BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 9, 10, 24, 27 and 28 (Jeno Jando/ Monika Feszler) (Naxos: 8.550162)
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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Sonata No.9 in E Major, Opus 14 No.1
Sonata No.10 in G Major, Opus 14 No.2
Sonata No.24 in F Sharp Major, Opus 78
Sonata No.27 in E Minor, Opus 90
Sonata No. 28 in A Major, Opus 101
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 perhaps the verydistinction and strength of character of the head of the family that lay at theroot of Johann van Beethoven's inadequacy as a father and final professionalincompetence. The elder Ludwig died in 1773, but was to remain for his grandsona powerful posthumous influence, while Johann slid further into habits ofdissipation, with Ludwig, his eldest surviving son, assuming in 1789 the roleof head of the family, with responsibility for his two younger brothers.
In Bonn Beethoven received erraticmusical training at home, followed by a much more thorough course of study withChristian Gottlob Neefe, who was appointed court organist in 1781. By 1784Beethoven had entered the paid service of the Archbishop as deputy courtorganist, employed as a viola-player or as cembalist in the court orchestra,and turning his hand increasingly to composition. A visit to Vienna in 1788 forthe purpose of study with Mozart led to nothing, cut short by the illness andsubsequent death of his mother, but in 1792 he was to return to the imperialcapital, 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 were to couplegenerosity with forbearance throughout his life.
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 inevitablydirected his attention to composition rather than performance, as the latteractivity became increasingly impossible. Deafness was to isolate him fromsociety and to accentuate still further his personal eccentricities ofbehaviour, shown in his suspicious ingratitude to those who helped him and histreatment of his nephew Karl 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 two piano sonatas that make upBeethoven's Opus 14, dedicated to Baroness von Braun, belong to theclose of the eighteenth century both in date of composition and in musical content.
The first of the pair, the Sonata in EMajor, makes no great dramatic attempt, with a charming and unpretentiousfirst subject, followed by a subsidiary theme, introduced contrapuntally, and acentral development that allows a certain tension before the gently elaboratedreturn of the first subject in the recapitulation. The second movement, in Eminor, with a contrasting C major trio section, has the double function ofMinuet and slow movement, and is capped by afinal Rondo of transparent texture. The composer arranged the sonata for stringquartet, a form in which it has never proved particularly acceptable.
The Sonata in G Major, Opus 14 No 2,again makes no demand for virtuosity, with the straightforward clarity of itsfirst movement and the miniature drama of its central development, followed bya march-like slow movement in C major, a theme and variations. The lastmovement earns its title, Scherzo, rather from the nature of its principaltheme than from its form. It provides a brilliant enough conclusion, couched interms of classical lucidity.
The Sonata in F Sharp Major, Opus 78,was the first of the three piano sonatas written in 1809, the year of Haydn'sdeath and of a further occupation of Vienna by the armies of Napoleon. Itmarked a return to the sonata alter a gap of some four years and a change ofmood alter the Appassionata Sonata, its immediate predecessor. The firstmovement opens with a brief introduction, leading to the first subject. Thesecond of the two movements allows the principal theme, variously treated, toframe intervening episodes of pianistic excitement. The sonata is dedicated toTherese von Brunsvik, once wrongly proposed as a candidate for the role ofImmortal Beloved, the object of Beethovens apparently undeclared love.
A period of six years was to elapse beforeBeethoven returned once more to the sonata in 1815 with the Sonata in E Minor,dedicated to Count Moritz von Lichnowsky brother of his friend and patronPrince Karl German now replaces Italian. In the marking of the movements, thefirst of which opens with a theme of dynamic contrast and sober cast answeredby a more dramatic second subject. The second of the two movements is dominatedby its lyrical Viennese principal melody, of which Beethoven makes much.
Beethoven completed his Sonata in AMajor, Opus 101, in November, 1816. It was published early the followingyear with a dedication to Beroness Dorotnea von Ertmann. The sonata starts witha them, to be played mit der innigsten Empfindung, the sentiment demanded alsofor the first movement of the preceding sonata, the form defying contemporaryexpectations. There follows a lively march in F major with a B flat triosection and a brief slow movement, to be played using single strings of thepiano, gradually increased, as was possible on instruments of the time. Asnatch of the main them, of the first movement intervenes to introduce amovement that turns into a fugue of proper formal complexity, making full useof the extended range of the newly enlarged keyboard of the time, a foretasteof the still more remarkable treatment of the piano sonata that was to follow.
JenoJando was born at Pecs, in south Hungary, in 1952. He started to learn thepiano when he was seven and later studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Musicunder Katalin Nemes and Pal Kadosa, becoming assistant to the latter on hisgraduation In 1974. Jando has won a