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18 thoughts on “Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.32 in C minor, op.111”

  1. I wondered if you’d heard Youra Guller’s op. 111?
    I find it goes very deep..
    Also I’ve not heard the Gilels, that is praised by many.
    Thanks,

    Reply
  2. rolfkyburz – near Zurich, Switzerland – Classical music & concerts: blogging & reviews — Edu: science / chemistry — Past: software support, programming — Hobbies: photography, garden, nature

    Thanks for your comment! In my CD reviews only discuss recordings that I actually have in “hard copy”—and I have not heard Youra Guller’s interpretation so far: should look for it, I guess? I’m sure Gilels has played op.111—but to my knowledge it was not recorded—at least not as part of his “complete recording” as issued by Deutsche Grammophon: he died before he could complete this project. Sadly, other sonatas are missing, too: op.2/1, op.14/1, op.54, and op.78. But he did record WoO 47/1 and WoO 47/2 (“Kurfürsten” sonatas), and four sets of variations: op.35 (“Eroica”, op.76 (“Die Ruinen von Athen”), WoO 71 (“Das Waldmädchen”), and WoO 80 (c minor).

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    Charles Rosen in his Yale book on the Beethoven Sonatas agrees that the ‘molto’ in Op. 111 applies not to the adagio but to the semplice e cantabile. He does say however – in a double-edged aside – that “the movement can be very effective dragged out if it is done by a master”. Donald Francis Tovey on the other hand states in his canonical (!) commentary that the ‘molto’ can be equally applied to all three. I have a strong, but not exclusive, preference for the 19/20 minutes+ readings of Cristoph Eschenbach, John Lill and Claudio Arrau but recognise I could be accused of emotional ‘wallowing’. Lovers of this glorious Sonata will never of course agree on this point which is as it should be.

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    • rolfkyburz – near Zurich, Switzerland – Classical music & concerts: blogging & reviews — Edu: science / chemistry — Past: software support, programming — Hobbies: photography, garden, nature

      Thanks for your comment — very interesting!

      Reply

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    When making my earlier reply I forgot to compliment you on your excellent and highly knowlegeable blog! KW

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  5. rolfkyburz – near Zurich, Switzerland – Classical music & concerts: blogging & reviews — Edu: science / chemistry — Past: software support, programming — Hobbies: photography, garden, nature

    Thanks, Ken — it’s always good to see that people like my writing! I do realize that the focus of my blog has shifted towards concert reviews — I still hope to return to more CD comparisons / reviews some day… All the best, -Rolf

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  6. Thomas J. Hubschman – Brooklyn, New York City – Thomas J. Hubschman is the author of Look at Me Now, My Bess, Song of the Mockingbird, Billy Boy, Father Walther’s Temptation, The Jew’s Wife & Other Stories and three science fiction novels. His work has appeared in New York Press, The Antigonish Review, Eclectica, The Blue Moon Review and many other publications. Two of his short stories were broadcast on the BBC World Service.

    So glad to see your reviewing this sonata, Rolf. I have the Brautigam version and love it. But I have to confess I never had much interest in the sonatas until I heard him playing them on a Graf. On that instrument, and of course in his hands, they are an entirely different work of music that may as well have been written by a different composer.

    I first heard the 32nd a few years back. It was played on a modern piano by an elderly Austrian-Israeli in a Bavarian studio (YouTube, of course). When I heard the second movement I thought he must be fooling around with the time signatures, emphasizing the syncopation beyond anything the composer intended, though why someone like himself should do so in that setting was perplexing.

    So, I listened to the Brautigam (partly because you had spoken well of him) and realized what I was hearing must be what Beethoven wrote. I was astounded by the rhythms in that second movement. He starts off modestly enough, then seems to get a notion to see how it would sound if he syncopated even more, then more, until it was indistinguishable from ragtime and he only ends his little experiment when he is on the verge of something even deeper in to twentieth-century jazz. Then it’s as if that was as far as he could go, or chose to. And it’s as if he were in this last sonata giving his audience a window into what a very different kind of music would sound like a century later.

    And it sounds even more authentic on the Graf.

    After that I had no trouble appreciating the other 31 sonatas. Andres Schiff, bv the way, in his analysis of this movement scoffs at the idea that it is “boogey-woogey,” a form of jazz that didn’t appear until the 1940s. I suspect he is not familiar with ragtime, though I would have thought he could hear some of the same swing in a cakewalk.

    Again, thanks for these reviews of this sonata, which I’m looking forward to hearing, and especially for turning me on to Ronald Brautigam in the past.

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  7. rolfkyburz – near Zurich, Switzerland – Classical music & concerts: blogging & reviews — Edu: science / chemistry — Past: software support, programming — Hobbies: photography, garden, nature

    Thanks for that comment, Tom! My first encounters with that sonata were (through LPs, of course) with Gulda and Wilhelm Backhaus. I clearly remember that in my late high school days (c.1971) I found Backhaus (who is vastly faster in the second movement than anyone else!) more compelling, more moving than Gulda. Later, Pollini largely substituted Gulda for the late sonatas. Times have changed since then! I have put Beethoven sonata reviews on hold — for one, because concert reviews now occupy a large portion of my blogging time, but on the other hand also because Brautigam is getting serious competition, as McNulty is selling more of his replicas (very exciting: now moving towards the mid-19th century!). One obvious, serious contender is Kristian Bezuidenhout: I hope he will be recording many, ideally all Beethoven sonatas—the one I heard with him last summer in concert was extremely promising. Exciting times!

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    Dear Rolf,
    Really interesting reading. Thank you.

    Just want to tell you about Sokolov is on tour with Beethoven nr. 111 in his bag. Just heard it in Kiel. Totally impressive – took us several days to talk about anything else!

    Reply
  9. rolfkyburz – near Zurich, Switzerland – Classical music & concerts: blogging & reviews — Edu: science / chemistry — Past: software support, programming — Hobbies: photography, garden, nature

    Thanks for the note, Jens! I’ll see whether I can catch up with Sokolov … of course, I won’t compare live concert performances with recordings directly. But this surely should be an interesting concert experience!

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    Fascinating reading, Rolf! Just curious… you did not include Sviatoslav Richter in your reviews? Have you listened to him playing that masterpiece?

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    • rolfkyburz – near Zurich, Switzerland – Classical music & concerts: blogging & reviews — Edu: science / chemistry — Past: software support, programming — Hobbies: photography, garden, nature

      Hi Thierry, thanks for visiting and commenting! Sorry about that omission — no excuse, really, as this is a significant one. I can only offer weak explanations: primarily, I have been focusing on pianists who recorded all of Beethoven’s sonatas (which Richter never did). Beyond this, I only added recordings sparingly, selectively, even haphazardly. In my LP collection, I had (and still have, in the basement somewhere) one single sonata recording with Richter (opp.26 and 57) and one with Variations (opp.34, 35, 76). I no longer listen to LPs. On CD, I have recovered the variations, even added the Diabelli variations, and I also have opp.57 and 110 (but not op.26). Given that concert reviews now take up most of my time, additions to the CD collection have slowed down … plus, for piano works of the classical period, my primary interest now has turned towards historic performances on the fortepiano. At the same time, “resurrecting” the recordings in my LP collection (through CDs) has become a secondary goal. In any case, there is no chance that my comparison posts can ever be comprehensive — my blog is a “one man show”, after all.

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