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#1983391 - 11/06/12 11:09 AM Beethoven's piano playing
fnork Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1735
Loc: Helsinki, finland
I'm curious to read and learn more about how Beethoven played the piano, according to various sources. I do know a fair amount of the basic stuff, but it'd be very interesting to read more detailed accounts on the characteristics of his playing. Does anyone have a clue about where to look for information on this topic? In relation to that, I'd also like to learn more about how he instructed pianists that played for him - I suppose Czernys accounts are some of the more valuable ones in this respect...?


Edited by fnork (11/06/12 11:11 AM)
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#1983394 - 11/06/12 11:26 AM Re: Beethoven's piano playing [Re: fnork]
Schmoe Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/19/12
Posts: 9
You probably have already read these books, but The Great Pianists and The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold C. Schonberg go into a bit of detail about Beethoven's playing.

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#1983396 - 11/06/12 11:27 AM Re: Beethoven's piano playing [Re: fnork]
natty_dread78 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/10
Posts: 116
Nice topic, I'm interested as well. fnork, would you mind to share the basic stuff ? Maybe it's not so basic.
The only thing I've read is that he played with a lot of passion and power. He often complained that the pianos of that time did not sound loud enough.

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#1983397 - 11/06/12 11:28 AM Re: Beethoven's piano playing [Re: fnork]
Cheeto717 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 697
Loc: Pennsylvania
My teacher has a really great book on interpreting Beethoven sonatas and it's filled with personal accounts from not only Czerny but many other of his students and peers. I can't remember what it's called off the top of my head so I'll have to get back to you.

As far as his playing goes Beethoven's playing is described as rough and sometimes harsh with many fluctuations in tempi. The guy played how he felt like and today's interpretations probably sound nothing like how Ludwig played them.
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Beethoven: Op. 26
Brahms: Op. 120
Chopin: Op. 10

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#1983481 - 11/06/12 03:59 PM Re: Beethoven's piano playing [Re: fnork]
fnork Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1735
Loc: Helsinki, finland
Cheeto, it's that "rough and sometimes harsh" bit you mention that I would like to know more about. I believe the rough-ness that Beethoven had in his playing was a somewhat new phenomenon in music to some extent - a sforzato in Beethoven usually carried a completely different meaning than a sforzato in Haydn, and I believe it is a rather false tradition to tone these elements down and play his music in a more gentle manner. I'd love to read more on this and what the sources say.

Natty - the "basic stuff" is sort of what Cheeto got into in his message. There was apparently a great freedom in his playing, tempowise, and various accounts say that he sometimes played "roughly" and occasionally missed notes, but that he rather missed notes than the meaning in the music.
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#1983488 - 11/06/12 04:17 PM Re: Beethoven's piano playing [Re: fnork]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19280
Loc: New York City
There was a recent very lengthy thread about this at PW. I don't think the pages in the Schonberg book in any way clearly indicate Beethoven played with wild tempo fluctuations. There are at least as many passages in the book indicating the opposite. I gave detailed analysis of those pages on that thread.

Schonberg's books IMO are very popular because of their "juicy" style, but not something I would go to for the most scholarly conclusions. I think Schonberg was extremely biased in favor of the piano playing from the first half of the 20th century.


Edited by pianoloverus (11/06/12 04:35 PM)

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#1983675 - 11/07/12 06:10 AM Re: Beethoven's piano playing [Re: fnork]
fnork Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1735
Loc: Helsinki, finland
Can you point me to that lengthy thread, pianoloverus? And perhaps the particular posts relating to this topic - if it was a lenghty thread...
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#1983685 - 11/07/12 07:22 AM Re: Beethoven's piano playing [Re: natty_dread78]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7804
Originally Posted By: natty_dread78
He often complained that the pianos of that time did not sound loud enough.
Not surprising, since he was going deaf.

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#1983705 - 11/07/12 08:53 AM Re: Beethoven's piano playing [Re: fnork]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19280
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: fnork
Can you point me to that lengthy thread, pianoloverus? And perhaps the particular posts relating to this topic - if it was a lenghty thread...
I don't remember the name of the thread, just that it didn't begin on the topic of Beethoven's playing. Try a search on Beethoven + Schonberg+ Pianoloverus + Schiller(?).

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#1984542 - 11/09/12 08:30 AM Re: Beethoven's piano playing [Re: fnork]
Scordatura Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/12
Posts: 107
Loc: Suffolk, UK
Try this: Beethoven the Pianist by Tilman Skowroneck (Cambridge U.P, 2010) Description and purchasable on http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item2703333/?site_locale=en_GB

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#1984860 - 11/10/12 01:41 AM Re: Beethoven's piano playing [Re: fnork]
JessicaB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/04/09
Posts: 125
There is a risk when you get from a variety of contemporaneous accounts of someone's playing and and then use it to influence your playing. All you have to do is read the posts here about the sounds of different pianos from different periods (and tunings), and the variety of descriptions you hear or read even from critics who attend the same concerts.

I think that your initial thought that Czerny's critiques and descriptions would be the most useful is probably correct since so much is known about his methods. Unless you know quite a bit about the author himself, critiques are often next to meaningless.

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