What are some technically simple Beethoven sonatas

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Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Sonata, op. 106 "Hammerklavier"

11/29/2016 from Julia Smilga

Although Beethoven tried to replace the usual term "pianoforte" with the German word "hammerklavier" from op. 101 onwards, the whole world tacitly called the giant sonata op. 106 only "hammerklavier sonata". The piece is not only one of the longest sonatas in music history, it is also one of the most technically difficult and, for performers and listeners alike, one of the most intellectually demanding piano works of all time.

Image source: picture-alliance / dpa

The strong piece

Ludwig van Beethoven - Hammerklavier Sonata op.106

When Beethoven composed the sonata in the years 1817-1818, he was in the midst of a life crisis. He was fighting over the guardianship of his nephew Karl and had financial problems. He was also completely deaf by March 1818. No hope of a cure.
At the time of its premiere, Beethoven's "Hammerklavier-Sonata" was the most radical and innovative work in the sonata cycle. Here Beethoven goes to the limit of what can be required of the piano in terms of forms of expression. Despite the huge dimension of the sonata, there is a unique concentration and variation of the musical material in op.106. The work is created from a single interval - a third.

The pianist Dina Ugorskaja, born 1973 in Leningrad | Image source: Marion Koell / CAvi-music The beginning of the sonata is marked by a series of powerful, clearly rhythmic fortissimo chords, which are immediately repeated, shifted up by a third. In the continuation of the theme, the third emerges again, and this interval has a constructive meaning for the following movements as well. The fast-paced Scherzo unfolds the third in all possible variations, alternating between major and minor.

The contrast between the lively Scherzo and the profound Adagio that follows couldn't be greater. With a playing time of around 20 minutes, the third movement is one of the longest movements that Beethoven ever composed and, in terms of its intensity of expression, one of the strongest. In the great Adagio sostenuto, which the music writer Wilhelm von Lenz aptly called a "mausoleum of collective suffering", the sonata reaches its focus. Anger, lamentation and consolation - the range of emotions in the Adagio is very rich.

Composer and pianist Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886) | Source: picture-alliance / dpa The greatest of all Beethoven sonatas comes to an end with a breakneck fugue. The composer turned out to be right with his prophecy. It took a long time and it took such outstanding pianists as Clara Schumann, Franz Liszt and especially Hans von Bülow, who, in order to better understand the sonata, used to play it twice in a row at his concerts before the sonata could find its way into the concert hall. But even if the fear of contact has now disappeared, the hammer piano sonata is still too seldom heard in today's concerts. The work remains one of the most difficult test stones for any pianist.

"First, of course, it is the length, it is in fact the longest sonata, which varies from 45 to 50 minutes depending on the length. The second, of course, is intellectual mastery of the piece - even Hans von Bülow said - after 25 years Having dedicated himself to the piece, he has the feeling that now he can play the piece. What should you say about it yourself? But of course also the technical difficulties - and you grow with it, and that is an important aspect that you can has the feeling: this is Mount Everest and you just keep trying to get there, to this top. " Dina Ugorskaya

Music info

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, op. 106 ("Hammerklavier Sonata")

Dina Ugorskaja, piano
Label: Cavi-Music (Harmonia Mundi)