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The Beethoven Sonatas and the Creative Experience

 

“ . . . one of the most interesting, useful and even exciting books on the process of musical creation.” —American Music Teacher

“ . . . noteworthy contribution . . . with plenty of insight into interpretation . . . remarkable as an insider’s account of the works in an individual perspective.” —European Music Teacher

Kenneth Drake groups the Beethoven piano sonatas according to their musical qualities, rather than their chronology. He explores the interpretive implications of rhythm, dynamics, slurs, harmonic effects, and melodic development and identifies specific measures where Beethoven skillfully employs these compositional devices.

The Sonatas of Beethoven

 as he played and taught them

 

Musical performance cannot be divorced from theory, analysis, or musicology, nor can the application of these three be considered apart from live performance. Through the union of perceptive performance and inquiring research the living ideas of past generations are transmitted to us, revitalizing our concept of style, of appropriateness, and of musical meaning.

An indispensable guide to the performance of Beethoven's piano works is the information provided by his pupils and other contemporaries. Kenneth Drake has collected such information from many sources and examines the attributes of Beethoven's playing and teaching to give an account of Beethoven's treatment of his own scores. Performers of Beethoven's works in any media will find this book a valuable source of information. Although its more than 300 illustrations maybe regarded as specific aids in the preparation of the sonatas for performance, the deeper intent of the discussion of these examples is to suggest an application of the original idea which may determine how the performer treats his instrument - the quality of the sound, the pedaling, the range of dynamics - as well as how he will interpret the music with respect to tempo, phrasing, and ornamentation. The book is thoroughly documented and indexed for convenience in finding discussions of individual sonatas and of each phase of performance.

Thoughts for the Pilgrimage

A parable from real life that relates to purpose of the writing that follows.

For the remaining years of their lives, parents of a deceased only son kept his picture in an ornate glided frame over the mantel, regarded with long thoughts of a future that could only exist in fantasy. After their deaths, there being no direct descendants their possessions were sold at a public estate sale. The picture, lying on a bed with linens and towels, was duly auctioned off. As the bidders shuffled to the next table, the picture lay trampled on the ground as the purchaser walked off with the frame, stripped of the image that had given its glided exterior inestimable value. 

The picture is the music, the frame that which we carry on stage or into the studio as conscious proof of professional success - that one has graduated from a prestigious school, perhaps earned a doctorate and been appointed to the faculty of a school offering a lucrative salary, or have won a major competition and have an active concert career. The frame we carry away entitles us, we may imagine, to deserved recognition and acclaim.

One may pursue outward achievement just as ardently, ultimately to find that fulfillment is sharing with the listener and with the student not what I can do with the music, but what the music can do with me. Without this purpose, we may ourselves become empty picture frames, however glided, however applauded. 

The purpose of this writing is to restore the picture to the glided frame.

Panorama of Imagination

 : Perspectives on Interpretation

 

Imagination is to the pianist what breathing is to the body. As we sit down at the piano, imagination sees the keyboard as a playground for touch and rhythm finding dynamic levels, articulation and color in the piano's tone. Imagination, as it is treated in the essays that follow, is a starting point for knowing and for still wider imagination. Imagination cannot be contained or domesticated, but it can be harnessed for insight into understanding of the music, upon which one's claim of personal authority can be filled.

The reader will find thought-provoking Hyejin Cho's concept of the treatment of distortion and fantasy in Schumann's scores, so unlike the precise expressiveness of the single note in music of the Classic period and reminiscent of the lines in Robert Herrick's poem Delight in Disorder. In the closing lines he says that the associations of 'wold civility'

Do more bewitch me, than when art

Is too precise in every part.

Jun-Hee Han's parody of artificiality and conformity in music making disconnected from human imagination may lead the reader to ask how near we already are to eliminating the human element that has determined the finest in creative effort.

If the reader has found ideas for personal reflection in this small book, as the authors themselves have, the writing has achieved its purpose.