Beethoven - Ein neuer Weg: Piano Sonatas op.31, Variations opp. 34 & 35
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Label: Harmonia Mundi
Cat No: HMM90232728
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 13th March 2020
WorksEroica Variations, op.35
Piano Sonata no.16 in G major, op.31 no.1
Piano Sonata no.17 in D minor, op.31 no.2 'Tempest'
Piano Sonata no.18 in E flat major, op.31 no.3 'The Hunt'
Variations (6) in F major, op.34
ArtistsAndreas Staier (fortepiano)
1Ludwig Van Beethoven: Sonata No. 16 In G Major, Op. 31 No. 1: I. Allegro Vivace
2Ludwig Van Beethoven: Sonata No. 16 In G Major, Op. 31 No. 1: II. Adagio Grazioso
3Ludwig Van Beethoven: Sonata No. 16 In G Major, Op. 31 No. 1: III. Rondo. Allegretto
4Ludwig Van Beethoven: Sonata No. 17 In D Minor, Op. 31 No. 2 'The Tempest': I. Largo
5Ludwig Van Beethoven: Sonata No. 17 In D Minor, Op. 31 No. 2 'The Tempest': II. Adagio
6Ludwig Van Beethoven: Sonata No. 17 In D Minor, Op. 31 No. 2 'The Tempest': III. Allegretto
7Ludwig Van Beethoven: Sonata No. 18 In E-Flat Major, Op. 31 No. 3: I. Allegro
8Ludwig Van Beethoven: Sonata No. 18 In E-Flat Major, Op. 31 No. 3: II. Scherzo. Allegretto Vivace
9Ludwig Van Beethoven: Sonata No. 18 In E-Flat Major, Op. 31 No. 3: III. Menuetto. Moderato E Grazioso, Trio
10Ludwig Van Beethoven: Sonata No. 18 In E-Flat Major, Op. 31 No. 3: IV. Presto Con Fuoco
11Ludwig Van Beethoven: Six Variations On An Original Theme In F Major, Op. 34
12Ludwig Van Beethoven: Fifteen Variations And A Fugue On An Original Theme In E-Flat Major, Op. 35 'Eroica Variations': Introduzione Col Basso Del Thema. Allegretto Vivace
13Ludwig Van Beethoven: Fifteen Variations And A Fugue On An Original Theme In E-Flat Major, Op. 35 'Eroica Variations': Finale Alla Fuga. Allegro Con Brio.
All five works can be linked with the ‘New Path’ (‘Ein neuer Weg’) that Beethoven is said to have claimed he had embarked upon in conversation with his violinist friend Wenzel Krumpholtz in 1802: ‘I am not very satisfied with what I’ve written to date. From today I intend to enter upon a new path.’ Beethoven was referring here specifically to the three Opus 31 sonatas, but in October that year he wrote to the publishers Breitkopf & Hàrtel apropos of the Opp. 34 and 35 sets, ‘I have made two sets of variations … Both of them are worked out in a really wholly new style. … the style in both works is entirely new, and it’s mine.’ Although the Beethoven mythology for this period has focused on him coming to terms with his increasing deafness, as vividly recorded in the ‘Heiligenstadt Testament’, these announcements of a ‘new path’ and ‘new style’ are arguably of even more significance to the launch of a distinctively Beethovenian middle or ‘Heroic’ period.
As it turns out, the sonatas and variations make an ideal coupling on this new album, with the three sonatas on disc 1, and the variations on disc 2. Beethoven’s ‘new path’ consisted above all in a transformation of the way he shaped and handled his musical material, giving it a provisional character that was in a constant state of ‘becoming’, of striving for a goal and breaking down many of the old formal and syntactic rules of the Classical school. And the sense of newness and striving is undoubtedly enhanced when this music is performed on a period instrument, in this case a splendid fortepiano by the Viennese maker Mathias Müller dating from around 1810. Its clearly defined treble tones bring a bell-like clarity to the music, while the bass, with less bloom than a modern concert grand, is remarkably focused, never clouding the textures.
Even listeners who already have favourite recordings of these works should hear these new accounts. Staier blows away the cobwebs while preserving the music’s greatness, rediscovering its astonishing sense of ‘newness’: an emergent style that was to have profound effects on the course of music in the Romantic era. These are performances that really make you think again about this music, renewing and reassessing a remarkable legacy.
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