Wednesday, December 8, 2010

12/8 The Appassionata Sonata

Beethoven's most powerful piano sonata may be the "Appassionata", Sonata #23, Opus 57.  It has a couple of interesting stories attached to it (though the "Appassionata" name was given by the publisher and not Beethoven himself).

Ferdinand Ries on a walk with Beethoven:
Beethoven took a pleasure in wandering along lonely, often pathless ways through the forests, valleys and mountains. (One day) we set out happily together and soon found ourselves in a lonely woods on the beautiful mountain slopes of Baden. I observed that Beethoven was much absorbed in private meditation and that he was humming to himself; I knew from experience that at such moments he was in the most powerful throes of creation and so I took good care not to disturb him, but walked along with him in silence...After having walked for about an hour, we sat down to rest in the grass. 

Suddenly, from the slope on the other side of the valley, the sound of a shawm (medieval oboe) was heard, whose unexpected melody under the clear blue sky, in the deep solitude of the woods, made a remarkable impression on me. Since Beethoven was sitting next to me I could not refrain from calling his attention to it: sunk deep in thought he had heard nothing. He listened, but I observed from his expression that he did not hear the sounds, although they continued. It was then that for the first time I was convinced his hearing was impaired...In order not to sadden him, I made believe that I too could not hear anything anymore. 

After awhile we set out again, the tones accompanying us for a long time on our solitary way through the woods, without Beethoven's taking the least notice of them. The sweet fascination which these tones had exercised on me at first now turned into profound sadness. Almost without realizing it, I walked along silently, sunk in sad thoughts, at the side of my great master who, as before, occupied with his own inner meditations, continued to hum indistinguishable phrases and tones, and to sing aloud. When after several hours we returned home, he sat down impatiently at the piano and exclaimed: "Now I shall play something for you." With irresistible fire and force he played the Allegro of the great F Minor Sonata (Appassionata). The day will forever remain unforgettable to me. (Kerst, HC Landon).

There are actually a couple other accounts of the above story with some variations, but that one has the most poignancy for me.  The other famous story about the Appassionata is that Prince Lichnowsky asked B to perform for some French soldiers who were visiting and B would have none of it.  He was staying at Lichnowsky's Gratz summer house and stormed out into the rain, preferring to walk back to Vienna instead of waiting for a horse carriage.  The score of the Appassionata got a bit wet as you can see below:

Page 1
Page 2
Page 1 from the 2nd Movement.
Notice that the first staff and a half has been pasted on as a correction!
This was before Finale and Sibelius software...
Page 2 from the 2nd Movement
Sviatoslav Richter (he's a favorite of mine obviously) playing the Appassionata 1st Movement:

Unknown 13-year old playing a blazing 3rd Movement...

1 comment:

  1. Do you realize that the date of this post (12/8) is the same as the time signature of the first movement of the Appassionata?