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Full text of "Artur Schnabel Beethoven Sonatas No.4 & No.16"

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BEETHOVEN SONATAS. 
ARTUR SCHNABEL, pions 


The Beethoven Society Edition of the thirty-two sonatas, recorded by Schnabel, was presented for the first time in its entirety by 
RCA Victor as a Limited Edition in 1956. This present album is part of a series (LCT 1109-1110; 1154-1155: LM 2151 through 
2158) of individual long-playing discs encompassing the complete set of sonatas. 


Originally recorded in London between 1932 and 1935, the twelve volumes of sonatas were released by the Beethoven Society at 
intervals between 1932 and 1937. The first two volumes were made available as limited subscription editions; the remaining volumes 


as general releases on standard speed discs. 


Sonata No. 4, in E-Flat, Op. 7 (Recorded November 11, 1935) 


In composing their sonatas neither Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Haydn, nor Mozart, 
nor for that matter, Beethoven or Schubert, thought of creating works for a concert 
repertory. Beethoven, the virtuoso, played his concertos in his ‘“Academies”’ before 
a large gathering and excelled in his unique art of improvisation. He never played 
any one of his piano sonatas in public because, in those days, sonata as well as song 
literature was considered ‘home music.”’ No virtuosos would have taken the risk of 
offering Beethoven sonatas to a public eager for, and accustomed to, pianistic fire- 
works. Not the professional pianists but the gifted and well-trained amateurs were 
for a long time the most effective Beethoven heralds. He acknowledged this by dedi- 
cating numerous works to his active patrons and understanding dilettanti. 

Published in the fall of 1797, the sonata bears the dedication to Mademoiselle la 
Comtesse Babette de Keglevics, one of Beethoven’s piano students. He dedicated 
to her also the Variations on a Theme of Antonio Salieri as well as the First Piano 
Concerto and the Variations, Opus 34, after she became Princess Odescalchi. 

Comprising four movements, this sonata constitutes not only the most remarkable 
piano work Beethoven had composed thus far, but is also a milestone in his artistic 
development. It is the fruit of an epoch during which the desire to create made itself 
manifest in an overwhelming abundance of musical ideas. The basic character of 
the first movement is manly, firm and determined. The second movement—Largo, 
con gran espressione—was held in highest esteem by Beethoven’s contemporaries. 
Emanating solemn dignity and sublimity, it is devoid of passionate accents. There 
is in the concluding section a touch of peaceful resignation which is contrasted sharply 
by the third movement. Its three-sectional design corresponds with the scherzo 
pattern. But there is also a marked contrast between the scherzo and the agitated 
Trio in C minor. Here already speaks the Beethoven of the Pathétique. The final 
Rondo reverts to tranquillity and serenity. The gentle main idea sings itself spontane- 
ously into our hearts and we greet it fondly as often as it is restated. “Love without 
bonds dictated it to the heart,’’ commented Wilhelm von Lenz on this ingratiating 
melody, which even the troubled and passionate episode in the minor key is not 
able to conquer. 


Sonata No. 16, in G, Op. 31, No. 1 (Recorded November 5, 1935) 


- The publication of the sonatas, Opus 31, in 1803 caused Beethoven much anger and 
annoyance and often aroused his irascible temper. He had promised these pieces to 
the Swiss composer and author Hans Georg Niageli, who was running a serial 
“Repertoire des clavecinistes.” However, Beethoven’s brother Karl proposed to deal 


with a Leipzig publisher. There were heated conversations frequently about this 
business and one day when the matter was brought up again the quarreling brothers 
exchanged blows. On the following day the sonatas—namely Nos. 1 and 2—were 
dispatched to Switzerland. 

Going over the manuscripts, N ageli found some faults with the first movement of 
the G Major Sonata. He quickly decided to accord Beethoven the benefit of his own 
editorial vigilance and to correct the passage. Thus he inserted four measures into the 
conclusion of the first movement, which in his opinion lacked the proper balance. 

Having received the proofs, which were full of mistakes, Beethoven, needless to 
say, detected the ‘‘correction” and, his anger aroused, he had the sonatas sent to 
Simrock in Bonn right away for republication, advertised as “Edition tres correcte.”’ 
But soon new troubles were brewing. A Viennese publisher reprinted these sonatas 
as Opus 29, ignoring the fact that this was the opus number of the String Quintet 
in C which, published in Leipzig, had been in circulation since 1801. To make matters 
worse, a Viennese reprint of the true Opus 29 had led to a violent conflict between 
Beethoven and the publisher Artaria, who finally appealed to the police to restrain 
the ill-tempered composer. Under these vexing circumstances the appearance of the 
first two sonatas of Opus 31 under the ominous number 29 was hardly a cause for 
rejoicing for its author, and once more he must have felt the tragic gulf between the 
hard facts of life and the immaterial world his unbounded fantasy created. 

The G Major Sonata clings to the three-movement pattern used in the sonatas 
Opus 10, 13 and 14. The first Allegro vivace opens with a highly original feature: 
the short anticipation of the melody tone before the bass enters. This peculiarity is 
maintained throughout, especially in the passage preceding the recapitulation and 
in the concluding section. The main theme of the Adagio grazioso—the designation 
seems to be somewhat paradoxical—recalls one of Uriel’s arias from Haydn’s oratorio 
The Creation, which was then very popular in Vienna. However, the ‘“‘grazioso”’ 
mood is pushed aside in the dramatic middle section. The finale, a typical rondo, 
has in store for the listener many surprising effects and facets. The simple main 
theme is given astonishing turns particularly in the coda, which Beethoven, like his 
master Haydn, favored as a playground for his humor. 


Notes by JOSEPH BRAUNSTEIN 


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© by Radio Corporation of America, 1957 


LM-2156 Printed in U.S. A.