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Thread: Beethoven Piano Sonata no. 23 "Appassionata"

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    I cannot take Beethoven played on rattletrap instruments and, quite fortunately, Arrau’s Philips recording isn’t one of them. Imagine Beethoven suddenly getting his hearing back and he has to hear one of his sonatas played on a relic that couldn’t have possibly sounded that bad in his day.

    Last edited by Larkenfield; Oct-27-2018 at 22:59.
    ”Art is how we decorate space; Music is how we decorate time.”

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    One reason I often dislike this sonata is that, in my experience, pianists use it as a vehicle to display their virtuosity, which doesn’t interest me. Another reason I dislike it is that it is sometimes played aggressively, as if the principal emotion in the first movement is anger, and that doesn’t interest me either.

    There’s a performance by Claudio Arrau which is worth hearing. He finds tragedy in the music and I find it moving to hear. It’s on a Classic Archives DVD.
    Are you sure the pianists who play it aggressively are going for anger and not, for example, existential terror or borderline madness? If a performance of the first movement doesn't sound unhinged, it isn't intense enough for me. I like Ashkenazy for this one.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Oct-28-2018 at 05:40.

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Are sure the pianists who play it aggressively are going for anger and not, for example, existential terror or borderline madness? If a performance of the first movement doesn't sound unhinged, it isn't intense enough for me. I like Ashkenazy for this one.
    I kind of agree with this. Another view is from Gould who called Beethoven "belligerent" here.


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    I've now listened to the 1961 live Gilels' Appassionata. Wow. You're right, he plays with a lot more power and speed--it's nearly 5 minutes faster than his later DG version! I agree, it doesn't accord with my argument, as it's very different from Arrau's approach, & Gilels' own later DG recording. I find his interpretation to be surprisingly youthful and brash (for Gilels), and he does pound the piano keys a good deal (something that I am unaccustomed to hearing from him). No, I don't find it as interesting as Arrau's playing in Lark's clip above, which I'm listening to at the moment.

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    EdwardBast writes, "Are sure the pianists who play it aggressively are going for anger and not, for example, existential terror or borderline madness? If a performance of the first movement doesn't sound unhinged, it isn't intense enough for me. I like Ashkenazy for this one."

    I'm listening to Ashkenazy right now. Wow, this is brilliant playing. I like his interpretation a lot. It's super energized & intense, but he never pounds over emphatically on the keys, or gets out of control. Rather his control is immaculate, stunningly so. You might not agree with me, but I think this interpretation fits very well within my improvisational "fantasia" argument, for the most part--despite that, yes, Ashkenazy does show a stronger temperament than Arrau. The music may become imaginatively "unhinged", but I don't find Ashkenazy's playing unhinged, or ever too loud or overdone--he stays very smoothly in control. Thanks for bringing this recording to my attention. (Ashkenazy's Beethoven sonatas were the first Beethoven LPs I ever bought, but it's been too many years since I've heard them, since I never replaced them on CD. That'll change now...)

    Last edited by Josquin13; Oct-27-2018 at 22:06.

  9. #21
    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josquin13 View Post
    EdwardBast writes, "Are sure the pianists who play it aggressively are going for anger and not, for example, existential terror or borderline madness? If a performance of the first movement doesn't sound unhinged, it isn't intense enough for me. I like Ashkenazy for this one."

    I'm listening to Ashkenazy right now. Wow, this is brilliant playing. I like his interpretation a lot. It's super energized & intense, but he never pounds over emphatically on the keys, or gets out of control. Rather his control is immaculate, stunningly so. You might not agree with me, but I think this interpretation fits very well within my improvisational "fantasia" argument, for the most part--despite that, yes, Ashkenazy does show a stronger temperament than Arrau. The music may become imaginatively "unhinged", but I don't find Ashkenazy's playing unhinged, or ever too loud or overdone--he stays very smoothly in control. Thanks for bringing this recording to my attention. (Ashkenazy's Beethoven sonatas were the first Beethoven LPs I ever bought, but it's been too many years since I've heard them, since I never replaced them on CD. That'll change now...)

    Yes. When I wrote unhinged, I didn't mean with respect to execution, and certainly not on the part of the pianist. I meant that the character portrayed, the persona of the work (the fictional being whose expressive experience the music is) sounds unhinged, tormented and driven to distraction in the opening theme and completely overcome and crushed in the retransition and coda. The phenomenal precision of the playing, by taking any sense of mundane human limitation out of the experience, causes the player to disappear for me and to fully inhabit the character within the music. It's like an actor controlling every aspect of a character's expression, gesture and physiognomy, and by so doing vanishing from the real world and becoming the character.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Oct-28-2018 at 06:11.

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
    — William Gaddis, The Recognitions

    Originality is a device untalented people use to impress other untalented people and to protect themselves from talented people.
    Basil Valentine

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    Senior Member Kontrapunctus's Avatar
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    Kodoma doesn't destroy the piano, either:

    DALI Epicon 2 speakers; SVS Ultra13 SB subwoofer; Esoteric K03 SACD/CD player
    PrimaLuna Premium Dialogue HP integrated amp; VPI Prime Signature; Ortofon Cadenza Bronze cartridge; Sennheiser HD800S; MrSpeakers Aeon Flow 'phones; Oppo 205

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    Senior Member Dimace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post

    And I think the superior one I like is somewhere on this, I haven't checked



    You just have to look at the faces of the pianists to see the difference. Richter has all the hard ruthlessness of Putin; Arrau has the wisdom of age written all over his mug.
    This remoted evening wasn't Arrau who was sitting in front of the Klavier, but Beethoven himself. You just posted the best Appassionata (and not only...) in human history. For a live performance, the unreachable standard for every pianist.
    Geheimnisvoll sie nahen die Lüfte, fraglos gebe ihrem Zauber ich mich hin.

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    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    For those interested, the 23rd Sonata starts at 40:06.

    It´s definitely among the more temperamental performances of Arrau's middle/later years.
    Last edited by joen_cph; Nov-11-2018 at 10:45.

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    Quote Originally Posted by joen_cph View Post
    For those interested, the 23rd Sonata starts at 40:06.

    It´s definitely among the more temperamental performances of Arrau's middle/later years.
    I’d be interested to collect a list of incandescent Arrau performances like this. My suspicion is that they’re all live. Apart from this Appassionata, I remember liking

    The Chopin preludes and Schumann Etudes from Prague
    The Chopin op 62/1 on Ermitage, and the Beethoven op 27/1 from the same concert
    The op 111 on a VAI DVD
    Last edited by Mandryka; Nov-11-2018 at 14:23.

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