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1st July Not Bach Klavier-Ubung but Beethoven Hammerklavier by 16 year old

Started by David Pinnegar, June 14, 2010, 11:39:57 PM

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David Pinnegar


This thread started on account of a mistake . . . I thought we were to host a Bach organ recital and then it became a piano BeethovenFest.

On 1st July 2010 7.45 Eton Music Scholar Jeremy Cheng is performing at Hammerwood Park. Please telephone 01342 850594 to reserve your ticket (£10 members, £12 non members).

Starting the piano at just 4 and taking up strings a few years later, Jeremy is now taking his FTCL exam at the age of 16.

Jeremy says:

The programme will include Beethoven's Sonata in B-flat major "Hammerklavier" and Debussy's "Feux d'artifice". I will also be playing these in my FTCL exam in late July.

I enjoy playing the Hammerklavier very much, as it is the first piece I have tackled of such a scale. Its 4 (or 5, if you count the Largo) movements are all very contrasting, yet they somehow complement each other. It is an incredible and extremely challenging piece, musically and technically, which requires great stamina to play. At approximately 43 minutes, this is by far Beethoven's longest sonata.

Feux D'artifice is the last of Debussy's second book of Preludes. I've always liked the impressionists, since their works tend to be very "fun" to play. Feux D'artifice is no exception: the occasional outbursts of the explosion of the fireworks and the gentle rumbling of their echo are very exciting for the pianist.

This concert will be particularly exciting as Beethoven's music was received in a wholly different way before modern standard instruments put a blanket of uniformity over everything.
The various kinds of meantone and well-temperament help explain why, in the 18th into 19th centuries, keys had particular emotional associations. Key descriptions of the time sound outlandish, and indeed some were on the loony side, but they were founded on the reality that in unequal temperaments each key had its distinctive color and personality. "Is something gay, brilliant, or martial needed?" wrote one theorist. "Take C, D, E [majors]." Another: "D major ... the key of triumph, of Hallelujahs, of war-cries, of victory-rejoicing." All those keys were relatively well in tune on the keyboard. Minor keys were innately less in tune, so darker in sound and import: G minor, for example, is "suited to frenzy, despair, agitation. ... The lament of a noble matron who no longer has her youthful beauty." You want a pretty pastoral piece? You want a relaxing key like F major—the key of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony:

Two of Beethoven's favorite keys tell us a lot about him. The most famous is C minor, described by one writer of the time as "a tragic key ... fit to express grand misadventures, deaths of heroes, and grand but mournful, ominous, and lugubrious actions."

On the other hand, in the prevailing unequal temperaments there was still the presence, or at least the ghost, of the old wolf. Thus, croaked one theorist concerning that key, "Death, grave, putrefaction, judgment, eternity lie in its radius." Beethoven studied the theorists carefully, then did what he wanted. As for the putrefaction of A flat major: baloney. For Beethoven, that key, with its complex and distinctive coloration, suggested feelings in the direction of nobility, devotion, and resignation, as in the second movement of the Pathètique
For the last century, the topic of temperament has been relegated to the "tall weeds" in the field of musical discussion. However, recent research1 now strongly indicates that modern tuning is quite different from that used in Beethoven's time. As a consequence, a Beethoven piano sonata played in Equal Temperament is fundamentally different from the same music played in a temperament of his period, regardless of whether the instrument used is a fortepiano or a modern concert grand piano.

Taking the key characteristics listed under
1st movement - B flat and G
The pure major thirds should ring out beautifully clear
Bb Major
Cheerful love, clear conscience, hope aspiration for a better world.
G Major
Everything rustic, idyllic and lyrical, every calm and satisfied passion, every tender gratitude for true friendship and faithful love,--in a word every gentle and peaceful emotion of the heart is correctly expressed by this key.

3rd Movement
F# Minor
A gloomy key: it tugs at passion as a dog biting a dress. Resentment and discontent are its language.

4th movement
D Minor
Melancholy womanliness, the spleen and humours brood.
B Major
Strongly coloured, announcing wild passions, composed from the most glaring colours. Anger, rage, jealousy, fury, despair and every burden of the heart lies in its sphere.
A Major
This key includes declarations of innocent love, satisfaction with one's state of affairs; hope of seeing one's beloved again when parting; youthful cheerfulness and trust in God.
back to certainties of B flat major

I think that hearing this well played on the piano tuned so that we can hear these moods will be really moving and you'll probably be the first in 150 years to have heard the sonata on an instrument on which you can hear them.

Here's a leading concert pianist explaining more about it:

Best wishes

David P