BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 12, 16 and 18
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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Sonata No.12 in A Flat Major, Opus 26
Sonata No.16 in G Major, Opus 31 No.1
Sonata No.18 in E Flat Major, Opus 31No.3
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn inDecember, 1770, the son of Johann van Beethoven, a singer in the service of theArchbishop of Cologne, and, more important, the grandson of Ludwig vanBeethoven, Kapellmeister to the same patron. It was the very distinction andstrength of character of the head of the family that lay at the root of Johannvan Beethoven's inadequacy as a father and final professional incompetence. Theelder Ludwig died in 1773, but was to remain for his grandson a powerfulposthumous influence, while Johann slid further into habits of dissipation,with Ludwig, his eldest surviving son, assuming in 1789 the role of head of thefamily, with responsibility for his two younger brothers.
In Bonn Beethoven received erraticmusical training at home, followed by a much more thorough course of study withChristoph Gottlob Neefe, who was appointed court organist in 1781. In 1784Beethoven entered the paid service of the Archbishop as deputy court organist,employed as a viola-player or as cembalist in the court orchestra, and turninghis hand increasingly to composition. A visit to Vienna in 1788 for the purposeof study with Mozart led to nothing, cut short by the illness and subsequentdeath of his mother, but in 1792 he was to return to the imperial capital,again with his patron's encouragement, to take lessons with Haydn.
Beethoven came to Vienna with the highestrecommendations and was quick to establish himself as a pianist and composer.
From Haydn he claimed to have learned nothing, but he was to undertake furtherstudy with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger in counterpoint and with the courtKapellmeister Antonio Salieri in vocal and dramatic setting. More important hewas to attach himself to a series of noble patrons who coupled generosity withforbearance throughout his life, the latter quality often much needed.
As a young composer in Bonn Beethoven hadfollowed the trends of his time. In Vienna he was increasingly to develop hisown unmistakable and original musical idiom, sometimes strange and uncouth bythe standards of the older generation, but suggesting completely new worlds toothers. It was an apparent stroke of fate that played an essential part in thisprocess. By the turn of the century Beethoven had begun to experience bouts ofdeafness. It was this inability to hear that inevitably directed his attentionto composition rather than performance, as the latter activity becameincreasingly impossible. Deafness was to isolate him from society and toaccentuate still further his personal eccentricities of behaviour, shown in hissuspicious ingratitude to those who helped him and his treatment of his nephewKarl and his unfortunate sister-in-law.
In Vienna Beethoven lived throughturbulent times. The armies of Napoleon, once admired by Beethoven as anenlightened republican, until he had himself crowned as emperor, were to occupythe imperial capital, and war brought various changes of fortune to thecomposer's friends and supporters. The last twelve years of his life were spentin the relative political tranquillity that followed Napoleon's final defeat, aperiod in which the freedom of thought that had characterised the reign ofJoseph II was replaced by the repression of his successors, anxious to preventa recurrence of the unfortunate events that had caused such damage in France.
Beethoven survived as an all-licensed eccentric, his bellowed politicalindiscretions tolerated, while others, apparently saner, were subject to theattention of the secret police. He died in March, 1827, his death the occasionfor public mourning in Vienna at the passing of a figure whose like the citywas not to see again.
The Sonata in A flat major, Opus 26,begins to explore, for Beethoven, new ground in the piano sonata. The firstmovement is in the form of an Andante theme followed by five variations. Thesecond movement is a Scherzo, its contrasting Trio in a lilting D flat major.
This is followed by the famous Funeral March on the death of a hero, the kindof theme popular in republican circles and to occur elsewhere in Beethoven,notably in the slow movement of the Eroica Symphony. It was, however, played atBeethoven's own funeral in 1827. The final Rondo has been seen by some as ananswer to the composer-pianist Cramer, a potential rival in popularity. Thesonata was dedicated to Beethoven's friend and patron Prince Karl vonLichnowsky.
The three sonatas of Opus 31 werecompleted in 1802 and published the following year in Zurich. Some have seenthe first of the group, the Sonata in G major, as relatively conventional.
The third of the Opus 31 sonatas, theSonata in E flat major, has become known to some as La chasse or Jagd-Sonate,because of a supposed association with the hunt in the last movement.
Jeno Jando was born at Pecs, in southHungary, in 1952. He started to learn the piano when he was seven and laterstudied at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music under Katalin Nemes and PalKadosa, becoming assis1ant to the latter on his graduation in 1974. Jand6 haswon a number of piano competitions in Hungary and abroad, including first prizein the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a first prize in the chamber musiccategory at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977. In addition tohis many appearances in Hungary, he has played widely abroad in Eastern andWestern Europe, in Canada and in Japan.
He is currently engaged in a project torecord all of Beethoven's piano solo works for Naxos. Other recordings for theNaxos label include the concertos.