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#353452 - 09/28/06 12:54 PM Beethoven Sonatas
George K Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 999
Loc: The Midwest
In a thread elsewhere a couple of days ago someone asked about learning a Beethoven (I believe Op 2 #1). Like many amateurs, I learned the Op 49 #2 when I was (much) younger, and last year did the Op. 49 #1 (though the rondo still drives me nuts). These two are considered his easiest sonatas, from what I've read.

This July I assigned myself Op. 14 #1 (in E major). Simply lovely, with a few tricky pasages in the rondo, but approachable, at least by me. 1st two movements 90% done, and 3rd about 60%.

Anyhow, in the realm of "easy" Beethoven sonatas, Op. 79 is frequently mentioned, and I gave it a shot last year, but some of the 1st movement passages (the cross-hand stuff) are just driving me batty. How do people here feel about Op. 79? Is it really one of the easier? I've found Op 14 easier, and this morning read through the exposition of Op. 7 in Eb - also seems easier than Op. 79.

Thoughts?
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#353453 - 09/28/06 01:03 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
8ude Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 2050
Funny you mention that - as much as Op 79 is mentioned as one of his easier ones, I too find some of the passages in the first movement to be a little tricky. The second movement is really quite easy (and pretty), and the third, apart from moving pretty fast, is pretty easy too.

Relative to many of the other sonatas it is on the easier side, but that doesn't mean it's totally a piece of cake. It has it's share of tricky parts, as do all the sonatas. The Op. 14 sonatas are also easier ones. The Op. 7 sonata I think it a step up in difficulty from Ops. 14 and 79.
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What you are is an accident of birth. What I am, I am through my own efforts. There have been a thousand princes and there will be a thousand more. There is one Beethoven.

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#353454 - 09/28/06 01:08 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
BruceD Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17928
Loc: Victoria, BC
George K :

I don't have any thoughts on the Op 79. It doesn't look too difficult on the printed page, although bringing it up to tempo may be the biggest challenge.

I am working on the Op 14, No 1; it's such a delightful Sonata, relatively easy but with the unmistakable stamp of Beethoven on it. I've just begun working on the third movement and I can breeze through (technically) the first and second without a single problem, except for the LH in bars 5-6 and again in bars 95-96. I don't know what it is about those "silly" little LH sixteenth-note figures that defeat me every time. I've tried practicing them with extreme slowness and precision, in various rhythmic groups, breaking them down in even and uneven groupings, in virtually every permutation of those notes that I can think of, yet ease of execution eludes me. I guess persistence is the key, and perhaps some more Czerny and Hanon-type exercises. I don't see any potentional problem areas in the third movement.

The Op 14 #1 is one of those - for me, at least - rare Sonatas (like the Op 31, No 2) where every single measure is a delight to play and to listen to; there isn't an uninteresting phrase in the whole Sonata, and there doesn't seem to be an extraneous note in the whole composition. It's been a pleasure to work on, except for those frustrating two bars. I haven't had a lesson on it since I've started working on it; I'll be eager to see what helpful insights my teacher might offer overall and in particular sections, too.

Regards,
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#353455 - 09/28/06 01:13 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
signa Offline
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Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
op.79 1st movement is little more difficult than the rest of movements. i tried little bit the 1st page a while ago and found it kind of hard to play. i did learn before the 2nd movement, the beautiful one, which is relatively easy although middle arpeggio/operatical section is not as easy to play smoothly.

some call this one as a 'sonatina' sort of sonatas, like op.49 ones, but it doesn't mean it's easy to play.

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#353456 - 09/28/06 01:54 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
George K Offline
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Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 999
Loc: The Midwest
Bruce, I'm glad that I'm not the only one that's had trouble with those d*mned rising third in mm 5-6. I still miss them about 1/3 times when I play them, so that's why I said, 90% complete. There are two things that I did (besides repetition) that helped.

1) when I first started learning the sonata, I memorized those two bars. Looking at your hands helps - a lot.
2) I don't know how you're fingering it, but my Henle suggests 5 on the B (2nd half of mm 5) in the right hand. I found transitioning to 4 for the C# to be awkward, especiallt at speed. I use 4 on that B. It made a world of difference
3) "digging in" with that 4th finger on the B also helps. For me, it improved accuracy as well as speed.

Let me know how it goes. and thanks for the reply.
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#353457 - 09/28/06 02:08 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
BDB Offline
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The Op. 10 Sonatas are not too bad. Again, nothing is a piece of cake in Beethoven. But many of them are easier than the named sonatas that most people start with (Moonlight, Pathetique), and are certainly no worse music. Look at the Bagatelles, too. There are many of Beethoven's techniques to be learned from them, in much more manageable chunks than from the sonatas.
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#353458 - 09/28/06 02:32 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
George K Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 999
Loc: The Midwest
I was wrong in #2 above. I checked and indeed use the suggested fingering 3-1-4-1-5-2-4-1.

My bad....

Nevertheless #1 and #3 (substituting 5th for 4th!) are valid.
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#353459 - 09/28/06 03:09 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland
Bruce/George,

Op14#1 was the Beethoven sonata for the ABRSM Grade 8 examination the year I took it, so it was the first substantial Beethoven work I ever played; I revisited it with my current teacher about a year ago.

In the first movement, I always found keeping a proper legato in bar 9 to be a little awkward, (as an aside, the ABRSM edition is replete with pedal indications, these days I am much more sparing with its use throughout this work, especially the first movement.) The open RH octaves at 63-65 can sound very empty and harsh without sufficiently 'full' LH chords. This is also one of those pieces where the typical Beethoven piano dynamic marking really is best read as tending towards mezzo-forte, especially in the various iterations of the 2nd subject, otherwise it's all a bit weak and wimpy IYSWIM. Regarding those dastardly 16th notes in bar 5 onwards, a RH fingering of 2-1-3-1 4-2-5-3 4 is not so bad (no need to stretch or move the hand at all, though you need to be swift with the thumb to start with). I use the ABRSM suggested LH fingering or 3-5-2-4 1-3-1-2-1, as I find the Henle editor's idea of starting on 2 a bit odd (in terms of having to shift the thumb up as the figure progresses.) Try not to cut the crotchet short on beat 3, or it all sounds a bit choppy, it sounds much better when it 'sings out' a bit; also at least 'thinking' of bringing out the implicit quaver tempo figure (G#-A-B-C#-B) aiming the phrase towards the B at beat 3 might help make more musical sense of this passage whenever it occurs.

The 2nd movement is quite straight forward, although accurate pedalling and attention to articulation renders it more effective (e.g. no pedal to start, and then pedal across the bar line and release before beat two of bar 2, gives a nice effect, and the staccato at bar 8 beat 1, and similarly bar 40, contrasting with the other phrase endings, e.g. bar 16, etc.)

The 3rd movement is not easy at a proper allegro (though still commodo of course) in terms regularity of touch and clarity in the triplet and semiquaver figures. The RH finger staccato on the first note of the triplet figures at various points (mostly each half bar and each beat at cadences in bars 47 onwards), is essential to prevent it descending into a dull procession of arpeggios during the development section. Again, I would tend to play only pp passages whispery quiet, and most of the piano passages with nice full/confident (though not loud) tone.

In all it is a thoroughly charming piece, which, as you may be aware, was subsequently arranged for string quartet by LvB himself, being the only piano sonata he treated thus, if I remember correctly.

Best regards,

-Michael B.
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#353460 - 09/28/06 03:31 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
George K Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 999
Loc: The Midwest
Michael, you wrote:

 Quote:
Regarding those dastardly 16th notes in bar 5 onwards, a RH fingering of 2-1-3-1 4-2-5-3 4 is not so bad
Brilliant! Just tried it and it works quite nicely, though I'll have to get over my old habit of the suggested fingering and work on evenness in the passages. Thank you!
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#353461 - 09/28/06 03:40 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
8ude Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 2050
 Quote:
Originally posted by PoStTeNeBrAsLuX:

In all it is a thoroughly charming piece, which, as you may be aware, was subsequently arranged for string quartet by LvB himself, being the only piano sonata he treated thus, if I remember correctly.
[/b]
I have a recording of this arrangement and it is thoroughly charming. I couldn't see many of the other sonatas working like this, but this sonata works so well in both forms.
_________________________
What you are is an accident of birth. What I am, I am through my own efforts. There have been a thousand princes and there will be a thousand more. There is one Beethoven.

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#353462 - 09/28/06 03:43 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17928
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by George K:
Bruce, I'm glad that I'm not the only one that's had trouble with those d*mned rising third in mm 5-6. I still miss them about 1/3 times when I play them, so that's why I said, 90% complete. There are two things that I did (besides repetition) that helped.

[...] 2) I don't know how you're fingering it, but my Henle suggests 5 on the B (2nd half of mm 5) in the right hand. I found transitioning to 4 for the C# to be awkward, especiallt at speed. I use 4 on that B. It made a world of difference
3) "digging in" with that 4th finger on the B also helps. For me, it improved accuracy as well as speed.

Let me know how it goes. and thanks for the reply. [/b]
George :

I use the Henle as my working edition, and have also Schirmer and Schnabel to consult. I prefer the Henle fingering over the other two, and even prefer the RH fingering in the bars in question. As I indicated in my post, however, it's the LH that always throws me. I'm using the Henle fingering in the LH, too, but it still is a hit-or-miss situation.

Thanks for your reply.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
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Estonia 190

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#353463 - 09/28/06 04:16 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland
George:
it works quite nicely, though I'll have to get over my old habit of the suggested fingering and work on evenness in the passages. Thank you!

You're more than welcome \:\) . That said, the 4-2-5-3 4 at the end of the figure can be a bit awkward depending how controllable your 3-4-5 movements are, the length of one's fingers, etc, but from a hand position point of view, it's a good alternative to the standard (ABRSM and Henle) 3-1-4-2 5-2-4-1 3, which involve the 2-4 for the perfect 4th from G# to C# which is not ideal IMO, compared to the 2-5 offered by the alternative. The alternative suggestion is in fact merely a backwards/mirror image (as it were) of the ABRSM LH fingering (3-5-2-4 1-3-1-2 1) for the following LH figure, so if it's good enough for one mit, then why not the other one in a retrograde symmetrical fashion for an identical group of notes?

By the way, Bruce, FWIW I find the Henle LH suggestion quite awkward and prefer starting on 3 as suggested by Craxton in the ABRSM edition, and jumping the thumb at the end, rather than in between the two groups of four.

Cheers,

-Michael B.
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#353464 - 09/28/06 04:54 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
George K Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 999
Loc: The Midwest
Michael, again, thank you for your thoughts. Can I pick your brain about Op. 7 in Eb? Is this attainable by someone like me?
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#353465 - 09/28/06 05:30 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland
George,

Hmm. Op.7 does IMO bring with it a whole set of technical and interpretation issues which are arguably more challenging than anything one encounters in Op14#1. I've only ever done the first 3 movements with my teacher; the last movement is quite reminiscent of the final movement of Op22 in speed and character, though I reckon more difficult still (LH in the middle section ), and Op22 is no walk in the park either :rolleyes:

The first movement of Op7 has those extended passages of 6x semiquaver figures in the RH that need to be regular, rhythmical and have full tone on each note, which at the indicated tempo can only be achieved by a loose wrist and some effective upwards rotation for the repeated pairs (notes 3/4 and 5/6), and this is not easy and requires quite a lot of dedication to avoid building up tension and get a reasonable musical result (at least it did for me!). The speed at which you can achieve these sections should dictate your tempo for the whole movement IMO.

I'd happily waffle on more about the other movements, if it weren't already nearly 11.30pm here \:\) , but as far as it being attainable for someone like you, I don't really know, I say try it and see... I'd certainly rank it as a medium-difficult Beethoven sonata, though one that amply repays dedicated practice and deep study; the largo is one of my favourite slow movements.

Regards,

-Michael B.
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#353466 - 09/28/06 05:32 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
 Quote:
Originally posted by George K:
Michael, again, thank you for your thoughts. Can I pick your brain about Op. 7 in Eb? Is this attainable by someone like me? [/b]
Hi George, sorry Michael for poking in, if you can play the Op. 14, you can definitely play or work on the Op. 7.

I am working on the Op. 7 right now, and it is a real charmer. The first movement is very straight forward, and full of little surprises here and there that Beethoven loves to throw in. The second movement is so beautiful, you'll want it to last forever. The Scherzo (Move't 3), is very much like Haydn, but the trio section is Beethoven all the way with his jump to growely E-flat minor. The Finale, taken at Allegretto, can have its moments. I've started looking at the last movement lately, but due to lack of time between work, school, etc. I've had to put this sonata on the backburner.

Good luck on your quest of early Beethoven Sonatas. Each one has its share of difficulties no matter how easy they appear.

John
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#353467 - 09/28/06 05:32 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
George K Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 999
Loc: The Midwest
Thank you for your thoughts, Michael. Sleep well tonite!
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#353468 - 09/28/06 05:42 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
George K Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 999
Loc: The Midwest
John,

I posted my thanks to Michael as you were responding! I was listening to a recording of this sonata by Michelangeli this morning, and I was captivated. It's light, sweet, and has those "Beethoven Moments" that we love. Some of the runs and scales are tricky, but I've done the Haydn sonata in D (Hob.XVI.37) and though I stumble with it if it's not "maintained," I can do it. So, it sounds like this might me an OK project to tackle.

(still working on the triplets in Op. 14 #1, 3rd movement.)
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#353469 - 09/28/06 07:13 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17928
Loc: Victoria, BC
Michael : I much appreciate your postings on the Op 14, No 1 Sonata; thank you.
 Quote:
Originally posted by PoStTeNeBrAsLuX:

[/b]
 Quote:
Bruce/George,

Op14#1 was the Beethoven sonata for the ABRSM Grade 8 examination the year I took it, so it was the first substantial Beethoven work I ever played; I revisited it with my current teacher about a year ago.

In the first movement, I always found keeping a proper legato in bar 9 to be a little awkward, (as an aside, the ABRSM edition is replete with pedal indications, these days I am much more sparing with its use throughout this work, especially the first movement.)
[/b] I don't have any difficulties with keeping a legato line here, even with very sparing use of the pedal. I tend to emphasize the legato by concentrating it in the rising bass line.
 Quote:
The open RH octaves at 63-65 can sound very empty and harsh without sufficiently 'full' LH chords. This is also one of those pieces where the typical Beethoven piano dynamic marking really is best read as tending towards mezzo-forte, especially in the various iterations of the 2nd subject, otherwise it's all a bit weak and wimpy IYSWIM.
[/b]I see bars 61-64 as relatively sparse, particularly since the last three RH octaves are half-notes with a staccato mark over them, suggesting a detached line.
 Quote:
Regarding those dastardly 16th notes in bar 5 onwards, a RH fingering of 2-1-3-1 4-2-5-3 4 is not so bad (no need to stretch or move the hand at all, though you need to be swift with the thumb to start with).
[/b]I like the Henle fingering at this point in the RH.
 Quote:
I use the ABRSM suggested LH fingering or 3-5-2-4 1-3-1-2-1, as I find the Henle editor's idea of starting on 2 a bit odd (in terms of having to shift the thumb up as the figure progresses.) Try not to cut the crotchet short on beat 3, or it all sounds a bit choppy, it sounds much better when it 'sings out' a bit; also at least 'thinking' of bringing out the implicit quaver tempo figure (G#-A-B-C#-B) aiming the phrase towards the B at beat 3 might help make more musical sense of this passage whenever it occurs.
[/b] What I don't like about the ABRSM fingering in the LH is the thumb on the C#. The first time this figure occurs in the LH, the LH is already in the treble range of the piano (above middle C) so having to turn the hand so that the thumb can reach the C# is just very awkward; that's the main reason I have been using the Henle fingering at that point. I absolutely agree that one should "think" the G#, A, B, C#, B almost as a melody line as one plays this figure.
 Quote:


The 2nd movement is quite straight forward, although accurate pedalling and attention to articulation renders it more effective (e.g. no pedal to start, and then pedal across the bar line and release before beat two of bar 2, gives a nice effect, and the staccato at bar 8 beat 1, and similarly bar 40, contrasting with the other phrase endings, e.g. bar 16, etc.)

The 3rd movement is not easy at a proper allegro (though still commodo of course) in terms regularity of touch and clarity in the triplet and semiquaver figures. The RH finger staccato on the first note of the triplet figures at various points (mostly each half bar and each beat at cadences in bars 47 onwards), is essential to prevent it descending into a dull procession of arpeggios during the development section. Again, I would tend to play only pp passages whispery quiet, and most of the piano passages with nice full/confident (though not loud) tone.

In all it is a thoroughly charming piece, which, as you may be aware, was subsequently arranged for string quartet by LvB himself, being the only piano sonata he treated thus, if I remember correctly.

Best regards,

-Michael B. [/b]
I tend to agree with your views on the third movement, although I've yet to study it in detail.

Thank you again for your input.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
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Estonia 190

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#353470 - 09/29/06 03:43 AM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland
Thanks for your comments, Bruce.

I see bars 61-64 as relatively sparse, particularly since the last three RH octaves are half-notes with a staccato mark over them, suggesting a detached line.

Indeed. I think I was trying to imply that the crescendo marked at that point sounds more effective and musical IMO is one concentrates on bringing out the LH more where the harmony is closer, rather than necessarily playing those last three RH octaves increasingly more strongly; as they are rising ones, there is a natural crescendo in pitch, as it were; personally I do *all* the increase in intensity in the LH at that point, as getting louder with the RH sounds overly-harsh and not necessary to my ears. I've heard some performances/recordings where the last two of those octaves are horribly bashed out...

having to turn the hand so that the thumb can reach the C# is just very awkward;

For me I think this is a bit of a 'lesser of two evils' situation; I find that moving my arm and raising the wrist slightly helps enough for me not to feel the thumb on the C# to be a problem, so for me the issue with the other fingering becomes the thumb movement and (IMO unnecessary) shift in hand position.

As ever, it's horses for courses; quite often my teacher and I find distinct differences in what we find comfortable in a certain scenario. My fingers are a little wider than his, so I can sometimes 'sense' the sides of the black keys when playing deeper into the keyboard, and occasionally that is a little off-putting; he doesn't have that issue at all as his fingers are really quite narrow. On the other hand (finger?) I have a noticeably wider stretch than him, (and especially between 4 and 5 on both hands), so other passages (e.g. extended arpeggios with perfect 4ths (or even 5ths) between fingers 4 and 5) are comfortable for me, where he would perhaps use quite a different approach, depending on the context, and e.g. chords which he would have to roll slightly where I don't, etc.

Thanks again for your replies.

-Michael B.
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#353471 - 09/29/06 08:22 PM Re: Beethoven Sonatas
Palindrome Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/01
Posts: 3914
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by 8ude:
 Quote:
Originally posted by PoStTeNeBrAsLuX:

In all it is a thoroughly charming piece, which, as you may be aware, was subsequently arranged for string quartet by LvB himself, being the only piano sonata he treated thus, if I remember correctly.
[/b]
I have a recording of this arrangement and it is thoroughly charming. I couldn't see many of the other sonatas working like this, but this sonata works so well in both forms. [/b]
On the other hand, Horowitz once commented that he thought the late string quartets would make excellent piano pieces!
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