Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Timo Andres performs Beethoven, does WQXR interview from pad in Bed-Stuy (videos); more on the "loud ending" (v. "soft") debate

I discovered a couple more interesting video interviews of Brooklyn-based composer-pianist Timo Andres.  The most interesting was filmed in his “Bed-Stuy” apartment, an episode of “Q2 Spaces” (“Interviews with artists in their space”) by WQXR.

The Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn was the backdrop for the film “Naz and Maalik”, which I reviewed Aug. 30 on my movies blog.  I think I spotted his street in the movie.

An older interview is here.   Note that when he pronounces his name, the vowels are shortened, rather than pronounced as they would be in Europe.

But most interesting is two videos of Andres performing Beethoven piano sonatas, at the WQXR Green Space in New York City. 

The first one is the curious, 2-movement Piano Sonata #24 in F#,Op. 78.  This Sonata has double repeats in the first movement (even the development and recapitulation is repeated), and Andres takes both.  The key of F# would later fascinate Alexander Scriabin.

The other performance is the Piano Sonata #21 in C, Op. 53, the “Waldstein”.  The first movement offers a second subject in the unusual key of E Major (mediant). The slow movement, in F, is “just” and introduction to the Rondo Finale in C.  At the very end, Andres follows the dynamics markings literally, reducing the volume on the final two chords from “FF” to just “F”. I understand that is a function of the descent in the top line (on an older instrument), but I don’t think it’s effective on a modern piano. (Likewise, I don’t like to see some conductors dimuendo on the last octave of the Schubert Great C Major, or even the first movement of the Unfinished). Otherwise, Andres’s performance is rather straightforward and classic.

This would be a good place to mention the curious Piano Sonata #22 in F, Op. 54, in two movements, opening with a curious Minuet.  (What other piano sonata does this?)

A very early version of a chapter intended for my first “Do Ask. Do Tell” book, a text passage dating back to Oct. 1995, had said this about the opening of that Sonata:

“The music of Beethoven, more that of any other composer, tells us "how it is" (rather than how it “ought to be.”) The moral paradoxes of life seem to be arranged like DNA strands, in strettos and off-beat cadences.  One middle-period work that strikes me particularly is the 22nd Piano Sonata, in F Major - the most pastoral and unassuming of all keys.  This 2-movement sonata begins with, of all things, a Minuet!

“It is the simple theme in drop-rolls, constrained by the stately, courtly 3/4 rhythm, with keeps the progression of song under wraps. Ever so gradually, the theme, asking “Mother, May I?”  reaches for higher top notes, and finally earns its right to expand into triplets, still tied to the underlying, steady triple meter.  In the finale, the same motives are let loose in virtuoso arpeggia, except that they seem constrained by the same structures.
“So, Beethoven imagines world order within the constraints of his own encroaching deafness.  In the simplest terms, the structures of courtship, and marriage, and then a new freedom.  This is the paradigm of "family values," so succinctly stated in "absolute" music.”

Update: Sept. 3

As a result of a twitter conversation, discovered this blog post by Timo where he says most loud endings of modern compositions are ineffective.  Most of his pieces end quietly (notable exception, "Flirtation Avenue" in "Shy and Mighty" and the "Home Stretch" concerto (as I remember).   But then there is even a theory that Bruckner would have ended the "ultimate finale" of his Ninth Symphony quietly, following the example of the first movement of the Eighth, link here.  For the Eighth (Oct. 25, 2014), one could argue that the quiet first movement ending simply allows the Wagnerian triumph at the end of the "Apocalyptic" Finale to seem more conclusive (true of my own Sonata 3).  Actually, the same dilemma is true with Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", where a recent Bolshoi performance picks the soft ending, where as a UNC orchestra performance makes such a case for empty triumph instead (as in the movie "Black Swan").

See post July 29 for posting about the way (soloist) performance depends on the piano itself. 

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