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Rzewski plays Beethoven - Hammerklavier Sonata Audio + Sheet music

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Published on Aug 30, 2011

Contemporary composer and virtuoso pianist Frederic Rzewski performs Ludwig van Beethoven's well-known Hammerklavier Sonata, live in Switzerland, 1991.

1st mvt: 0:05
Cadenza: 13:21

2nd mvt: 20:05
Cadenza: 22:16

3rd mvt: 26:22
Cadenza: 41:00

4th mvt: 46:00
Cadenza: 59:23

Some explanation is, I believe, needed to this performance.


Excerpts from an article on Rzewski:

"No question, Mr. Rzewski likes to keep listeners guessing. When he plays other people's music, he can raise hackles by improvising cadenzas in the middle of such untouchable masterworks as Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" and "Appassionata" Sonatas.

"I do it because I think it's authentic," he said. "It's what I think Beethoven would have done. A few years ago, after a concert at Bard College, a musicologist came up to me and told me very sternly that you could do that at parties but not at a concert. Usually people don't hire you at all if they think you're going to go in for such shenanigans.

"And maybe they're right. My Japanese friend Yuji Takahashi, the pianist and composer, says: 'It's redundant. All the irrational stuff is already there, in Beethoven's writing.' I do whatever I think is right at the moment. One thing is for sure: You shouldn't prepare it. Improvisations have to pop into your head then and there, or there's no reason for them.""


Let me quote a rather famous and even in this case quite valid and sagacious speech by Leonard Bernstein, originally on his collaboration with Glenn Gould:

"You are about to hear a rather, shall we say, unorthodox performance of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a performance distinctly different from any I've ever heard, or even dreamt of for that matter, in its remarkably broad tempi and its frequent departures from Brahms' dynamic indications. I cannot say I am in total agreement with Mr. Gould's conception and this raises the interesting question: "What am I conducting it?" (...) Because I am fascinated, glad to have the chance for a new look at this much-played work; Because, what's more, there are moments in Mr. Gould's performance that emerge with astonishing freshness and conviction. Thirdly, because we can all learn something from this extraordinary artist, who is a thinking performer, and finally because there is in music what Dimitri Mitropoulos used to call "the sportive element", that factor of curiosity, adventure, experiment, and I can assure you that it has been an adventure this week collaborating with Mr. Gould on this Brahms concerto and it's in this spirit of adventure that we now present it to you."

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