On Tuesday 13 October at 1pm I’m giving a lecture-recital about Beethoven’s opus 109 piano sonata at the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh, on the edge of Edinburgh.
Preparing for this event has taken an embarrassingly long time. Practising the sonata itself is one thing, but talking about it is another. Furthermore, talking about it, followed by performing it from memory, is a daunting combination of things. A neurologist once told me it’s hard to switch instantly from left-brain (speech and language) to right-brain (creativity, music etc) activities.
The music of Beethoven’s ‘late period’ is famously impossible to put into words, because in this period of profound deafness he found a ‘soundworld’, a world of the imagination and an exploration of the spirit which went beyond anything he’d written when he could still hear people playing their instruments, or even hear himself playing the piano. As a listener you can feel what it means, but it’s very hard to analyse the effect of his late music. Nevertheless, there are ways of talking about these works; one can discuss some of the ideas and challenges they present to the pianist, as well as exploring some of the influences on Beethoven (for example, the music of Bach) when he composed the work.
Ultimately the music will have to speak for itself, for as Mendelssohn wisely said,“The thoughts which are expressed to me by music that I love are not too vague to be put into words, but on the contrary, too precise.”
Come along on Tuesday lunchtime if you can!