Thrilled to receive the recording of my Graduate Recital 1, with audio and video production by Sam Robert. This program, titled "SONATA ABEND," features Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 24, Op. 78, Sonata for Piano and Cello Op. 5, No.2, and Liszt's monumental Sonata in B minor. Stay tuned for the release of my Graduate Recital 2 recording from this past Sunday with pianist Gréta Pásztor.
Tonight’s program is entitled Sonata Abend, or evening of sonatas, featuring 2 beloved works for solo piano and 1 for piano and cello. The word sonata is derived from the Latin sonare, meaning to sound in this case with an instrument. The term has evolved throughout the history of music, but principally has come to represent both a large scale composition and the specific form in which it is composed. Sonata form typically consists of multiple movements each exhibiting an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation of a number of themes.
The program begins with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 24 in F# Major, Op. 78. The composer’s 32 piano sonatas can be classified into 3 periods: early, middle, and late. This particular sonata comes from the middle period, composed in 1809, when Beethoven grew more expressive and inventive with the form itself. Op. 78 is marked “à Thérèse,” referring to the Countess Therese von Brunsvik, a student of Beethoven’s whom some believe is the subject of the famous Immortal Beloved letter from the hand of Beethoven. One can sense the love and overwhelming sweetness the piece embodies. In two movements, the first lyrical and the second lively, this particular sonata was singled out by Beethoven himself as his favorite along with Piano Sonata No. 23, which precedes it.
Beethoven’s sonatas for piano and cello are among the most beloved of all works for the pair of instruments. Specifically titling the piece Sonata in G minor No. 2, Op. 5 for Piano and Cello, Beethoven stresses the importance of the pianist and cellist as equals, a departure from the pianist as simply an accompanist. This early sonata was written for Beethoven himself in 1796 to play alongside Jean-Louis Duport, French composer and cellist. In fact, Beethoven is credited with the creation of the first cello sonata with a written out piano part rather than an improvised continuo accompaniment. The piece consists of two movements, the first with an extended Adagio introduction beginning with a powerful and tragic G minor chord from both players. After a movement of furious playing, the sonata concludes with a playful and elegant Rondo in the parallel Major key.
The program concludes with a 3rd and final sonata: Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178, published in 1854 and dedicated to composer Robert Schumann. Perhaps one of the most analyzed and famed works for solo piano ever composed, the piece is monumental, unfolding in a single, uninterrupted 30 minute movement of music. Liszt presents 5 themes, 3 of which appearone the very first page of the score, with the other 2 emerging later. Throughout the course of the piece, Liszt subjects the themes to a series of transfigurations, turning even the darkest melody into something incomprehensibly beautiful. The sonata reaches moments of cataclysm, nostalgia, longing, love, and divinity. Much has been written about the inspiration behind this work, but an interpretation that stands out is that the piece is based on the German legend of Doctor Johannes Faust, a scientist who sells his soul to the Devil so that he can reunite once again with his beloved Margarita on earth. Others have theorized this sonata is the story of the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man. Nevertheless, the spiritual energy behind this work is undeniable. The Sonata has stood the test of time as one of the great wonders of the piano literature and continues to be a favorite of performers and audiences worldwide.