Saturday, December 23, 2006

Magnatune, Händel and playing Beethoven

I'm listening to music on Magnatune, an online music store that lets you listen to the music (all of it) before you buy and offers non-CRAP formats.

They've added opera. I'm not a big fan of opera, but it turns out to be composed by Händel. Who I'm also not a big fan of, but supposedly he was good at the opera stuff. So I'm giving it a try. Frankly it sounds great!

On a related note, I'm practising a sonata by Beethoven for the time being. A small and delightful one, opus 78 according to the scores. It's not the first one. I've previously played and enjoyed the Moonlight and the Waldstein sonatas.

The third and probably less known movement of the Moonlight sonata is an aggressive contrast to the tranquility of the first movement (the one with the moonlight) and the joyous mood of the second movement. Fun albeit not easy to play. Plus it's a bit loud; a problem with three neighbours in close vicinity.

The Waldstein sonata is very long. I don't think I would have the stamina to play it in its entirety in front of an audience. It's great, though. I only started rehearsing it because I fell in love with a recording of the piece by Wilhelm Kempff (from Deutche Grammophon if I recall corretly). Mmmm. The sound quality is obviously not great, but the interpretation and the excellence of control...

What I like about Beethoven's piano music and symphonies is the tremendous passion.

Chopin's music has the same quality in his preludes and nocturnes, but it's mostly about melancholy. Less anger, less joy. I think my next piece to study will be either the last or second to last sonata by Beethoven. I have great recordings of these by Alfred Brendel. I feel fortunate to be able to listen to such an artist, by a mere poke of my finger, as often as I like. Great times we live in.

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