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 Post subject: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 6:14 pm 
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I've been having a Beethoven spate recently, partly fueled by my participating in playing some of his Trios. Such wonderful and masterful music, almost complete symphonies. It is now my aim to provide the Sonatas we don't have on the site yet, and this is one of them. I foolishly though this was the last,
but there are 3 more to go. Ah well, no great hardship.

Beethoven - Sonata Op.22 - 1: Allegro con brio (8:36)
Beethoven - Sonata Op.22 - 2: Adagio con molta espressione (8:12)
Beethoven - Sonata Op.22 - 3: Menuetto (3:05)
Beethoven - Sonata Op.22 - 4: Rondo - Allegretto (7:05)

Edit - Replaced 1st movement with a better version

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2014 2:52 pm 
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Yes, this new first mvmt is a big improvement! Night and day, Chris - listening is now a really enjoyable experience.
The 2nd mvmt is particularly excellent, which you probably already knew.

I can't believe we did not have a recording of this already; you've filled a big gap.
BTW: What are the other 3? Beethoven and I never got along, so it's just academic interest. (Something about his broken chords always drove me berserk. I have similar problems with Schubert.)

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2014 3:30 pm 
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Thanks Stu. Yes I really did my best with the Adagio. I am always best with slow ponderous pieces ;-) I got to like it better over time, it seems boring at first glance but it really isn't once you get into it.

The ones to be done are nos. 16, 20, and, amazingly, no.30 which is so immensely beautiful and luckily not as hard as the other late Sonatas. I am glad
the Hammerklavier has been taken care of :D

Yes, Ludwig's frequent broken-octave passages can be a bit tiring. I guess he wasn't called Angry Young Man for nothing.

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:10 pm 
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Brief running commentary on first movement.

Disclaimer: this is my least favourite Beethoven sonata.

First movement:
Opening motif (and repetitions) - surely this is rhythmically wrong? Either that, or I'm accustomed to hearing (and having played) it completely differently. Surely it's "diddle diddle dee dah", not "diddle diddle dee - pause - dah" - to give it its technical terminology :wink:
The following passagework iterations (which are a serious pain in the proverbial) are pretty clean - the odd marginal fumble (e.g. 0.44) but nothing to be overly concerned about, and in honesty I find them a damn sight harder than a fair amount of Lisztian technical flamboyance.
From 1.17 is nicely rhythmic and makes a lot of sense; you don't let the pace drop when the extra notes come in, so bonus points for that :)
1.58 and parallel later octave passages: good, rhythmic accentuation.
2.42 there is an accel in the score? I don't have it to hand. It seems to disrupt the flow, and your performance has been very rhythmically poised so far (I think you did this first time round as well, but this one seemed more noticeable).
Following passage - what a pig this is to play. Not perfectly clean, but the descending quasi-trills were really rather good.
3.20 not absolutely convinced your "romantic" rit fits consistently and interpretatively with the surrounding exact rhythms, but this is probably a matter of taste.
From 3.40 I can tell you don't like the broken rh notes but it's reasonably tidy nonetheless. The jumps are nasty to play, requiring the thumb to start moving early. The close together ones I'd be inclined to practice them as unison octaves, legato, concentrating on fingers 3 (optional), 4 and 5 in the upper hand. Kudos for the part from 3.51.
4.20-5.00 Nice sense of dialogue.
5.00-6.15 I don't know how to approach such passages. I get the sense this is a somewhat connected improvisatory bridging passage which has found its way into the sonata. It seems to drift off briefly into its own dream world, so I guess that means you've played it appropriately.
6.15 See earlier (the second one is more pronounced imo).
7.00-7.20 Good, especially the second half. To improve on this takes really serious left hand technique.
7.48 Good again - better than first time round actually, the jumps were all ok.

Hmm not so brief then.. And I still don't like the sonata.

Quite good for something that's so treacherous. I'm sure I've played it much worse in my time.


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:57 pm 
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Thanks for the detailed comments Andrew ! I am reasonably happy with this recording but the 1st mvt is still a mixed bag. Many things that are good, sort of, and equally many that should be be better. This is not at all an easy movement to bring out.

Not sure why you think the opening rhythm is wrong ? This is how it is written. True, I do like to lean on the first chord a little, but that is just a little. Also, I did not hear any romantic rit. at 3:20. No there is no accelerando in the score, and I don't really hear one - though there could be slight tempo differences because of repeated iterations (a tautology ?) that were later cut out.

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:02 pm 
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This has got to be one of Beethoven's most difficult sonatas to play well and accurately, especially the first movement, in which any errors stick out like a sore thumb. The opening motif is rhythmically wrong, just listen to other recordings of it to get how it should sound. It could do with more dynamic shading, and I really think this is a sonata where the soft pedal can be used to in passages to give the music a "mysterious" quality and an effective change in tone. What you've done is a real achievement, though, as this is a very difficult piece, requiring lots of stamina. Enjoyed listening to it.

I'm convinced that this is a fortepiano piece, and not really suited to the modern piano (which is unusual for Beethoven's music). A lot of the counterpoint and counter melodies need the sharp attack of the fortepiano to stand out, and the sonata really needs the much lighter touch of the fortepiano's keys to flow and to be able to played to the correct speed.


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:07 pm 
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You're consistently late on the second crotchet of the opening motif I'm afraid. The comment above about the soft pedal seems eminently sensible.


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 6:26 pm 
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techneut wrote:
Also, I did not hear any romantic rit. at 3:20. No there is no accelerando in the score, and I don't really hear one - though there could be slight tempo differences because of repeated iterations (a tautology ?) that were later cut out.


Yes, that explanation makes sense - it sounded to me slightly like the effect you get when you join, by editing, two passages which are not of the same exact tempo.

Second movement:
I think this is a difficult movement to pull off. It's far from Beethoven's finest in his early sonatas (Op.2/3 and the Pathetique spring to mind as much superior) and I've always found it a bit foursquare. Your playing's fine, but it would benefit from a little more nuance. It seems to me this is one of these vocally-inspired pieces, and thus I think you should try to squeeze a bit more expression out of the ornaments. Little differences like a cresc/decresc through them, shaping the dynamics, even microrubato within the ornaments, seem to me to be the way to make a difference. The sound of the rh attack seems a little crude at times. These are criticisms I could often aim at pianists way more famous than any of us! Obviously decisions also have to be made as to what constitutes "expression" and what constitues histrionics.

Third movement:
Nice jaunty start! Crisp accias. The double notes went well. I wonder what finger grouping you used for the first one - all in rh, or two in lh one in rh alternating with one lh, two rh? When I played this I'd not played much Liszt, so I never thought of the cheat with interlocking alternate chords which guarantees unison but possibly results in a different sound through a higher wrist in the top hand. Only small criticisms I could make of your performance would be a slight lack of dynamic contrast and that there seemed to be a hesitancy in the third bar of the minore (second repeat). Definitely enjoyed this movement the best so far. I'll listen to the fourth movement later tonight.

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 9:11 pm 
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Fourth movement:
It's sometimes quite an angry allegretto! I don't mind this, I think there is a bit of angry young man about it. A little more whimsy in the lighter moments perhaps. The stern parts are good. The light/dark contrast around 2.35 could be more pronounced. The piano seems to be detuning a touch in the treble around 3.15. More fp at 5.00 would be nice but it's probably not that easy to do - it would however make the following long cresc easier to put across. I think it would be better if 5.30 onwards was more "whispered". The following minicadenza passage was rather nicely done.

Overall it's thoroughly creditable. It's a sonata with a lot of unpianistic moments and harder work than it sounds.


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 6:40 pm 
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Nice job, Chris, on what is quite a difficult sonata.

First movement: I didn't hear the earlier version, so I can't comment on the improvement. Nice, clean execution overall.

One small thing I haven't seen mentioned is that I would watch out for a little more is the use of staccato. Examples:
0.18 the final notes of the phrases and the final quarter notes
2.05 at the end of the exposition (and repeat)
At 6.38 I also think that the dialog would come across better with the staccati, though it is harder to coordinate the staccato vs. legato.
You observed the staccati well at the end, though.

Second movement: beautiful! I think the ends of the phrases in bar 2 and 5 could benefit from a little more shaping.
2.45: Really nicely done.
Not much to say.

MInuet: nicely done, especially the LH in the trio section.
You left out the second repeat, so instead of aababa ccdcdc aba it became aaba ccdcdc aba. (The trio isn't quite
constructed this way, but you get the idea.) The repeats in the Beethoven sonatas are structural, according to the intro to my volume 1.
0.57, the LH notes got swallowed a bit, and were worse in the DC

Fourth movement:
0.57: My score has the RH legato with the LH staccato.
1.40: It's like you did a poco a poco accelerando rather than switching to triplets and 32d notes. My piano teacher used to make me practice switching from two notes/beat to 3 notes to 4 notes and back again to make sure I could get every note value exactly perfect. Perhaps practice this section with a metronome.
Great job with the 32d note passagework and fugue. Good melody shaping in the LH.
5.40: You did the switch from 4->3->4->2->3 well here.
6.15: Reading error, substituting D for C?
Nice passage work leading up to the end.

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 7:17 pm 
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Wow, thank you Mark, Andrew, and Mark for the listening and detailed reply ! For some reason Beethoven recordings always seem to get a lot of feedback. I think all points raised are very valid. While this may not be a bad recording, there is ample room for improvement. Listening back I am not half as satisfied as I was just after recording. Ah well, I think I will leave well enough alone for now. One could spend a lifetime perfecting a piece like this. Surprised nobody commented on my heavy Romantic 'sigh' in the reprise of the Adagio. I thought that would be considered a little over the top. Apparently, my little agogics in the opening bars of the Allegro were not such a good idea.

Anyway thanks again, much appreciated.

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 3:48 am 
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Like you, Chris, I tend to go on jags. At one point, I learned all the Mozart sonatas,
then I did the Chopin nocturnes, etudes, polonnaises, ballades, walzes, and miscellaneous
pieces (love that Berceuse), Liszt Années de Pèlerinage, Transcendentals, etc.. I also started
doing all the Beethoven sonatas, but lost steam in the Hammerklavier. So hats off to you
for accomplishing that! (I did learn all of the Diabelli variations last spring, though.)

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 9:37 am 
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mnodine wrote:
Like you, Chris, I tend to go on jags. At one point, I learned all the Mozart sonatas,
then I did the Chopin nocturnes, etudes, polonnaises, ballades, walzes, and miscellaneous
pieces (love that Berceuse), Liszt Années de Pèlerinage, Transcendentals, etc..

Another completist :) I can relate to that, having recently played through all the Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven sonatas and large parts of Chopin.

mnodine wrote:
I also started doing all the Beethoven sonatas, but lost steam in the Hammerklavier. So hats off to you
for accomplishing that! (I did learn all of the Diabelli variations last spring, though.)

Haha no, I did not mean I'd taken care of the Hammerklavier, just that there is a good recording on the site, saving me from having to fill it in. I've only struggled through it so far, it is one hard bastard that takes grim determination to conquer. Kudos for leaning the Diabelli's, which is hardly less of an achievement.

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:23 am 
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Wow, no one has done Op. 109 yet? Surely there is someone here who plays it. I plan to learn it sometime after turning 40 :D


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 3:52 pm 
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I love Op 109. Getting an interpretation of that last movement must a lifetime's work, though - it seems very personal, and one of those pieces of music that everyone will play and realise differently.


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sat Feb 15, 2014 3:17 pm 
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Great playing in a sonata that is horribly difficult to bring out well. Written to astound the audience with (for the time) amazing fireworks, a main point is to project superiority and shaking a fist at the world, though in more subtle ways than in Beethoven's more dramatic works. In the first movement I was particularly impressed with the second soft part of the development where the melody is in the bass, a great sense of unease despite the fine piano and pianissimo. And the recap is flamboyant as it should be. For some reason you seem to struggle more in the first part of the movement and this takes the edge off it a bit, and the first part of the development is a tad mechanical and some expressiveness is lost. That part is a bit like the development of the Waldstein - series of runs and chords where the melody just dissolves, and requires great care to think what you want to project. You need to feel in your bones that this music is extremely important or it can become kind of pointless. Incidentally, I was at first surprised by the rhythm in the opening, as other have remarked, but in the end I think it is fine to do it this way if you want. If no one else plays it like that it shouldn't bother you! (That kind of thing never bothered B, so he deserves it!)

The second movement I for some reason liked the least. I guess I'm used to hear it a bit slower and with more dynamics. The third movement I liked best, crisp and playful and with great contrasts. The finale is a strange movement, like Mozart on steroids. The dramatic inner part is very well done and expressive. The main theme could perhaps be a little more relaxed and with more attention to the long melody lines, and possibly a softer LH.

In all a valuable contribution, thanks for bringing up this underplayed sonata!

Joachim


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 12:33 pm 
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Thanks for your attentive comments Joachim. I'm still contemplating redoing the first movement once more, there sure is room for improvement. Then again, there always will be... and where to stop !? This decision is getting ever more difficult when recording the classics. Satisfied I'll never be.

You may have a point about asking for a softer LH in the Rondo. Though I am not sure how to make more of the long melody lines. The phrases are not particularly long, and I follow the phrasing (the indicated slurring, I should say). Probably there is more to shaping a melody line than just following the phrasing. A masterclass could come in handy here ;-)

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 4:17 pm 
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I checked the rondo again to listen for the melody line, and think it is a matter of extremely subtle details and in always keeping concentration. For example, in m3 the final RH C is just a bit too loud and breaks the line Bb - C - C# - D. My edition (Schnabel) has a diminuendo beginning at the Bb. The same observation holds for A - Bb -B - C in m1-2, though there it is less noticeable. And in m16 you do a slight tenuto at the first beat (RH C#) - understandably to control the LH jumps, but it does disrupt the line a bit. Your overall conception is perfectly fine but the music is so fragile that anything like this stands out. It should sound relaxed but that does not mean you can relax!

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 5:00 pm 
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I have no dynamics in these bars you mentioned but I agree a diminuendo would be in order there, although I'd prefer to do that only on the last two notes (B-C resp. C#-D) to resolve the dissonance. Maybe Schnabel has a point, I am not sure. He was a composer as well as a pianist, so maybe he's added a lot of details to suit his own taste. My lowly Peters Edition does not have such level of detail.

On the subject of dynamics in Beethoven, I was just today wondering what to make of the following:
Attachment:
File comment: Funny Beethoven dynamics
dynamics.jpg
dynamics.jpg [ 82.92 KiB | Viewed 2360 times ]
This is from his last Bagatelle in my Henle Urtext. The critical notes don't mention it. I'm unable to create both a cresc. and a dim. in two notes. I guess he may gave wanted just a diminuendo, as customary on such a two-note figure. Or maybe the idea is to do this in the LH - though that would amount to an accent on the Eb resp. Ab, which seems pretty far out. Any ideas out there ?

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 5:19 pm 
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I'm guessing, but would assume it means the first note at the level of what preceded it, the second note louder, then returning to the previous level, and so on. More indicative of shaping than just clonking an accent on the second note (plus sometimes I find the simple act of placing an accent can result in a change of touch that wouldn't arise if it was merely a cresc).


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 5:37 pm 
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My guess: Play the final 16th in the RH at least as loud as the preceding, ie do not round off the phrase. Take care not to do a cresc in LH, ie the final Ab should still be the weakest of the triplet.

Another way to look at it is to compare with the following measure where the dynamics makes sense (the last 16th in RH is louder than the preceding and following, despite the fact that it is on a weaker beat). Practice that first. Then phrase the first two 16ths in exactly the same way even though there is no continuation, in anticipation of the next.


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 7:42 pm 
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Thanks for the ideas guys. I'm not sure I can agree to playing the second 16th louder than the first. It seems to go against the grain of anything I've learnt and heard. I think I'll stick to the good old cliche of playing the 2nd softer than the first. Though it might be an idea to listen to some recordings and find out how great pianists deal with this.

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 8:41 pm 
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Looks like an accent on the second note from the score. It reminds of me Haydn's piano sonatas - he sometimes does this, either an accent or sforzando on the second note of a slurred pair. It can sound very effective and elegant if you get it right (i.e. not banged, but more of an emphasis).


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 6:20 am 
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It's an accent. Normally a two-note group that starts on the beat and finishes off the beat would receive an accent on the first note. He wants it on the second note so he has to tell you specifically.


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:42 am 
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It's interesting that everybody seems sure the 2nd note should be stronger. None of the half dozen performances I sampled on YT actually does that !
Everybody plays them either the same or else the second very slightly softer. which is what I am inclined to do also. I wonder if this piece (except in the outer sections) maybe originally was for piano and violin. I guess the dynamics as written would make sense for a string player, and maybe Beethoven wanted to keep the idea even though it can't really be realized on piano. Just another of my wild ideas :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 11:24 am 
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techneut wrote:
It's interesting that everybody seems sure the 2nd note should be stronger. None of the half dozen performances I sampled on YT actually does that !


That doesn't surprise me in the slightest. It's been my ecperience that if you look at such interpretative issues in microscopic detail, often even very famous pianists do things that clearly run counter to the marked intentions or which are interpretatively peculiar. It's remarkable how often dynamics aren't properly observed (and I know I've been guilty of this also). The question also has to be asked as to how authentic (and widespread) this dynamic marking is. My hunch would be that people have gone through the score and opted for what's "natural", irrespective of the contentious aspect as to what the composer's intent was.


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 11:55 am 
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I checked the autograph and these markings are indeed authentic. But I guess we can forever guess what exactly Beethoven may have wanted here, and why it would be important here of all places to defy convention and have the second note louder. I can't remember having seen
a similar situation anywhere else. With all respect to the composer, it's not really worth agonizing over.

On a related note, one of the Tajcevic Balkan dances I recently recorded has glissandi marked crescendo. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to do that either, maybe by gradually depressing the sustain pedal ? Or by gradually increasing finger position and/or pressure ?

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 12:17 pm 
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techneut wrote:
On a related note, one of the Tajcevic Balkan dances I recently recorded has glissandi marked crescendo. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to do that either, maybe by gradually depressing the sustain pedal ? Or by gradually increasing finger position and/or pressure ?


My experience would be that (upwards) glissandi tend to have an innate cresc anyway, if you are doing them with the sustain pedal depressed. However I would be inclined to exaggerate that/create an illusion of increase by starting more slowly and applying an accel through it.


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 12:36 pm 
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Yeah makes sense. Glissando would be an interesting discussion topic in itself. I can't remember if we ever had one.

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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 12:50 pm 
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Copying and engraving mistakes aside, I think Beethoven is the one composer whose dynamic markings should always be followed, as he never wrote anything he didn't mean to be realised in the music. These second note accents remind me of the empfindsam style of the mid-18th century, where notes are often accentuated in unusual places.


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2014 4:11 am 
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techneut wrote:
It's interesting that everybody seems sure the 2nd note should be stronger. None of the half dozen performances I sampled on YT actually does that !
Everybody plays them either the same or else the second very slightly softer.

Were you listening to performers who are both knowledgeable and recent enough to have access to urtext editions?
I listened to Ronald Brautigam and he definitely does both accents, the first by taking extra time and the second by a marked increase in volume.


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 Post subject: Re: Beethoven - Sonata Op.22
PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:34 am 
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I listened to Brendel, Schnabel, Pollini, Kempff, Pollini, Gould, Daniel Shapiro, Dennis Mathews, and Anna Radchenko. I seem to have missed Brautigam's recording. he's an interesting pianist.

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