Classical Music Forum banner
21 - 40 of 58 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,784 Posts
Um, . . . you may be thinking of only the 1st movement of the Moonlight Sonata [Actually the Piano Sonata No.14 "Quasi Una Fantasia" Opus 27 No.2]. (Don't be embarassed, it's a common misconception that the 1st movement is the whole thing.) That's the placid, calm, reflective, moody movement. But there are three movements to this sonata, per the custom of the day.

The second movement 'presto agitato' is sort of like "filler". Inconsequential. A brief respite between the moodiness of the 1st and the stürm und drang of the 3rd. Flippant, nonchalant. Deceptive . . . a false throwback to a simpler time.

The third movement is like a storm trying to blow your house down. It drops on you like a bomb exploding, blowing the 2nd movement out of the water. It is unrelenting, going on for over six minutes of unforgiving patterns in both hands.

Time for you to have a listen to the whole thing . . . . , in context. You'll absolutely love it.

David is an older guy, has been listening to classical music for decades, and has been a contributor here for the better part of a decade, and his avatar is a picture of Beethoven. He certainly knows that the Moonlight Sonata has three movements, and I'm sure he was factoring in all three when he wrote that. I initially read your post as very condescending but it appears your heart was in the right place.

Anyway, I would like to echo his sentiment: the Moonlight Sonata doesn't provide any serious challenges of a virtuoso nature, in any of the three movements. It's fast, sure, but it's all scales and arpeggios. I'm sure I could learn it myself with my modest skills within the space of a few months.

Also, on an unrelated note, I disagree with your flippant dismissal of the second movement, it's my favorite of the three!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,323 Posts
Discussion Starter · #22 ·
I completely agree, the difficulty of the third movement is rather overstated. It's not an easy piece but nowhere near Beethoven at his hardest.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,323 Posts
Discussion Starter · #23 · (Edited)
Th3 Henselt is usually mentioned as fiendishly difficult although it doesn't sound it.it apparently has long stretches as the composer had a very long stretch himself. Of course the art of writing a virtuoso concerto is that it sounds difficult as well as being difficult and something like the Rachmaninov 3 or the Tchaikovsky does just that. Always seems to be pretty pointless to write a very difficult work which doesn't sound difficult and doesn't take the audience's breath away. Alkan is apparently fiendishly difficult but doesn't sound it which is why pianists avoid it.
The Alkan Concerto sounds plenty difficult to me. It has many flamboyant and sparkling passages, often heavily wrought with accidentals. I suspect people don't learn it as often because it is so long (nearly an hour) and contains far too many double notes and octaves to comfortably play in one sitting.

A truly difficult concerto that has almost no virtuosic writing in it whatsoever would have to be the Brahms' First. Very thin and Beethovenian writing but immensely awkward to play, far more difficult than the Tchaikovsky or Liszt concerti that sound much harder. I don't think it is pointless to be difficult without the virtuoso element if the flamboyance is replaced with sheer beauty, like in the Brahms concerto.

I think the four concertos of F.X. Scharwenka belong on this list. They are attractive to listen to yet extremely challenging for the pianist -- Scharwenka wrote them for himself to perform. Steven Hough's recording of Nos. 1 and 4 is superb. In your very fine list, which seems well-prepared to me, Scharwenka's concertos would probably belong in your first three categories.
I have indeed listened to the Scharwenka concerti. They are quite beautiful and look fairly difficult, but I am not sure where to put it quite yet. Most likely in the third category.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,323 Posts
Discussion Starter · #24 · (Edited)
I see you've ranked Barber (among others) in a tier above this one. Really, the Barber? It's a beautiful concerto, but it doesn't sound more difficult than the Prokofiev 2, to my ears anyway.
Both are extremely difficult and I would not be surprised if they are actually closer in difficulty than I originally presumed. However from what I have played from it, it is more awkward than the Prokofiev- which, despite it's huge flourishes is actually mostly pianistic. The Barber is also a less tonal which probably makes it harder to learn and memorize.

Additionally, it is reported that Horowitz considered the Barber concerto to be impossible...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,784 Posts
Both are extremely difficult and I would not be surprised if they are actually closer in difficulty than I originally presumed. However from what I have played from it, it is more awkward than the Prokofiev- which, despite it's huge flourishes is actually mostly pianistic. The Barber is also a less tonal which probably makes it harder to learn and memorize.

Additionally, it is reported that Horowitz considered the Barber concerto to be impossible...
What I had heard is that Horowitz told Barber that it was impossible, and that he rewrote it to be significantly easier. But perhaps I am remembering it wrong. In any case I'll have to listen with score in hand. It's definitely a towering and beautiful concerto that pianists should play more, but maybe they do not due to its difficulty.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,439 Posts
I have indeed listened to the Scharwenka concerti. They are quite beautiful and look fairly difficult, but I am not sure where to put it quite yet. Most likely in the third category.
Number three or number two, I'm not sure either. Glenn Gould called one (I think No. 1) "a beast" and never played any of Scharwenka's concertos. There are some unusual figurations he worked out that are playable but require much extra practice.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
16,164 Posts
Um, . . . you may be thinking of only the 1st movement of the Moonlight Sonata [Actually the Piano Sonata No.14 "Quasi Una Fantasia" Opus 27 No.2]. (Don't be embarassed, it's a common misconception that the 1st movement is the whole thing.) That's the placid, calm, reflective, moody movement. But there are three movements to this sonata, per the custom of the day.

The second movement 'presto agitato' is sort of like "filler". Inconsequential. A brief respite between the moodiness of the 1st and the stürm und drang of the 3rd. Flippant, nonchalant. Deceptive . . . a false throwback to a simpler time.
No I am thinking of the whole thing! No need for the condescension. Even I can play the first and second movements! :lol:

And btw if you are going for a real virtuoso performance for the third movement, why not pick a real technician?

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,323 Posts
Discussion Starter · #32 · (Edited)
How are the MacDowell piano concerti? Not in difficulty, but quality. Worthy of a listen?
Certainly the best American concerti until the 20th century! Very late-romantic in sound and technique.

Melodically it's more like Brahms than anything we'd associate with America, but the orchestration is more...exotic
 

·
Premium Member
Liszt, Bruckner, Chopin, Scriabin, Wallace, Bortkiewicz.
Joined
·
2,792 Posts
David is an older guy, has been listening to classical music for decades, and has been a contributor here for the better part of a decade, and his avatar is a picture of Beethoven. He certainly knows that the Moonlight Sonata has three movements, and I'm sure he was factoring in all three when he wrote that. I initially read your post as very condescending but it appears your heart was in the right place.

Anyway, I would like to echo his sentiment: the Moonlight Sonata doesn't provide any serious challenges of a virtuoso nature, in any of the three movements. It's fast, sure, but it's all scales and arpeggios. I'm sure I could learn it myself with my modest skills within the space of a few months.

Also, on an unrelated note, I disagree with your flippant dismissal of the second movement, it's my favorite of the three!
To the point! It is the best movement (and the most demanding) in this sonata.

(Beethoven starts where the notes are ending. He has little to do with virtuosity, which, most of the times, is meaningless. I consider Liszt's and Rachmaninoff's concerts of medium difficulty in comparison to any of Beethoven's).

(Very interesting list. Some works are unknown to me).
 
  • Like
Reactions: flamencosketches

·
Registered
Joined
·
16,164 Posts
To the point! It is the best movement (and the most demanding) in this sonata.

(Beethoven starts where the notes are ending. He has little to do with virtuosity, which, most of the times, is meaningless. I consider Liszt's and Rachmaninoff's concerts of medium difficulty in comparison to any of Beethoven's).

(Very interesting list. Some works are unknown to me).
I assume you play all four Rach concertos then? And the sonata 2? Interesting that the great pianist and teacher Gary Graffman described the Rach 3 as 'that old knuckle breaker!' No doubt a person of your virtuosity would disagree with him?
 
21 - 40 of 58 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top