevi

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2017, 02:01:35 PM »
I am tempted to say, whichever I listened to most recently.

But if I ranked them,  it would be roughly chronological, with Hammerklavier and the final trilogy at the top.

Offline Holden

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2017, 02:17:02 PM »
Top Tier:

Op 53
Op 57
Op 28
Op 27/1
Op 109
Op 110
Op 111
Op 31/3

I'd have to think a bit more to come up with a complete order.

Bottom tier
Op 54
Op 78
Op 79
Op 90

I suppose the others go into the middle.

I have based this purely on my listening preferences and how interested I would be in comparing different interpretations of these works.
Cheers

Holden

Offline amw

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2017, 07:03:23 PM »
Overall favourites, roughly in order:

No. 32 in c, Op. 111
No. 29 in Bb, Op. 106 (but can be absolutely ruined by a bad performance)
No. 31 in Ab, Op. 110
No. 30 in E, Op. 109
No. 23 in f, Op. 57
No. 15 in D, Op. 28
No. 17 in d, Op. 31/2
No. 4 in Eb, Op. 7, despite some weak moments
No. 7 in D, Op. 10/3
No. 18 in Eb, Op. 31/3 (also very easy to ruin)
No. 6 in F, Op. 10/2, but please take the repeat in the last movement >.>

Things I don't like that much:

first movement of No. 22 in F, Op. 54 (just sort of awkward)
first movement of No. 13 in Eb, Op. 27/1 (very silly)
second movement of No. 1 in f, Op. 2/1 (sounds like a second-rate Mozart imitation, what is it doing in this otherwise magnificent sonata)
first movements of No. 3 in C, Op. 2/3, and No. 11 in Bb, Op. 22 (mostly all the long passages of random arpeggios in the development sections....)
slow movement of No. 16 in G, Op. 31/1 (ok, very funny, great joke. WE GET IT. please be 4 minutes shorter)
last movement of No. 2 in A, Op. 2/2 (this movement was going so well and then he just... couldn't end it?... seriously, do we need to go to Bb... then back to A... then back to the A minor staccato episode... then have the ritornello again.... like, learn to write a coda Ludwig. come on)
very end of No. 27 in e, Op. 90 (ok, a high quality performance can actually make this work, but again it feels like Beethoven just fundamentally doesn't know how to end pieces of a relaxed and graceful character. which isn't true!! look at the end of Op. 7, which is absolutely perfect and even a little heartbreaking. that's how it should have been done)
the canon in the march of No. 28 in A, Op. 101 (it's hard to believe someone could write counterpoint this clumsy on purpose but apparently Beethoven spent ages sketching it...)
« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 07:05:36 PM by amw »

Offline Jo498

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2017, 09:59:20 PM »
You probably know that the 2nd movement of op.2/1 is based on a piano quartet movement Beethoven wrote when he was 14 or so when second rate Mozart imitation was what he did. I don't find op.2/1 all that great, except for the terse first movement. The finale is a rambling, rather weak attempt at a "stormy finale", the menuet is o.k. but to me not as convincing as the scherzi in the other two early sonatas.
I agree that the finale of op.2/2 is too long but otherwise I find that piece underrated. The slow movement is gorgeous and the light/brilliant first movement quite good.
op.90 is another one where I find the finale too long and relaxed, the first movement is a big favorite, therefore I still rate it fairly highly overall.
I actually have some fondness for op.27/1; it is a funny experiment but the first movement still does not really work. Intro+Finale are up to the usual Beethoven level.
The main "mature" sonata I don't get at all is op.54. I tend to find both movements "dry" and slightly irritating. And the redeeming features are apparently too subtle for me as layperson to appreciate.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2017, 10:43:11 PM »
I am tempted to say, whichever I listened to most recently.

But if I ranked them,  it would be roughly chronological, with Hammerklavier and the final trilogy at the top.
This was exactly my thinking (particularly the first part)!
Be kind to your fellow posters!!

Marc

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2017, 11:29:28 PM »
Dunno the sonatas well enough to make a 'solid' list, but of course I have an opinion... well, not an opinion really, I meant to say: I have my preferences.
Although I do recognize this feeling:

I am tempted to say, whichever I listened to most recently.[...]

So, I'll make this 'list' a very short one:

My fav Beet sonata is op 90 in E minor.
Maybe because it gives me a Schubertian feeling, and a Mozartian feeling (KV 304 in E minor), but it is still genuine Beet.
And my less fav is opus 31 no. 1 in G Major. Just not my kind of humour, although I do like the Rondo.

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #16 on: July 19, 2017, 12:20:23 AM »
I like the early ones for their beauty and the late ones for their sophistication and ambition.
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Offline amw

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #17 on: July 19, 2017, 12:35:52 AM »
You probably know that the 2nd movement of op.2/1 is based on a piano quartet movement Beethoven wrote when he was 14 or so when second rate Mozart imitation was what he did.
Yes, and he shouldn't have put that movement in there, imo.

Quote
I don't find op.2/1 all that great, except for the terse first movement. The finale is a rambling, rather weak attempt at a "stormy finale", the menuet is o.k. but to me not as convincing as the scherzi in the other two early sonatas.
I do like the finale, probably more out of sentiment than anything else.

Quote
I agree that the finale of op.2/2 is too long but otherwise I find that piece underrated. The slow movement is gorgeous and the light/brilliant first movement quite good.
Same. It'd be close to top tier for me I guess.

Quote
I actually have some fondness for op.27/1; it is a funny experiment but the first movement still does not really work.
To me the first movement simply doesn't belong with the rest. I think maybe something like a theme and variations, or an uninterrupted slow movement like in the c-sharp minor sonata, might have worked better, but also the main theme is boring imo. The scherzo and adagio+finale are great though.

Beethoven was experimenting a lot in this period and produced quite a few works that sound like mashups of a bunch of different stuff that doesn't belong together—probably most egregious is the Variations op. 34. (Also the Bagatelles Op. 119 which date from about this period, but are actually quite charming.)

Quote
The main "mature" sonata I don't get at all is op.54. I tend to find both movements "dry" and slightly irritating. And the redeeming features are apparently too subtle for me as layperson to appreciate.
I really like the second movement of Op. 54, finding it a brilliant and harmonically inventive toccata movement similar to that in Op. 26 but with more drive, but really dislike the first movement, particularly the episodes of octave triplets that go nowhere and the main theme being constantly repeated with little variation except for ornamentation. Beethoven should have replaced it with the Andante favori >.>

millionrainbows

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #18 on: July 19, 2017, 10:27:49 AM »
My favorite is "The Tempest."

Offline Jo498

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Re: Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Favorites and least favorites
« Reply #19 on: July 19, 2017, 10:47:03 AM »

[op.2/1 adagio]
Yes, and he shouldn't have put that movement in there, imo.
As Beethoven recycled not a lot of early pieces, I guess he really liked that one...

Quote
(op.27/1)
To me the first movement simply doesn't belong with the rest. I think maybe something like a theme and variations, or an uninterrupted slow movement like in the c-sharp minor sonata, might have worked better, but also the main theme is boring imo. The scherzo and adagio+finale are great though.
The first movement is probably closest to "quasi fantasia", just doodling a little at the keyboard.

Quote
Beethoven was experimenting a lot in this period and produced quite a few works that sound like mashups of a bunch of different stuff that doesn't belong together—probably most egregious is the Variations op. 34. (Also the Bagatelles Op. 119 which date from about this period, but are actually quite charming.)
I actually like the variations op.34 quite a bit! For bagatelles it seems a little strict to demand that they belong together.
As for the experimental sonatas, I am not all that fond of any of the three opp.26 +27 and neither of op.22 (although I like it a little more than I used to, the slow movement can be nice and the somewhat manic energy of the first movement works in good performances).
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)