Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Local stations present a new piano prodigy; did Beethoven evolve from Haydn, Mozart, or neither?

Today, NBC Washington ran a story on a seven year-old prodigy pianist, Adrian Romoff.  USA Today has a similar story (by Douglas Stanglin) with excerpts from a recital in Atlanta, link here.  The white “Schumann”  piano made for an interesting sight.

NBC showed him playing some of the first movement from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #20 in G, Op. 49, #2.  Not to steal any tropic thunder, this is the second of the “two easy Sonatas”.  But I learned and played #1 (in G Minor) during my high school years.   The #2 Sonata has a second movement that is a minuet.  Romoff said that the work sounded like Mozart, but to me it sounds more like Haydn.
I could go on about this. There is nothing like late Mozart. The end of “Don Giovanni” is chilling, if pre-romantic, but it creates terror in a way never since replicated. The world of Mozart's last string quartets is bizarre, but it doesn’t predict Beethoven.  To my ear, however, the early Beethoven quartets do resembled late Haydn.  Is this an accepted view?

Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #22, Op. 54, in the pastoral key of F Major is weird in that it starts with a Minuet, with a self-halting theme that seems to play “Mother May I” and look for permission to explore its slowly expanding world.

But another two-movement work, #24, Op. 78, is in the rich-dessert key of F# Major, and has always struck me as a more fortunate companion to #22.

Picture: that's me, probably in early 1944 (estate picture)

Update: Jan. 30

"Ellen" had Adrian on her show, with a nice conversation about enthusiasm for music. Adrian played the Exposition of the first movement of Sonata 20.  It would have been nice if the show had given him the time to play the entire movement (without the repeat).  (This is p. 380 of Schirmer's Vol. 2 Beethoven Sonatas.)

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