Beethoven in my Life
For me, Beethoven is the composer who most fully represents all aspects of human life in his music. I think in that way Bach and Beethoven have a lot in common. But Beethoven is more colorful, as witty as he is dramatic, and as bawdy as he is godly. Beethoven, even more than Bach, takes detours and takes time, analyses himself, the people and circumstances around him, and reaches for the heavens as much as he partakes in the good and the bad of existence. It could be said that Beethoven relishes the human condition, as much as he seeks to commune with higher powers. And there is an unabashed sexuality to Beethoven’s music that, unlike that of Mozart’s, is not coy, and is not hidden behind fans, lace and powdered wigs. Sex is woven into his music as a life force, but so is humanity’s drive to overcome its own animalistic urges.
Beethoven has permeated my life as a musician from my very first years studying piano, more deeply than even the music of Bach. Not only did I study Beethoven’s music (sonatinas and bagatelles first, then sonatas and concertos) from the moment I could read music and without interruption since, but I connected with the story of his life, which seemed so vivid, in a way no other composer, as I could tell, was. It helped that his personal story was well known, that his portraits really gave a good idea of what he looked like, and that his music was plentiful and so evocative. It was easy for me to imagine stories for each of his pieces. My love of Beethoven led me to launch my career with his music, performing two of his sonatas for my first public recital in Paris when I was ten.
I have performed more than half of his 32 Sonatas for Piano, his Diabelli and Eroica Variations, and most of his great chamber music for piano and strings. I have performed his 4th and 5th Piano Concertos many times and know his other three well. I have performed his Triple Concerto. I have dedicated many beautiful hours of my life listening, live and in recordings, to his string quartets and symphonies, to his opera and ballet, to his masses, to his lieder, and to all the other great and even insignificant pieces he wrote. I even had the honor of performing a world premiere of a piano trio that resurfaced nearly ten years ago (a recording of which is available here).
Besides the above mentioned recording, and despite my lifelong passion and frequent performance of Beethoven’s music, I have not yet launched any recording projects of his solo piano music, but that is about to change. Interestingly, it is through my Bach Well-Tempered Clavier Project that this is made possible. Beethoven was an ardent “believer” in Bach and spent his childhood studying the Well-Tempered Clavier, which had a tremendous influence on his writing. For me, it is as if, without first digging deeper into Bach, I could not find the clarity of thinking I was looking for in order to address Beethoven the way I knew I wanted. Spending so much time with Bach recently has somehow unlocked a magic door into Beethoven’s world that, as I crack it open, is revealing sounds and rhythms I had not noticed before. I therefore look forward to working on and recording Beethoven’s Sonatas while I continue to explore Bach.
More to come.