Tag Archives: Beethoven piano sonata no. 27 opus 90

two of my favorite piano sonatas and how important the performer seems to be

They are as follows:

Beethoven, piano sonata no. 27, opus 90, second movement (“Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen”; Not too swiftly and conveyed in a singing manner)

Andrew Rangell

Emil Gilels

Manon Clément

Maurizio Pollini

Steven Osborne

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Schubert, sonata no. 20 in A, D. 959, second movement (Andante)

Alfred Brendel

David Korevaar

Gerhard Oppitz

Mitsuko Uchida

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My love of these two pieces may partially have to do with the circumstances under which I first heard them.

My mother used play the second movement of the Beethoven sonata. Like many amateur pianists, she had a few favorite pieces she would play all the time that she must have learned from her piano teacher. I would fall asleep listening to her play the second movement of sonata number 27 with great feeling. I didn’t care whether her technique would have been regarded as good or not. (Nor, at that age, would I have thought about this.)

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Schubert, sonata no. 20 in A, no. 959, second movement (Andante)

I first heard the Schubert sonata, hitherto unknown to me, in the film Au Hasard Balthashar, directed by Robert Bresson, at the now defunct Elgin Theatre on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. It got me in a visceral sense. Bresson was a master at using music in his films, sparingly yet always effectively. The Andante functions as a leitmotif for the soundtrack.

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Beethoven, piano sonata no. 27, opus 90, second movement

As far as these renditions of the second and last movement go, I think Emil Gilels plays the movement too fast. I am not sure that’s the right way to put it, but he seems to play without feeling, sort of rushes through the movement and wings it, so to speak. As if he were not heeding Beethoven’s instructions to play it “not too swiftly and conveyed in a singing manner.”

I like Andrew Rangell and Manon Clément’s interpretations. Neither pianist is that well known. I have a preference (I think; it’s hard to make such judgments) for Manon Clément’s rendition. Maybe she’s inferior to the other pianists in technical skill, but she manages to make the piece compelling.

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Schubert, sonata no. 20 in A, no. 959, second movement

What was Mitsuko Uchida thinking (or intending) when she played the Andante of this sonata? Andante, yes; means at a “walking pace.” She seems to have interpreted Andante as meaning “crawling.” She puts you to sleep. (I am not an expert, but it seems as if she could have played a tad more fortissimo.) She is a renowned interpreter of Mozart, Schubert, and other composers. I have heard some of her Mozart renditions, and they are outstanding.

Note at how much faster a tempo (dramatic, but perhaps it should have been a bit slower) Alfred Brendel commences the andante. And, he plays it much louder. Overall, I think Brendel’s rendition is impressive and does the movement justice.

Overall, of the four versions posted here, I prefer German pianist Gerhard Oppitz’s rendition.

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This brings to mind something true about music from my personal experience. How valid it is, or whether it conforms to others’ experience, I don’t know. As is evinced by the Beethoven, I grew to love it by hearing my mother, an amateur pianist, play it with feeling. And, of all the versions posted here, I think I like Manon Clément’s the best, yet she is the least well known performer. Conclusion, for what it’s worth: the circumstances under which one hears music and the emotional content the performer can convey — through skill but also through performance intangibles, and through the desire to “communicate” musically (rather than just be admired as a performer) — make a great difference.

It’s not that different in writing, something which I know more about. An earnest desire to communicate can go a long way in making a piece of writing succeed. It’s not the only thing — technical skill and knowledge must be there — but a showoff who just wants to impress and does the job with no sense of their real or virtual audience (be it that in playing or writing) will leave listeners and readers feeling unfulfilled.

— Roger W. Smith

   August 2017

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Addendum: Igo Pogorelich’s rendition of Sonata no. 27, op. 90 is worth listening to.

Beethoven piano sonata no. 27, opus 90

 

 

 

 

Beethoven piano sonata no. 27, opus 90

 

It is rare that this sonata is in two movements instead of four.

For some reason, it does not seem to be performed that often.

I grew to love it from listening to my mother play the second movement when I was very young.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

     January 2017

 

 

 

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from Wikipedia

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 27 in E minor, Op. 90 was written in the summer of 1814 – Beethoven’s late Middle period – and was dedicated to Prince Moritz von Lichnowsky, a friend and benefactor who was also the dedicatee of the famous Eroica Variations.

Beethoven’s autograph survives and is dated August 16, 1814. The sonata was published almost a year later.

Beethoven’s letter to Prince Moritz von Lichnowsky, sent in September 1814, explains Beethoven’s dedication:

I had a delightful walk yesterday with a friend in the Brühl, and in the course of our friendly chat you were particularly mentioned, and lo! and behold! on my return I found your kind letter. I see you are resolved to continue to load me with benefits. As I am unwilling you should suppose that a step I have already taken is prompted by your recent favors, or by any motive of the sort, I must tell you that a sonata of mine is about to appear, dedicated to you. I wished to give you a surprise, as this dedication has been long designed for you, but your letter of yesterday induces me to name the fact. I required no new motive thus publicly to testify my sense of your friendship and kindness.

Beethoven’s friend and biographer Anton Schindler reported that the two movements of the sonata were to be titled Kampf zwischen Kopf und Herz (“A Contest Between Head and Heart”) and Conversation mit der Geliebten (“Conversation with the Beloved”), respectively, and that the sonata as a whole referred to Prince Moritz’ romance with a woman he was thinking of marrying.

Schindler’s explanation first appeared in his 1842 book Beethoven in Paris and has been repeated in several other books. Later studies showed that the story was almost certainly invented by Schindler, at least in part, and that he went as far as to forge an entry in one of Beethoven’s conversation books to validate the anecdote.

Although most of Beethoven’s piano sonatas are cast in three or four movements, this piece consists of just two movements. Both are provided with performance instructions in German:

first movement: Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus mit Empfindung und Ausdruck (With liveliness and with feeling and expression throughout)

second movement: Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen (Not too swiftly and conveyed in a singing manner)

 

 

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Addendum:

 

The second movement is supposed to be played “Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen” (Not too swiftly and conveyed in a singing manner).

Nevertheless, some– indeed, many — pianists, including renowned ones, play the second movement TOO FAST and in a restrained, bloodless manner, not a singing manner.

I would almost prefer to hear it played by an amateur who has a sensitivity to the piece.

 

— Roger W. Smith, email to a friend, January 1, 2017