Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by George P, Oct 6, 2012.
Getting close to the end of thread #41.....WOW how time flies!!
You and my wife! She says she heard so many dull, inexpressive "gee, look at me, I can play the Hammerklavier" performances of the work--by students and professors alike--in music school that she can't stand it now. Including when she suffered through the banger who programmed it as the second half of his recital program, and then just when she thought her ordeal was over he played the last mvt. again as an encore.
Ok I'm a idiot.....
Whats the diff between a hammerklavier and a harpsichord?
I'm guessing they are similar and one is the predecessor of the other.
Ugggg can't sleep!
So I guess I get out the cans and put one of my fav Piano CD's on the spin.
Probably one of if not THE best Telarc CD ever produced!
UPC# 089408019920 and this can still be had very reasonably priced!!
Thanks. Love the Bagatelles - I presume from the Opus number that is the later set?
Yes, it is.
"Hammerklavier" is just German for "pianoforte." "Klavier" is the generic term for a stringed keyboard instrument; "Hammerklavier," then, as you might imagine, is a "klavier" that sounds its strings with hammers.
A harpsichord, by contrast, plucks the strings with quills. Two completely different instruments in terms of how they make their sound.
(As an aside, isn't it wonderful how the most mundane things become exotic when you name them in a foreign language? Take, for example, "record album." I have a number of generic albums for 78 RPM storage that I once made the mistake of buying from a dealer in Germany--mistake, because the postage ended up costing me multiples of the price for the albums. Be that as it may, covers labeled with what in English would be "Record Album" become something of seeming distinction when labeled "Schallplattenalbum." Mind you, my favorite is the one that was done in Czech: "Gramofonydesky"!)
Or, more properly, "latest" set, as there are three: opp. 33, 119, and 126.
As I understand things, you have no choice in the Hammerklavier; that was the sole sonata remaining for stereo rerecording when Backhaus died. Hence, stereo "complete" sets must include that one in mono.
Correct on both counts.
‡ footnotes for 'Finnegans Wake'/Every thread a 'Beatles' thread
"Hammerklavier" is the name of both Sonata #'s 28 and 29. Beethoven was hacked off at the Italians at the time for some weird reason. What can I say? The man was a political beast. A Harpsichord plucks the string with a bit of quill—Joseph Spencer called his record/CD label "Wildboar" half because of those boar quills [used on the hpschd] and half because his middle name was "Wilbur." In any case, "Hammerklavier" is German for "Forte-Piano", though the two terms direct one's attention to different aspects of the same instrument. "Hammerklavier" points out that the instrument uses hammers rather than plectrum, "Forte-Piano" is all about the instrument's dynamic capabilities. I can't tell you how many times I've heard performers impotently "Hammer" away at a Harpsichord, assuming it would get louder for their efforts. It won't. Any successful building of dynamics on a harpsichord depends on the proper arpeggiating of lines that would have been simple chords on a piano. The preferred practice keyboard instrument during the era when the harpsichord was in common use was the clavichord. It did have hammers, but the mechanism was extremely simple—one end of the stick has a tiny hammer, the other side the 'key' of the keyboard, with a pivot between, like a see-saw. It was almost as if you were pushing into the string. If you push on this instrument, the note stretches up. Practice on the clavichord teaches one to have a more even and regular technique, smoothing out dynamic differences in time.
As regards op. 106 in B flat, Artur Schnabel introduced me to the "Hammerklavier" Sonata. I've assumed that it's a pianistic "Everest" ever since. If you don't know Schnabel's version, it is rightfully controversial. Schnabel plays the opening movement at the metronome indication Beethoven provided. To cut to the chase, Beethoven was right. Schnabel is wrong in that he is not really technically skilled enough* to play the opening allegro or the fugal final at the tempos he chooses. But as many have pointed out, Schnabel gets fewer of the notes and more of the music in his version than anyone else. At the same time, Beethoven probably wouldn't recognize the slow movement of the "Hammerklavier" as performed by Schnabel. If Schnabel had followed the tempo indication, the adagio would have taken half the time. Let's be grateful for this magnificent distortion. It was 1970 when I first heard this work—post hippie, post Manson, SDS time. Beethoven's hairdo was once again relevant and it was his 200th birthday, after all. Beethoven the revolutionary was an easy pill to swallow at that particular moment in this [then] teenager's life. The word "Cosmic" was still in the air, echos from the gnostic flash three years previous. So I was fed a diet of "Heavy", "Cosmic" music from the usual sources° and found them sorely wanting for that "cosmic thang." Certainly the case compared to the Cosmic Wastelands of the slow movement of op. 106. played by Schnabel. He makes everyone else sound shallow when he plays this music.
I'm glad to be the outlier on this one. The "Hammerklavier" has everything that delights me in "Late Beethoven" in one bulky, unwieldy package. It's got tortured fugal writing, a hard pushing Allegro opening, a "WTF?" scherzo and a long slow, Cosmic slow movement. That cosmic and cosmically slow music was my 'open sesame' to a world of 'timeless' musics, Alapsˆ by Hariprassad Churasia, Ambient soundscapes by Eno, grandiloquent slow movements of Bruckner, the music on a long, thin wire of Alvin Lucier, the overtone chorales of David Hyke's 'Harmonic Choir'. There was a whole world of 'slow' out there I never knew before.
Peter Serkin figured out how to play the work at the tempo indications Beethoven so helpfully provided‡ by learning the work on a fortepiano and recording the results. He then re-recorded the work on a modern piano. As his is a lightweight tone, Serkin fils doesn't really get off the ground in the first movement the way that Annie Fischer and Sviatioslav Richter do. But in the fugal finale, the pianist manages to conjure up Bartok and other ghosts of the Twentieth century, making the work sound all that much closer to our time. The recording will be hard to find, but worth the hunt.
If I were hunting for a more 'conventional' performance of the work, I'd go for Richter on Praga—haven't heard his London performance, assume it's good as well. Richter's performance is 'live' in the best sense of the word. There's very few finger smudges or derailments, inevitable in this work. With a very wide dynamic reach throughout the performance and sound that is better than average for a 1970's concert recording, I take this recording off the shelf pretty often.
*Gulda and Pollini are technically skilled enough, but they don't take the original tempo and really never push their technique, making both versions ultimately boring.
° Pink Floyd, Led Zep, emergent progsters, Electric Miles, 'heavy' rock groups that essential play at rehearsal tempos with all the amps turned up to '11', early 'outside' Jazz, melody-free avante-garde 'classical' music . . .
ˆ An Alap is the slow—literally 'timeless', that is to say without bar lines—introduction to a classical Indian raga. Hariprasad plays the 'Bansuri': a variety of flute associated with Lord Krishna. The flautist also plays on 'The Inner Light', a George Harrison solo effort with a text derived from the Tao te Ching, released as a 'Beatles' tune.
But weren't all of Beethoven's previous piano sonatas written for the piano/fortepiano anyway? I always assumed that the nickname referred to a special, cutting edge piano at the time that the work was used to promote, like one of the English action pianos (which had a wider range than their lighter Viennese counterparts) that would have been well suited for such a monstrous and tonally daring work.
Though there were certainly earlier signs of Beethoven's piano writing becoming more adventurous and forward-looking, not least in the Hammerklavier's immediate predecessor, which has a scherzo that all but anticipates Schumann. Before I knew about the dates of both composers, I actually thought the trio of the scherzo of Op. 110 was influenced by Chopin!
Not much to add, except that both the P. Serkin recordings were for the (as far as I know now-defunct) Pro Arte label, and both saw release first on LP. Without looking, I'm fairly certain both were digital recordings. I have the modern piano one on CD, the fortepiano one on LP; I assume the latter must have been out on CD at some point.
NY Times Review of Schiff's performance of WTC Book 1 For those without access, here is an excerpt:
"On Saturday it was as if Mr. Schiff were channeling Bach, not just performing him. He has put decades of thought, analysis and imagination into his interpretations. It was fascinating to hear him reveal the contrapuntal tangles of the Fugue in A minor, with its curiously abrupt theme. Every twist in its four intertwined voices came through with uncanny clarity. But it never sounded as if Mr. Schiff was pointing out things or didactically highlighting inner voices. The music unfolded with naturalness and grace. He captured both its stern complexity and jumpy playfulness."
If anything, I enjoyed Book 2 even more. Schiff's performance cleared all of this week's stress from my mind.
And of course, Book 2 is an even longer marathon. Over 2 1/2 music, stopping only for an intermission. Plus an encore - the Prelude and Fugue in C from Book 1.
Yes these were digital recordings.
They got earphone heads they got dirty necks, they're so 20th century
Nope. It was politics.
Beethoven could be considered either a 'test pilot' or 'stress test' for the Broadwood piano company. He'd get a new model every few years, then proceed to destroy it systematically. "Red Guitar" by Loudon Wainwright comes to mind. Artistic Rebellion was brewing anyway, as evidenced by obvious agit-prop such as "Fidelio", an early 19th century "Won't Get Fooled Again" if ever there was. In any case, as Beethoven got deafer, his music got louder. The opening of his Ninth Symphony is a great example. If the tymps are played as indicated by the composer with small drums and hard sticks, they'll cover the orchestra and rattle your eardrums in a good-sized hall. That kind of forcing of the limits of loud would extended to the far frontiers of experience in the Twentieth Century. But at the time, it was the birth of the "Romantic", with matching hairdos.
Broadwood would schlep a 'Piano-Forte' to the composer's apartment [yup, latest thing no doubt]. Beethoven would take the legs off the piano, have the instrument on the floor, lying on his belly with his ear on the harp, banging the thing to attempt to hear through bone conduction. The instruments would get destroyed in the process. I'm sure the Broadwood company learned a lot from the postmortems.
And the finale of Opus 2, #1 sounds like it was written by the Beethoven who cooked up the Apassionata. Not too shocking considering thay're in the same key. But pretty shocking in the context of the conventions of Vienna, 1795, year of Haydn's final "London Symphonies." No question that the man was ahead of his time.
I always thought Beethoven's hairdo was simply the reflection of his disorganized and often squalid lifestyle, where basically music mattered above everything else. But you're right, it did also reflect a Bohemian way of living that was a departure from the more orderly occupation of composing music for rich patrons and aristocrats that was more the norm of composers up to the death of Haydn, looking forward to that of the ultra-romantics like Berlioz, Wagner and especially Liszt (and perhaps even far ahead to the wildness of the early post-rock 'n' roll era).
. . . and even furthur into the wilds of potential atonal musics in his fugues for the Hammerklavier and the Grosse Fugue, among other daring dissonant experiments with the fringes of tonality produced during his later years. Beethoven anticipated racical redefinitions of what 'music' means. Ornette Coleman and Colin Nancarrow seem like some of the farther outcomes of Beethoven's experiments.
Re: Beethoven's Hammerklavier:
To my knowledge, Gulda plays it at the original tempo (or at least as close as anyone) in the Amadeo/Brilliant recording.
I'd always thought anyone actually attempting to play the opening movement of the Hammerklavier sonata at the speed Beethoven indicated (a staggering 138 half notes/minims a minute, at a time when metronomes had just been invented and were probably not 100% accurate) was as crazy as someone trying to play Chopin's so-called One Minute Waltz within one minute.
I'd love to hear someone successfully and convincingly take it that speed, having never heard anyone play it that fast.
This is what Robert Taub wrote in “Playing The Beethoven Piano Sonatas”.
Everyone who likes Beethoven's piano sonatas should get a copy of this IMO.
i collect classical vinyl,usually priced at $1 or less.at those prices i can afford not to be too selective.i have often used the Gramophone archive to research my
recent purchases-it helps at times to establish when they were issued & it's always interesting to see what the reviewer thought.
Slothmeister von Eschenbach
He's close alright, as is Charles Rosen on his first recording for Epic. But Serkin and Schnabel are closer. And hey—if Gulda floats your boat in this work, great. But Gulda will always be a touch too clinical for me, at least in this work.
If you really want s . . . l . . . . .o . . . . . . . w, try Christopher Eschenbach, early in his career for DGG.
To me, Pollini rules in this work (with Gulda close behind), slower or not.
And no, I don't want slow, I want Op. 110.
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