Friday, June 12, 2015

Sonatas by Beethoven

No. 202 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


Week two of our June sonata series is dedicated to Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven left us 32 sonatas for solo piano, but also a several sonatas for instruments with piano accompaniment, and I selected three of those.

Pianist and composer Andre Gagnon wrote many lovely pieces of music, but one comes to mind specifically when I think of works for a feature instrument with piano accompaniment – this piece is called Premier Episode, and was his way of paying tribute to the many singers he worked with, and accompanied as a pianist, especially early in his career: Claude Leveillee and Monique Leyrac are two names that come to mind. In that setting, the solo flute “stands in” for the singer, and though at one point he introduces a string orchestra into the mix, the early measures display the piano, playing chords as ornamentation to a melody.

When I think of sonatas for, say, the violin with piano accompaniment, that’s the image that I have in my mind – like a “singer”, the solo instrument is allowed to shine, sometimes relinquishing the spotlight to the accompanying piano, but sometimes taking center stage. A sonata is not unlike a song or lieder cycle – the movements aren’t so disparate that you can’t recognize that they form an homogeneous group of short pieces.

Let’s start with two rather familiar sonatas – the Kreutzer sonata for violin and the op. 69 cello sonata in A Major. Both are mainstays in the chamber repertoire for their respective instruments, and they are performed here by top artists in Gidon Kremer and Mstislav Rostropovich. As pianists, both Martha Argerich and Sviatoslav Richter are not too shabby either.

The first sonata of the set, the op. 17 sonata in F Major is sometimes heard for cello and piano – we offered such a setting in a post from earlier this year in our Once Upon the Internet series. The setting in the montage is the original pairing of horn and piano.

I think you will love this music too.

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