Wednesday, September 11, 2013



"I wouldn't have the time to go all 'apocalyptic' on you over the Beethoven sonatas, much less the Pathetique.  But I think the overarching fact about the Pathetique (as opposed to the early sonatas or the ones that come later, with the possible exception of the 'Moonlight') is that it's so played-to-death, so over-exposed, that it's hard NOT to find it, uh, tiresome (?--seems a bit harsh to use a word like that) once in a while.  I mean, every once in a while, it will come up on some classical music radio queue & you just immediately turn the channel to npr or pacifica or whatever -- ANYthing to get AWAY from it.  I mean -- how many times will we hear that thing before we leave the planet??  When we might be listening to something new?  Or just something that suits OUR mood at the moment (and not Beethoven's!)?  

That said -- you don't get to be an across the music canon--cross the entire music SPECTRUM-- cliche without having something of transcendent genius -- & of course that sonata, like many if not most of the rest, has it in spades.  It IS a bit romantic, dramatic, etc. for a reason.  It's one of the sonatas (along with 2 or 3 others) where we first hear Beethoven 'pushing the envelope' -- towards romanticism, really overall towards his own mature classical style, and towards something well BEYOND all of that -- eventually pushing the form towards something few other classical composers would recognize, as in his late sonatas.  The late sonatas are revelations to hear again (and again) -- stuff that stands as comfortably besides Debussy and Strauss & Stravinsky & Schoenberg as Mozart or Haydn.  

What I love passionately about the sonatas are this very complete exploration of a form.  You almost have to go to Bach or Handel to find a comparable musical achievement.  Shakespeare or Blake, Joyce or Flaubert to find literary equivalents.  

I only wish I could play them half-competently.  I understand why so many pianists play/record their own interpretations in various cycles and editions.  It's like an actor wanting to play Hamlet or Lear or Archie Rice or role of that range.  They're encyclopedic art experiences.  As the kids hashtag it these days -- #yolo."

xoxo back at ya!

1 comment:

  1. I'm a sucker for the Moonlight Sonata. Charlotte played it, as did my grandmother and cousin. I do think Beethoven's Pathetique has perhaps been overplayed, but there are pieces I will never tire of, and Moonlight is one.