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Beethoven: Piano Sonata Op. 109 11/5/18

November 5, 2018

I have been studying Beethoven’s piano sonata Op. 109. I have taught this piece, but I have never performed it. Op. 109 has been living in my heart for a long time, and I am glad to prepare for the performance, finally. As everyone knows it is a very special piece. The first movement is so concise. Beethoven is not chatty. He knows what he wants to say. The first theme, the second theme and the third material (arpeggios) – Exposition – are all in one page! But the transition between themes and materials are so organic. You would not feel it is so packed and hurried. It is almost like walking in a Japanese garden. The objects are placed so randomly, but in a beautiful harmony. Attacca to the second movement! Here you encounter with a sudden storm in the garden! But the storm does not stay too long. Then the third movement will carry you to the heaven. It is a theme and variations. At the beginning of the theme the left hand will climb up from the low E to B for one and a half octave. It is “stairs to the heaven” to me. The right hand sings a very tender song. Each variations portrays different parts of our lives, and the final variations (variation VI) starts with the original theme and move into massive trills. “Praise be to Lord!” The piece ends with the theme to conclude our journey. Sir Andras Schiff said in his lecture it is like J. S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. I totally agree with him. When you play the last note you are so comforted. I always remember Revelation from Bible when I play the third movement.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth;
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no more sea.

And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem
coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying,
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with all,
and he will dwell with them and they shall be his people;
and God himself shall be with them and be their God;
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes,
And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.”

Revelation 21: 1-4