Sep 2020

V. Von Generation zu Generation: Beethoven’s Appassionata

With Beethoven’s Appassionata

 

from Vienna to Virginia

 

and Back Again

 

Nichole Dorobanov, Virginia Beach, Virginia

 

Vienna is the Old World’s capital of music and the country where the American blockbuster film The Sound of Music was later filmed. Because Vienna was once considered the undisputed classical music center in Europe, many famous composers and pianists gravitated there. One notable resident was Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven was a famous pianist and composer and the link between German Classicism and German Romanticism. While Beethoven’s first set of compositions evoked the spirit of Haydn in form and temperament, he later evolved and transitioned into an entirely new musical mode. One of Beethoven’s most famous Sonatas is the Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 (commonly known as the Appassionata, meaning “passionate” in Italian).

Considered to be a difficult and demanding sonata, it is widely performed by many famous pianists such as Claudio Arrau, Artur Schnabel, and Daniel Barenboim. The Appassionata is one of my favorite sonatas because of the drastic contrasts and styles between each movement. My favorite movement in the sonata in particular is the finale, “Allegro ma non troppo — Presto.” It is similar to the first movement in terms of tempo, but there is an exciting presto in the coda. This movement is fast, strong, direct, and boastful, full of many forte dynamics and to be performed with ideal timing to accompany the dynamics. The composition is perfect for an audience pleaser.

 

Nichole Dorobanov playing Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major with the Old Dominion University Symphony Orchestra on April 7th, 2017 at Thalia Lynn Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

 

German music is not easy to define as there are many genres and styles. German classical music went through many stages from Mozart in the 18th century, to Wagner in the 19th century, and to Schoenberg in the 20th century. Weber’s dark opera, Der Freischütz with the famous Wolf’s Glen scene, is an example of uncanny German Romanticism. German classical music also reflects German and European history; Beethoven once admired Napoleon and dedicated his Eroica Symphony to him. However, after Napoleon proclaimed himself to be Emperor, Beethoven scratched out his name and dedicated the symphony to fallen heroes instead.

Beethoven’s Appassionata is a piece in which one can easily express whatever emotion one feels. Piano music, particularly in German music, is just one of the ways one can express one’s emotions.

As a concert pianist, it is important to not only like the piece, but to also find a way to express oneself through music by phrasing, dynamics and tempo. One feels it immediately if one finds a good piece that resonates with one’s emotions. It is a good sign if the performer is excited to play it and cannot wait to play it whenever there is a chance.

If a piece puts a smile on one’s face, the audience will smile too. If one does not like a piece, then it will be impossible for the pianist enjoy, but also for her to have proper expression during a performance. The lack of identification with a musical piece can lead to audience confusion and at worst, a lack-luster performance.

The best kind of music for my direct emotional expression is the German Classical and Romantic musical tradition, and the Appassionata is a perfect vehicle for it. For a gentle and elegant emotion, the second movement contains these features. Overall, the Appassionata explicitly invokes a wide range of emotions and is considered a bridge between the Classical and Romantic period. Beethoven is a master of reigning in the refined and restrained Classical form and ushering in the wild, emotional and more ardent Romantic form to the European audience.




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