Saturday, 31 January 2009

243. Franz Schubert - String Quartet in G major, D 887 (1826)






















Recording

Title: String Quartets 14 "Death and the Maiden" & 15
Performers: Busch Quartet
Year: 1939
Length: 43 minutes

Review

Old recordings can be a good or bad thing. I really dislike them for vocal pieces, for me voice needs to be pretty clean, but in works like this string quartet it gets a certain charm. So I have no problem with this 1939 recording, even if it does not sound as clean as more recent ones, in fact the performance is full of life.

Schubert is a master at String quartets and this is his last one. It is a very long work and also a kind of bitter-sweet one. It goes through quite a number of emotional states, and as befits such a great romantic composer they are all superbly achieved through music.

This is probably not the best Schubert quartet, but it is still good enough to more than justify its inclusion on this list. The sound of the Busch quartet is also interesting enough to make this a really great recording indeed. Recommended.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

n the Woody Allen film Crimes and Misdemeanors, parts of the Allegro molto moderato (including the dotted rhythm of the opening) are used as a dramatic measure during several scenes that form central parts of the plot.

Unfortunately could find no video for this.

Friday, 30 January 2009

242. Gioacchino Rossini - Il Viaggio a Reims


















Recording

Title: Il Viaggio a Reims
Performers: Sylvia McNair, Samuel Ramey
Director: Claudio Abbado
Year: 1992
Length: 2 hours 10 minutes

Review

Yet another Rossini Italian opera, and his last Italian opera as from here on out he would be composing in French. Hopefully with a change in language he will stop recycling so much, but somehow I don't believe it.

The more Rossini you listen to the more you realise that there is endless repetition and recycling in his music. What is particularly sad is that when something new comes along it is actually pretty great! Just that he puts a couple of new songs in each new opera and recycles the rest.

This opera is particularly haphazard when it comes to plot, consisting of people of different nationalities at an Inn on their way to the coronation of Charles X of France. It serves as a display of European unity and harmony, etc. In the end there are so many characters that no real plot develops, only 6 or 7 micro plots. The music is quite good, when not recycled, and there is a 14 voice piece which is quite striking, and the final thing where each nationality sings their own song is quite amusing, is somewhat cheap as Rossini is now recycling from other composers. This is frankly non-essential Rossini.

Final Grade

7/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Rossini's last opera in the Italian language (all of his later works were in French), premiered under the title Le voyage à Reims, ou l'Hôtel du Lys-d'Or. Commissioned to celebrate the coronation of French King Charles X in Rheims in 1825, the work has been critically acclaimed as one of Rossini's finest compositions. It is a demanding work, requiring 14 soloists (three sopranos, one contralto, two tenors, four baritones, and four basses). At its premiere, it was sung by the greatest voices of the day.

Since the opera was written for a specific occasion, with a plot about European aristocrats, officers - and one poetess - en route to join in the French coronation festivities that the opera itself was composed for, Rossini never intended for the opera to have a life beyond a few performances in Paris. The composer later re-used about half of the music in Le comte Ory.

One of the great Ensemble pieces:



241. Franz Schubert - Piano Sonata in D major, D850 (1825)




















Recording

Title: Piano Sonatas in D major, D850 & A minor,D784
Performers: Mitsuko Uchida
Year: 1999
Length: 39 minutes

Review

This is Schubert's happiest piano sonata, and it is a quite bubbly one. But this might not be his emotional element. The sonata just isn't as emotionally convincing as most other Schubert works.

It just doesn't hit that Shubertian place in me. However it is still a pretty great sonata. But then there is a reason why he is often seen as Beethoven's successor. The first and second movements are particularly good here.

Another interesting aspect of this sonata is its length. It is a very long sonata, even if he would eventually go to further lengths in composing. His late sonatas are even longer! Still, it is never boring and never feels overly long. So good, but not amazing.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The sonata is noticeably faster in tempo than many other of Schubert's sonatas. Whereas Schubert would regularly restrain an Allegro movement with markings such as moderato or ma non troppo, in this sonata, both the first and third movements are marked with vivace. Even the slower second movement is marked with con moto, meaning with movement.

First movement:



Thursday, 29 January 2009

240. Felix Mendelssohn - Songs Without Words (1825-45)


















Recording

Title: Piano Concertos 1 & 2, Songs Without Words.
Performers: Andras Schiff
Year: 1986
Length: 35 minutes

Review

The format of these little songs for piano is particularly enlightening as to their originality, they are three minutes long and self contained. Essentially the format which would become the norm for popular music in the 20th century.

These are songs all about the melody, this is not experimental in the least. It is in fact quite beautiful and melodious, and also quite relaxing music. Schiff plays them with a particular lightness which emphasises their delicate nature.

The structure of the songs and their emotionality has led many to think them inferior works, but they are just little songs, beautiful and each perfectly formed as an independent element. Great stuff.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The eight volumes of Songs without Words were written at various points throughout Mendelssohn's life, (two of the volumes being published posthumously). The piano became increasingly popular in Europe during this era, where it became the focal point of many middle-class households. The pieces are within the grasp of pianists of various abilities and this undoubtedly contributed to their popularity. This great popularity has caused many critics to under-rate their musical value.

The works were part of the Romantic tradition of writing short lyrical pieces for the piano, although the specific concept of 'Song without Words' was new. Felix's sister Fanny Mendelssohn wrote a number of similar pieces (though not so entitled) and she may have helped inspire the concept according to some music historians.

Mendelssohn himself resisted attempts to interpret the Songs too literally, and objected when his friend Souchay sought to put words to them to make them literal songs:

What the music I love expresses to me, is not thought too indefinite to put into words, but on the contrary, too definite. 

Other composers who were inspired to produce similar sets of pieces of their own included Charles Valentin Alkan (the five sets of Chants, each ending with a barcarolle), Anton Rubinstein, Ignaz Moscheles and Edvard Grieg.

Op. 19 no.1:


Wednesday, 28 January 2009

239. Feliz Mendelssohn - Octet (1825)



















Recording

Title: Octet in E-flat for Strings, op.20 & Sextet in D for violin, 2 violas, cello, bass and Piano Op.110
Performers: The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Year: 2002
Length: 30 minutes

Review

Felix Mendelssohn is 16, his life is an idyll of arts, music, frolicking, whatever, and he manages to compose a piece which really funnels that into an explosion of joy. The first movement is particularly exemplary of this.

This is that rare form of an octet, and in this case only for strings, basically it is little more than a double string quartet, but it does sound fuller because of it, and it is almost symphonic in character.

This is really fun to listen to, even if next to Beethoven's string quartets we had yesterday these do sound like the works of a 16 year old boy. But because of this they have an innocence ad a sheer disarming simplicity that is great.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The scherzo, later scored for orchestra as a replacement for the minuet in the composer's First Symphony at its premiere, is believed to have been inspired by a section of Goethe's Faust entitled "Walpurgis Night's Dream." Fragments of this movement recur in the finale, as a precursor to the "cyclic" technique employed by later 19th-century composers. The entire work is also notable for its extended use of counterpoint, with the finale, in particular, beginning with an eight-part fugato.

a documentary on Emerson Quartet playingthe Octet:

Part 1:



Part 2:



Tuesday, 27 January 2009

238. Ludwig van Beethoven - Late String Quartets (1825-26)


















Recording

Title: Late String Quartets
Performers: Takacs Quartet
Year: 2003-04
Length: 3 hours 20 minutes

Review


We finally come to the last compositions by Beethoven and it will be a pity to see him leave. No other single composer was as responsible for a complete revolution in the music world, and these Quartets are another great example of this.

By this time, Beethoven is, of course completely deaf, and one has to ask if that is part of the reason why he is so willing to explode the conventions on "how things should sound". These quartets are anything but traditional, full of dissonance and hard to get used to. They are properly challenging music, probably the most challenging music by Beethoven.

The whole musical genre is pushed forward by leaps and bounds with this work. Music has stopped being solely about auditory pleasure and it starts being conceptual as well. Much of the music here is beautiful because Beethoven is such a master, but it is mainly concerned with experimentation and creation. They take some effort but it is very worth it.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

Together, all five quartets comprise the last major, completed compositions by Beethoven, and are widely considered to be among the greatest musical compositions of all time, though they are also notoriously difficult for audiences to digest. Musicologist Theodor Adorno, in particular, thought highly of them, and composer Igor Stravinsky is reputed to have believed the Grosse Fuge to be the greatest piece of music ever written. Wagner, when reflecting on Op. 131's first movement, said that they contained some of the saddest music he knew.

First Movement of op. 131:






Friday, 23 January 2009

237. Franz Schubert - Arpeggione Sonata (1824)



















Recording

Title: Arpeggione Sonata
Performers: Jean-Guihen Queyras, Alexandre Tharaud
Year: 2005
Length: 24 minutes

Review

Here's one I didn't know. And now I know, and I'm happier for knowing, because frankly it is one of the most achingly beautiful pieces by Schubert. All you need to hear is the first 10 seconds of the piece to be completely hooked.

If Death and the Maiden is rage, this is bitter-sweetness in its full glory. The first movement is really something else, but it does not flag through the next two movements, the second is beautiful and slightly dark towards the end and the third is a perfectly peaceful finale.

Interestingly the piece is composed for piano and Arpeggione, an instrument which has completely fallen into disuse, being, therefore substituted for the Cello. This is also the only piece for the Arpeggione in existence. Fascinating.

Final Grade

10/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

By the time the sonata was published posthumously in 1871, the enthusiasm for the novelty of the arpeggione had long vanished, together with the instrument itself. Today, the piece is heard almost exclusively in transcriptions for cello and piano or viola and piano that were arranged after that time, although versions that substitute other instruments, including the double bass, the flute, and the clarinet, or the guitar for the piano part are also performed. Transcribers have attempted to address the problems posed by the smaller playing range of these alternative instruments, in comparison with the arpeggione, as well as the attendant modifications in articulation (4 versus 6 strings).

First Movement:


Thursday, 22 January 2009

236. Franz Schubert - String Quartet in D minor, D810, "Death and the Maiden" (1824)


















Recording


Title: The Late String Quartets, String Quintet
Performers: Emerson Quartet
Year: 1987
Length: 37 minutes

Review

Another great chamber piece by Schubert, but this one marks a turning point in Schubert's life and career. Shortly before composing this he had learned that he suffered from syphilis, so he was not in the best of moods.

There clearly is something very dark in this piece, frustrated and desperate but of great power. This is sad Schubert, nothing could contrast more with the Schubert Fifth Symphony or the Trout quintet.

The bucolic quality is replaced by a sense of impending doom here, very expressionist in feel, it feels fully Romantic in tone. An amazing piece of music which ties in with Schubert biographical facts perfectly.

Final Grade

10/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The second movement is a theme — taken from his macabre song Der Tod und Das Mädchen (D 531 in Deutsch's catalog) — and five variations, with coda

First part of the first movement:



Wednesday, 21 January 2009

235. Franz Schubert - Octet in F major, D803 (1824)


















Recording

Title: Octet in F, D803
Performers: Nash Ensemble
Year: 2003
Length: 1 hour 3 minutes

Review

Schubert is, in my humble opinion, the best composer for small ensembles and chamber music in general. His quartets are without pair, as are his songs and this octet is also a wonder.

Beautiful, light and supremely catchy like so much of Schubert's chamber music, it is just a joy to listen to. The addition of clarinet, bassoon and horn to the string quartet + another violin, gives the whole thing focus. Almost like a small scale symphony.

This comparison with a symphony seems to not be completely off the mark, it is very long for a chamber piece and it is reported that Schubert was working on a symphony at the time, from which this octet might have sprung. Great music, and an appropriately light counterpoint to Beethoven's 9th we had just yesterday.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia


From Wikipedia:

Around the time he composed this Octet, Schubert informed his friends he was working on a new "Grand Symphony". As none of Schubert's surviving scores written in this epoch matches a "symphony" properly speaking, it was sometimes assumed that this Octet and/or the Grand Duo in C major (D.812, op. 140) might have been preliminary versions of the "Grand Symphony" Schubert mentioned in 1824.

First Movement:








Tuesday, 20 January 2009

234. Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony no. 9, "Choral" (1824)



















Recording

Title: Symphony No. 9 "Choral"
Performers: Bayreuth Festival,
Director: Wilhelm Furtwangler
Year: 1951
Length: 1 hour 14 minutes

Review

So we reach the apotheosis of Western music with the last symphony of Beethoven. There was never such a renowned, revolutionary, astonishing and simply original work before or after this. Freebird eat your heart out.

The influence is such that even the CD format is as it is because of this piece. In fact, curiously because of this particular recording. The standard for the physical size of a CD was one which could fit the longest recording of the Ninth, this one. 74 minutes. Bet you didn't know that.

Furtwangler gives us a messy performance of the Ninth, it is all over the place, but it also manages to convey an incredible sense of power in the sound, even in its grainy 1951 live recording technology. What is lost in perfection is more than made up for in sheer feeling. And nothing could be more appropriate than the great explosion of Romantic aesthetics composed by an old deaf man, this recording excites the feeling rather than the perfectionist, and that is what you want from Romantic music. This isn't Bach, this is power itself. And what an astonishing piece of music it is.

From the beginning where it seems the performers are tuning their instruments to the last movement where the Ode to Joy shifts constantly like some kaleidoscope this is unprecedented music. The central work in the canon, and for excellent reasons.

Final Grade

10/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

There are a number of anecdotes about the premiere of the Ninth. Based on the testimony of the participants, there are suggestions that it was under-rehearsed (there were only two full rehearsals) and rather scrappy in execution. On the other hand, the premiere was a big success. In any case, Beethoven was not to blame, as violist Josef Bohm recalled, "Beethoven directed the piece himself; that is, he stood before the lectern and gesticulated furiously. At times he raised, at other times he shrunk to the ground, he moved as if he wanted to play all the instruments himself and sing for the whole chorus. All the musicians minded his rhythm alone while playing".

When the audience applauded - testimonies differ over whether at the end of the scherzo or the whole symphony - Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting. Because of that, the contralto Caroline Unger walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience's cheers and applause. According to one witness, "the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them." The whole audience acclaimed him through standing ovations five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven, who could not hear the applause, could at least see the ovation gestures. The theatre house had never seen such enthusiasm in applause.

At that time, it was customary that the Imperial couple be greeted with three ovations when they entered the hall. The fact that five ovations were received by a private person who was not even employed by the state, and moreover, was a musician (a class of people who had been perceived as lackeys at court), was in itself considered almost indecent. Police agents present at the concert had to break off this spontaneous explosion of ovations. Beethoven left the concert deeply moved.

Karajan conducts the whole thing:

Part 1



Part 2


Monday, 19 January 2009

233. Juan Crisostomo de Arriaga - String Quartets (1824)




















Recording

Title: Complete String Quartets
Performers: Voces String Quartet
Year: 1985
Length: 1 hour 14 minutes

Review

These three string quartets by the very unknown, at least outside Spain and particularly the Basque country, Juan Arriaga, a Basque composer that died at the age of 19, are actually pretty great pieces.

Unlike most Spanish music that we have had and will have, it's character is not particularly Spanish, being integrated in a internationalist style, even if it does have some Spanish echoes, particularly in the first quartet. However I was looking for them while listening to it, if you weren't it would be hard to find them.

The three quartets are a bit backward looking, sharing more with the classical than with the romantic, but they are very much integrated in the transition, and the slow movements show the young Arriaga had a good sense of the Romantic. All in all they are delightfully light pieces of great beauty by a composer that would have shown great promise, had he not contracted a severe case of the deaths.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

According to Grove, Arriaga's death "before he was 20 was a sad loss to Spanish music." Following his early death, with the only reliable biographical material being some reports by Fétis, Arriaga's life story was fictionalized to play into rising Spanish nationalism. A public theatre in his home city of Bilbao carries his name.

Nothing of the String Quartets so you get the overture to his only opera, Los Esclavos Felices:




Saturday, 17 January 2009

232. Ludwig van Beethoven - Diabelli Variations (1823)



















Recording

Title: Diabelli Variations
Performers: Piotr Anderszewski
Year: 2000
Length: 1 hour

Review

The last great set of variations we've had here was all the way back with Bach and his Goldberg Variations. An equally essential set, some would argue more essential, is this one by Beethoven.

The Diabelli variations are endlessly inventive transmogrifications of a quite trite piece by Mr. Diabelli. The variations based on crap pieces are always the best because they just show off the brilliance of the composer when compared to his source to a great extent.

Beethoven gives a master class of piano composition throughout this. If you know how to play the piano, which I don't, I can only imagine how educative these are, they were for me. Beethoven never loses the sight of making some great music and these mostly short variations are each a little treasure. Highly Recommended.

Final Grade

10/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The distinguished music writer Donald Francis Tovey has called it "the greatest set of variations ever written." Pianist Alfred Brendel has described it as simply "the greatest of all piano works." It also comprises, in the words of Hans von Bülow, "a microcosm of Beethoven's art." Or, as Martin Cooper writes in Beethoven: The Last Decade 1817 - 1827, "The variety of treatment is almost without parallel, so that the work represents a book of advanced studies in Beethoven's manner of expression and his use of the keyboard, as well as a monumental work in its own right."

Theme and variations I to VI:


Friday, 16 January 2009

231. Ludwig van Beethoven - Missa Solemnis (1823)



















Recording

Title: Missa Solemnis
Performers: Eva Mei, Marjana Lipovsek, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Robert Hall, Arnols Schonberg Choir, Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
Director: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Year: 1992
Length: 1 hour 22 minutes

Review

Wow. This is probably the most impressive mass that we have had here and very likely that we will ever have. Interestingly it is not very popular, this is due to the fact that it is not only huge and sprawling but that it demands so much expertise to play that it will never be attempted by your school orchestra.

Beethoven really did not skimp on this one. There are very few repeats throughout, it sounds like a long ever changing piece of music and each bit is more impressive than the one that came before.

It just sounds so original and different than any other choral work we have had here, that it is a real joy to listen to. Beethoven experiments with the limits of the possible to perform with his distinctive disrespect for performers. He was just in it for the music, the fact that almost no one would be able to perform it was not his concern. Fortunately Harnoncourt manages and this is completely otherworldly.

Final Grade

10/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The orchestration of the piece features a solo quartet, a substantial chorus, and the full orchestra, and each at times is used in virtuosic, textural, and melodic capacities. The writing displays Beethoven's characteristic disregard for the performer and is in several places both technically and physically exacting, with many sudden changes of dynamic, metre and tempo. This is consistent throughout, starting with the opening Kyrie where the syllables Ky-ri are delivered either forte or with sforzando, but the final e is piano. As noted above, the reprise of the Et vitam venturi fugue is particularly taxing, being both subtly different from the previous statements of the theme and counter-theme, and delivered at around twice the speed.

The orchestral parts also include many demanding sections, including the violin solo in the Sanctus and some of the most demanding work in the repertoire for bassoon and contrabassoon.

The difficulty of the piece combined with the requirements for a full orchestra, large chorus, and highly trained soloists, both vocal and instrumental, mean that it is not often performed by amateur or semi-professional ensembles, who otherwise perform a great deal of repertoire.

Benedictus:



Wednesday, 14 January 2009

230. Franz Schubert - Die schöne Müllerin (1823)













Recording

Title: Die schöne Müllerin/Lieder
Performers: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Jorg Demus
Year: 1968
Length: 1 hour

Review

I am slowly developing a great liking for Lieder, and I must tell you that it has been long in coming, but the more stuff like this I listen to the more I like it. Schubert is the undisputed king of lieder and this collection of narratively connected songs is the earliest song-cycle still performed frequently.

The most interesting thing about song cycles, for me at least, is the way in which the different songs shift emotion in the effort to tell a story. The story being a German Romantic one, the emotional shifts are quite strong and the emotions very pronounced.

If Schubert is the king of Lieder composition Fischer-Dieskau is the king of recorded lieder and his performance here if flawless. The piano is also excellent, and it never feels like a mere accompaniment to the voice, it is its own character in the tale.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

There are twenty songs in the cycle, around half in simple strophic form, and they move from cheerful optimism to despair and tragedy. At the beginning of the cycle, a young man wanders happily through the countryside. He comes upon a brook, which he follows to a mill. He falls in love with a beautiful girl who works there, the "beautiful mill-girl" of the title. He tries to impress her, but her response seems tentative. The young man is soon supplanted in her affections by a hunter clad in green, the colour of a ribbon he gave the girl. In his anguish he experiences an obsession with the colour green, then an extravagant death fantasy in which flowers sprout from his grave to express his undying love (see Adelaide (Beethoven) for a similar fantasy). In the end, the young man despairs and drowns himself in the brook. The last number is a lullaby sung by the brook.

The first four songs by Fischer-Dieskau:




Tuesday, 13 January 2009

229. Franz Schubert - Fantasy in C major, "Wanderer" (1822)


















Recording

Title: Wanderer-Fantasie
Performer: Maurizio Pollini
Year: 1973
Length: 22 minutes

Review

Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy in four movements is a beautiful and innovative piece of music. The innovation comes in part from the idea of making the four movements practically seamless, not only that but also sharing much of the thematic content between them.

This simple idea gives the whole work a great amount of cohesion, making it sound like one long movement with big shifts more than four independent tracks. This gives the whole piece a sense of oneness which works great here.

The music is beautiful, from the cheery first movement to the delicate second and the playful third, back to another allegro at the end, all the music is pretty much unforgettable, and being based as it is in a song it has a kind of almost pop-sensibility to it, with a hook running through the whole piece.

Final Grade

9/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The Wanderer Fantasy is considered Schubert's most technically demanding composition for the piano. Schubert himself said "the devil may play it", in reference to his own inability to do so properly.

Lang Lang plays first movement moving into second:


Sunday, 11 January 2009

228. Franz Schubert - Symphony no.8, "Unfinished" (1822)














Recording

Title: Symphonien Nos. 5 & 8 "Unvollendete"
Performers: Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra
Director: Leonard Bernstein
Year: 1987
Length: 27 minutes

Review

What an amazing Symphony this is. It is known as the Unfinished symphony as it only has two movements, but it doesn't really feel like it needs that much more. It is a complete work in and of itself, there is no need to add anything to it. And maybe that is what Schubert thought when he decided to leave it like this instead of adding a Scherzo which he had already sketched.

The first movement is the particular highlight of this piece, with its instantly recognisable themes and with a sheer epic power at moments that it can really move you. With these characteristics Leonard Bernstein is a perfect conductor for it, it is a work which is full of colour and drama.

Schubert is clearly influenced by Beethoven when composing symphonies, but he is also able to be a true original and this work is proof of that. There are similarities but it feels Schubertian, a Schubert not as happy with his life as in previous works we've had here, the feeling here is more melancholy and at times almost angry. An amazing piece.

Final Grade

10/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor, commonly known as the Unfinished (German: Unvollendete), was started in 1822 but left with only two movements complete even though Schubert would live for another six years. A scherzo, nearly completed in piano score but with only two pages orchestrated, also survives. It has long been theorized that Schubert may have sketched a finale which instead became the big B minor entr'acte from his incidental music to Rosamunde, but all the evidence for this is circumstantial. One possible reason for Schubert's leaving the symphony incomplete is the predominance of the same meter (three-in-a-bar). The first movement is in 3/4, the second in 3/8 and the third (an incomplete scherzo) also in 3/4. Three movements in a row in exactly the same meter do not occur in any of the symphonies, sonatas or chamber works of the great Viennese composers.

Unfinished symphony conducted by Abbaddo, part 1:


Saturday, 10 January 2009

227. Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonatas in C minor, op. 111 (1822)



















Recording

Title: Maurizio Pollini Edition
Performer: Maurizio Pollini
Year: 1977
Length: 26 minutes

Review

We come at last to the final piano sonata by Beethoven, don't worry he'll keep us companied for a while still, as he goes progressively into a more transcendental part of his live, but the piano sonatas end here.

The sonata's structure is strange, being composed only of 2 movements. Those two movements are, however, more than enough to make this one of the most interesting piano sonatas by Beethoven, come on he even invents boogie-woogie jazz!

The second movement is again the most weighty and more interesting, and it has a couple of variations which sound modern to the point of pre-figuring jazz music. This is not only truly unexpected but also immediately recognisable when you are listening to it. In this sonata Beethoven is again exploring counterpoint to great success.

Final Grade

10/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

The final movement, in C major, is a set of variations on a 16-bar theme, with a brief modulating interlude and final coda. The third variation is remarkably jazzy and often referred to as the "boogie-woogie variation", and the last two are famous for introducing small notes which constantly divide the bar in 36 resp. 27 parts, which is very uncommon. Beethoven eventually introduces a trill which gives the impression of a further step (ie. dividing each bar into 81 parts), though this is extremely technically difficult without slowing down to half-tempo.

Barenboim plays the first movement: