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Beethoven - 26th Sonata "Les Adieux" op. 81a

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Francois de Larrard, Mar 11, 2014.

  1. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Dear All,
    Please find a recording I made recently of a sonata not yet available on PS. It preceeds the series of the last sonatas (starting with the Hammerklavier up to op. 111). Not as long as the last ones, without fuges nor variations, but a magnificent piece though. History says that Beethoven carried out its composition around the departure and the coming back of the Archduke Rudolph of Austria, occasioned by the invasion of Napoleon. But it seems that it was only a pretext to illustrate three universal feelings, that we all know when we leave someone we love, when we miss him (or her) and when we meet again.
    The first movement has two sections (Adagio - Allegro) provides a very convincing description of a departure (especially the end). Then comes the second one (Andante expressivo), a kind of short improvisation around two themes coming from the first movement. The third movement is attached with the second one, and is full of joy and energy.
    Thanks for listening and commenting.

    Beethoven - Sonata No. 26 op. 81a, Les Adieux
     
  2. StuKautsch

    StuKautsch Member Piano Society Artist

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    Francois,
    I'm listening to this as I write, and will comment on the musicality later (so far, very good).
    But the volume is too low. Immediately before putting this on, I was listening to another recording from the PS site (a typical one, I believe), and I had to increase the volume by 50%. That's a bit much.

    While I'm here: in case I forget: Thanks for filling in an important hole in the Society's repertoire. (But please increase the volume next time!) :)
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Francois,
    I have heard this sonata before, but have never studied it, so I can't say anything really useful. Sounded nice, though, and I enjoyed the text you included on each movement, which made the whole sonata even more interesting for me. I have put it on the site, and will take care of a little cosmetic issue tomorrow. Nice job! :)
     
  4. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    I played this sonata a long time ago, and not nearly as well, I might add. My initial impressions:

    First movement - a few tiny slips, but this is fine playing. A good sense of dialogue, question/answer between phrases. Nice piano sound too.
    Second movement - expressive playing, and the ornaments are well handled, as might be expected from someone who plays a lot of baroque music! Good variety of dynamics.
    Third movement - a few small fluffs in the passagework, but it's not easy and you are to be commended for using so little pedal. It's mostly very rhythmic apart from a few of the ascending broken arpeggio passages where I feel you've slightly lost the pulse. This a treacherous movement where it is easy for things to go wrong, and it comes across excitingly.

    Once again, I think this is very good Beethoven playing - congratulations and I thoroughly enjoyed listening.
     
  5. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Some time ago I commented on a couple of Beethoven sonatas missing. I'd overlooked this one (we have a recording but it's incomplete) so this is a welcome addition.

    I agree with the others that this is an artistically fine performance. Lots of nice details, and generally good dynamics, articulation, and contrasts.
    The volume is a bit low, but not dramatically so, I'd say. I find the piano sound rather brittle and harsh in the upper register, plus it seems to be out of tune here.

    Now, this is indeed a difficult sonata, parts of it VERY difficult, and some tiny slips can be excused. Personally I think there are far too many, and they are not always tiny either (I heard some real fumbles in the 1st mvt at 4:52 and 5:12 for example). Technically it sounds like a recording I could have submitted 5 or so years ago, when I did not care much about perfection and just wanted the recordings to get out.

    Am I too picky ? Maybe. Is perfection everything ? Certainly not. Does the artistic level of the performance justify the fair amount of misses ? That's where it gets difficult. Some will say yes, and some will say no. I'm not sure how much you've polished this, but it seems to me it was not enough.
    There's little here that a bit more diligent practising would not cure. I'd respectfully ask you to spend more TLC on this. Or maybe do what I do, re-play
    a fumbled passage and cut it out later.
     
  6. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Interesting comment. The third movement was the only place where I felt there was a question mark. I assume this is a one-take performance, in which case it is very creditable. I would probably have re-taken a few places, given the opportunity. I'm not sure the problems are necessarily the sort solved by more and more practising - I just think that the last movement is the sort of piece where accidents are liable to happen, even for the most diligent mortals.
     
  7. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Oh sure it's very creditable for a one-take. Were it a live performance (or were it Cortot playing ;-) ) then
    few would worry about the slips. And yes it might be near impossible to get everything squeaky clean unless through massive editing. Indeed the 3rd
    mvt has the most challenges.

    Anyway I am not going to deny this recording a place on PS. Not everybody is prepared to to re-record stuff.
     
  8. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    @ Stu
    Thank you very much for your compliments ! Regarding the volume, I already increased it, but I don't want to put compression, therefore if I want to avoid saturation in the ff parts, the mean volume can be rather low. But does it harm to put the level up on your computer (or with your mp3 player) ?
    @ Monica
    Thank you for your interest regarding the story of Les Adieux. Hence, it is a very narrative and descriptive music, especially as compared to the later sonatas which are more abstract and 'out of the world' (but sublime for the same reasons...).
    @ Andrew
    I especially appreciate your comments since you have an personal experience of this sonata. Yes the third movement is really tricky. The first one is my preferred: so deep, reflexive and the way Beethoven leaves gradually the auditor, with kind of repetitions in echoes, is really great (even if at the very end he puts a vigorous cadenza).
    @ Chris
    Master Chris more severe, as usual :)
    Well, you're right, it is a particularly unclean recording in terms of technical precision. Little, frequent flaws in the 3rd movement, few, but big ones in the 1st. These last ones are not accidental, unfortunately. It's my problem with many great pieces of the classical repertoire: by playing them during months, I end up mastering some 99 or 99.5 % of the piece, but some nasty passages resist to my efforts. To kill them would require some 3-4 hours of daily practice, that I cannot provide owing to my lifestyle and constraints. I rely on administrators to decide if the result is acceptable or not, but I'm afraid I cannot do a better job right now... At least I hope my 'living' of this music, that I play by heart, can be heard, but I agree it is not an excuse for a lack of rigor in the execution.
     
  9. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Flattery will get you nowhere :)

    I well understand your problem. Isn't this piano playing in a nutshell ? Something akin to the 80-20 rule applies here. I mostly overcome that problem by
    allowing cosmetic surgery, but some here are against that. True, you'd have to watch out not ending up with near-perfect but boring recordings like mine.

    I still believe though that people don't want to hear many mistakes in a recording. The odd tiny slip in the heat of a virtuoso passage doesn't bother but repeated misses and fumbles do grate. Like a wart on the face that people can't take their eyes off and wonder why you don't have it removed.

    That you play from memory and in one take is great, I wish I could do that. But I'm not sure how much that counts for an internet listener who doesn't
    know you and just wants to hear the sonata. I think it's not important any more then whether or not Beethoven wrote it in one sitting without crossing out, revisiting, etc.

    But let's not start up this age-old debate once again. I'll put this one up later.
     
  10. troglodyte

    troglodyte Member Piano Society Artist

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    Overall a very good conception of this musically intricate sonata. I tried to play it several years ago but had to give up on the quick runs in the final movement, I could not get the speed I wanted.

    I normally don't concern myself with occasional slips but here I have to agree with Chris: they are annoying to an extent that detracts from the performance. In the first movement you have great expression and in particular do the thematic reduction in the development very well though it suffers a bit from the slow speed (the Allegro usually goes a bit faster). This movement is not really gymnastically difficult except for the infamous RH chord runs which I never quite managed. There is apparently a trick to practising it by bouncing the hand from every other chord but I'd need a proper teacher to show me how to do that. My solution was to do a rit there which is really musically unwarranted. You are more courageous in keeping the speed though I don't think you hit all the notes. This is excusable and probably preferable to a rit but there are also other slips. A detail: the final two chords I used to play like you (fortissimo) until my wife complained in one of her very rare comments on my playing, saying the thunder breaks the mood and a brisk forte would be better. I tried that and liked it much better; also that conforms to the what is written (forte and staccato).

    The second movement is very nicely played with deeply felt emotion. The final movement has severe articulation problems to an extent that impedes the joyous feeling you want to project, it becomes more of a struggle in many places. I understand what you want to do but in my mind you succeed only partially. A detail which may be a read error: in the second measure of the first presentation of the main theme (3:53) you play E natural where there should be Eb.

    I may be too harsh because I really love this sonata. You have an excellent idea for what to do with it but honestly I think it requires a bit more work.

    Joachim
     
  11. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Joachim, Chris,
    Thank you for the time you spent to analyse this recording. You convinced me that I have to try to improve it, at least the third movement. I am then asking the administrators to remove it from the site (please just keep the first one). I will resubmit another version, hopefully a better one. Best regards,
     
  12. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ok, Francois, I have removed it from the Beethoven Sonatas page. I can't take it off the server, though. But when you make your new recording, it will automatically replace the one on the server.
     
  13. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks Monica ! Have a good week-end,
    François
     
  14. troglodyte

    troglodyte Member Piano Society Artist

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    Just to be clear: I never meant to censor it. Chris made a wise choice to allow it on the site; this is a place for amateurs and some people enjoyed it, as did I to some extent, so probably many other will. Though I am glad you want to work more on it, you have very good ideas and from your other recordings I think you have the capacity to articulate them better. I guess you know the drill: take it down a few notches in tempo until you have it in hand properly and relaxedly, and then bring it up a segment at a time. Good luck!!
     
  15. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hello Joachim,
    This is exactly what I intend to to (and also to practice the hands separately). Hence, when relistening my recording, I realised that I was not in very good shape when I did it, and the result was by no mean agreeable to listen. Thank you for your good advice,
     
  16. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Dear All,
    After some months I have tried to re-record the third movement. It is still VERY difficult (good Ludwig did not change his mind :) !). I think this version is somewhat better (or less bad) than the previous, even if a number of flaws remain. Just to have the complete set on the site (I guess there is still no other version), I'd like to have this file joining the 1st movement one. Thanks,

    Beethoven - Sonata No. 26 op. 81a, L'Absence, Le Retour(10:05)
     
  17. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I've added this to the site.

    As you say this one is hard ! I find that in most or all or the sonatas, there are moments of cruel difficulty. When he wants to make life difficult for the performer, Beethoven takes no prisoners. So I guess one is excused the odd slip. But there are a lot of them here ! It is distracting for the listener. It's
    like a single beauty spot is not an issue, but you don't want to have lots of them because then people will look at them all the time. Apart from the
    too many wrong notes it's an interesting performance. Some treble notes are too far out of tune, I believe. Are you due for a tuning session yet ?

    You clearly have the technique (your LH seems to be doing particularly well here), but alas not the patience to try and produce a reasonably clean recording. That will require some re-takes, and then some judicious cut and paste. I don't think this is a shame, we are amateurs after all. And it
    does take time... but the result can be all the better.
     
  18. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Well, I have made already some surgery... As soon as a better version is proposed, I agree to delete mine from the site ! Regards,
     
  19. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I find that it helps to have two takes of a piece, each one with the aim to be the final. Then I edit the second take, replacing unsatisfactory bits with
    the similar from the first take if those are ok.
     
  20. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    It's a tiresomely difficult last movement - not difficult in a big, ostentatious Lisztian way, just prone to accidents. I listened a few days back and did find the slips annoying after a while, which was a shame, because there's quite a bit of character to the performance. It's a long time since I looked thoroughly at the score, so I can't know if there's sufficient repetition within it that you can substitute from one bar which has gone ok and patch it into a parallel later or earlier bar that didn't. In any case, it's still a significant achievement to put this sonata together.
     

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