Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata, Op. 27 No. 2 Pianist – Valentina Lisitsa

Valentina Lisitsa

The Sonata Op. 27 No. 2, known universally as the Moonlight Sonata, is one of Beethoven’s most famous piano works.  Recorded countless times, it has been a staple of the recital hall since its debut in 1801.  Indeed, its popularity is said to have annoyed Beethoven, who once remarked to Carl Czerny, “Surely I’ve written better things.”

The first movement is marked Adagio sostenuto, and it has been suggested that the Romantic period in music dates from this very piece.  Hector Berlioz remarked insightfully that this movement was “one of those poems that human language does not know how to qualify.”  Indeed, how would you describe it?  Is it sad, tragic even?  Or is it merely solemn?  Readers are invited to leave a comment with their thoughts about this familiar, yet mysterious piece.

The second movement, marked Allegretto, is very different in character from the first, yet seems to flow from it as naturally as spring follows winter.  Stately yet graceful, it reminds me of a courtly dance, and gives us no hint at all of the of the approaching storm.

The final movement, Presto agitato, calls to mind Olin Downes’ characterization of Vladimir Horowitz: “a tornado unleashed from the steppes.”  It is headstrong, impetuous, and unbridled.  With each recurrence of the main theme, I get the sense that the music threatens to run away with the pianist.

But it never does.  Valentina keeps everything under exquisite control.  Her performance of this sonata is one for the ages, and we can all be grateful that it has been immortalized in a video of such outstanding quality.  It was recorded in December 2009 in the Beethovensaal in Hannover, Germany.

Published in: on September 30, 2010 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lola Astanova Plays Chopin

lola astanova2Lola Astanova is no stranger to readers of this blog.  In September, we saw her electrifying performance of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Sonata.  October featured my extended interview with Lola, which touched on her early life in Tashkent, the influence of Vladimir Horowitz, and her views about contemporary classical music composition, among other subjects.

This month, we hear Lola perform three pieces by Frederic Chopin.  Lola is a passionate interpreter of Chopin; her longtime instructor and legendary piano professor Lev Naumov said of her, “Lola Astanova possesses a rare and truly ingenious intuitive ability.  Chopin performed by Lola is simply outstanding…” – an opinion I think you will share after watching these videos.

For our first video, Lola plays Chopin’s famous Nocturne Op. 27, No 2.  Many musicologists rank the two Nocturnes of Opus 27 among Chopin’s greatest compositions, and Robert Schumann referred to them as “the most heartfelt and transfigured creations evolved in music.”

In our interview last month, Lola spoke about the next piece as follows:  “I guess the first piece that I was consciously truly excited about learning was Chopin’s “Fantasie Impromptu”.  I was about ten years old, but I had heard and loved that piece from the early childhood.  The score looked very busy with lots of notes, so in my mind playing it well somehow symbolized being a good pianist.”

In our final video, Lola gives an impassioned performance of one of Chopin’s most dramatic études (and one of my personal favorites), Op. 25, No. 12.  She also delivers a short message on a subject close to her heart: the need for all of us to continue to support the arts despite a difficult economic climate.

I encourage you to visit http://lolaastanova.com, where you can learn more about Lola and watch additional videos.  You can also purchase her CD, which is entitled “Debut” and features the music of Liszt, Beethoven, and much more by Chopin.

Published in: on November 14, 2009 at 3:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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