BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonatas WoO 47, 'Kurfurstensonaten' (Jeno Jando/ Monika Feszler) (Naxos: 8.550255)
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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Posthumous Sonatas & Sonatinas
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in December, 1770, theson of Johann van Beethoven, in singer in the service of the Archbishop of Cologne, and,more important, the grandson of Ludwig van Beethoven, Kapellmeister to the same patron. Itwas the very distinction and strength of character of the head of the family that lay atthe root of Johann van Beethoven's inadequacy as a father and final professionalincompetence. The elder 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 the family, withresponsibility for his two younger brothers.
In Bonn Beethoven received erratic musical training at home,followed by a much more thorough course of study with Christoph Gottlob Neefe, who wasappointed court organist in 1781. In 1784 he entered the paid service of the Archbishop asdeputy court orgainist, employed as a viola-player or as cembalist in the court orchestra,and turning his hand increasingly to composition. A visit to Vienna in 1778 for thepurpose of study with Mozart led to nothing, cut short by the illness and subsequent deathof his mother, but in 1792 he was to return to the imperial capital, again with hispatron's encouragement, to take lessons with Haydn.
Beethoven came to Vienna with the highest recommendations andwas quick to establish himself as a pianist and composer. From Haydn he claimed to havelearned nothing, but he was to undertake further study with Johann Georg Albrechtsbergerin counterpoint and with the court Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri in vocal and dramaticsetting. More important he was to attach himself to a service of noble patrons who were tocouple generosity with forbearance throughout his life, the latter quality often muchneeded.
As a younger composer in Bonn Beethoven had followed the trendsof his time. In Vienna he was increasingly to develop his own unmistakable and originalmusical idiom, sometimes strange and uncouth by the standards of the older generation, butsuggesting completely new worlds to others. It was an apparent stroke of fate that playedan essential part in this process. By the turn of the century Beethoven had begun toexperience bouts of deafness. It was this inability to hear that inevitably directed hisattention to composition rather than performance, as the latter activity becameincreasingly impossible. Deafness was to isolate him from society and to accentuate stillfurther his personal eccentricities of behaviour, shown in his suspicious ingratitude tothose who helped him and his treatment of his nephew Karl and his unfortunatesister-in-law.
In Vienna Beethoven lived through turbulent times. The armiesof Napoleon, once admired by Beethoven as an enlightened republican, until he had himselfcrowned as emperor, were to occupy the imperial capital, and war brought various changesof fortune to the composer's friends and supporters. The last twelve years of his lifewere spent in the relative political tranquillity that followed Napoleon's final defeat, aperiod in which the freedom of thought that had characterised the reign of Joseph II wasreplaced by the repression of his successors, anxious to prevent a recurrence ofunfortunate events that had caused such damage in France. Beethoven survived as anall-licensed eccentric, his bellowed political indiscretions tolerated, while others,apparently saner, were subject to the attention of the secret police. He died in March,1827, his death the occasion for public mourning in Vienna at the passing of a figurewhose like the city was not to see again.
The 32 numbered piano sonatas of Beethoven provide a remarkableconspectus of his own style, ranging from the earliest, under the influence of Haydn, towhom they are dedicated, to the last, which explore a new world in their bold complexity.
To those immediately following Beethoven, the sonatas, like the nine symphonies, offeredboth a challenge, in some ways a guide, and, at the same time, a field for variedspeculation in a search for literary sources or parallels.
The so-called PastoralSonata, Opus 28 in D major, was completed in 1801 and published the followingyear, with a dedication to Monsieur Joseph Noble de Sonnenfels, former adviser to theEmperor Joseph II, a free-mason, Jewish by birth, and a leading figure in theEnlightenment from whom Beethoven might expect no particular material advantage. The titlewas, as so often, not Beethovens, although the reason for it is obvious enough fromthe gentle opening of the first movement. Presumably a similar association of ideas ledArnold Schering to propose a literary source in Shakespeare's Winter's Tale. There is a steady march in the slowmovement, a scherzo and trio and a final rondobased on the rocking rhythm of its principal theme.
The three sonatas grouped under the posthumous publicationnumber of WoO 47 belong to the earliest period of Beethoven's life. These so-called Kurf??rsten sonatas were written in Bonn andpublished in 1783 with a dedication to the Archbishop and Elector (Kurf??rst) of Cologne,Maximilian Friedrich, described as the work of a boy of eleven, possibly a paternalunderstatement for commercial advantage. Their interest must lie in hints of thecomposer's later development and even in suggestions of themes that were to appear inother mature compositions.
The sonata numbered WoO 51 was left incomplete. Completed byFerdinand Ries, the sonata was intended for Beethoven's friend Eleonore von Breuning,member of a family that showed him much kindness in Bonn. It was probably written beforeBeethoven moved to Vienna, although some confusion of dating has arisen from a laterletter he wrote to Eleonore von Breuning, offering her the sonata. Some have supposed thatthe letter was written from Vienna, while others have preferred to see it as acommunication sent to her while the composer was still in Bonn. The two sonatinas in F andin G may not be authentic, although they were included in the first complete edition ofBeethoven's works. Those who accept the sonatinas as the work of Beethoven assign them tothe earliest period of his life and identify them with two completed small pieces itemisedin the posthumous inventory of the composer's effects.
Jeno Jando was born at Pecs, in south Hungary, in 1952. Hestarted to learn the piano when he was seven and later studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academyof Music under Katalin Nemes and Pal Kadosa, becoming assistant to the latter on hisgraduation in 1974. Jando has won a number of piano competitions in Hungary and abroad,including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a first prize in thechamber music category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977. In additionto his many appearances in Hungary, he has played widely abroad in Eastern and WesternEurope, in Canada and in Japan.
He is currently engaged in a project to record all ofBeethoven's piano solo works for Naxos. Other recordings for the Naxos label include theconcertos of Grieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's 2nd Concerto and PaganiniRhapsody.