What is the meaning of number 23

BR CLASSIC

Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 23, Op. 57 "Appassionata" "

01/19/2021 by Julika Jahnke

Beethoven's famous piano sonata "Appassionata" in F minor is not only very popular in general: true Beethoven connoisseurs also love and fear it. You will find out why from the pianist Michael Korstick. Julika Jahnke spoke to him.

Image source: Wikimedia

The broadcast to listen to

Vienna, in 1804. Beethoven is working on his opera "Leonore", which will later be called "Fidelio". But his sketchbooks show that he is also fascinated by a piano sonata. Today this Opus 57 is known under the name "Appassionata". It is one of his most popular. Beethoven probably completed it two years later, in 1806, in the Hungarian Martonvasar Castle. And dedicated it to the young lord of the castle there, Count Franz von Brunsvik. Perhaps this stay has inspired the passionate gesture of the work. "He really wanted to create a storm in the piece," explains pianist Michael Korstick. "Which of course does not mean that you let yourself go. So the fascinating thing about it is the tension between throwing yourself away and keeping control on the other side. And if this tension is right, it is transmitted very directly to the listener. "

Classical sonata movement at the beginning

For the pianist, the tricky task here is to skillfully curb his emotions on the piano. This is already evident in the first movement, the challenges of which Michael Korstick explains as follows: "Despite the fact that it sounds like a great romantic character piece, it is a sonata movement in the classical structure. On the one hand, you have to achieve the greatest emotional tension and on the other hand, make the structure completely clear by always keeping the tempo in your hand. "

Unbridled temper

Count Franz von Brunsvik, dedicatee of the "Appassionata" | Source: picture-alliance / akg "Passionate-gloomy", the sonata often received this title in the concert guides. One can argue about that. But not about the irrepressible temperament it exudes. And spirited? Beethoven definitely something. Prince Lichnowsky asked the composer to make music in the front of French officers. In September 1806, before the Battle of Jena. Beethoven was outraged and fled with the freshly completed manuscript of the "Appassionata" in his luggage. A downpour soaked him on the way, and the manuscript also got wet. Back in Vienna he gave the battered manuscript to the pianist Marie Bigot, who loved to play from it.

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Random naming

In this way the passion itself is already in the story of the sonata. But the name "Appassionata" fits exactly musically for Michael Korstick: "It may well be that Beethoven would not have thought of it at all, and the title did not come about until after Beethoven's death. Interestingly, it was a four-hand arrangement of the sonata, which was published in Hamburg. And the publisher was looking for a suitable title to boost sales. And that's where he really struck gold. "

Lyrically entranced chime

Sudden change of scene: From the stormy waves of the first movement into the lyrical, enraptured chimes of "Andante". A simple chorale-like theme is varied four times. In spite of these variations, the movement appears to be all of a piece. "In the 'Appassionata' in particular, it goes far beyond the normal variation," says Michael Korstick. "He foresees a bit of the romantic character variation. Well, I find that fascinating."

A compositionally constructive world meets emotional chaos.

Destructive finale

Michael Korstick | Source: Marion Koell / PR What makes the sonata so exciting for Michael Korstick is that on the one hand it has a very clear message that everyone understands. On the other hand, the musical happening has permanent surprises in store. Especially the third movement, the finale: "A compositionally constructive world meets emotional chaos. Nothing follows the rules here. A very interesting detail about the whole sonata is that not a single phrase is completed in the school style. Either an unauthorized harmonic shift happens . Or the phrase tears off or it is interrupted by brutal accents. It has a character of permanently destructive somewhere. And I think that it carries over very well to the listener, because you can feel it. You have an expectation and you are torn out of this expectation every eight bars. By an electric spark. "

Hell for the pianist

When Beethoven wrote the "Appassionata", he was at the peak of his compositional skills. That is why the sonata is "hell to play", as Michael Korstick puts it. "He literally pulled out all the stops technically. And of course that makes things incredibly difficult, that is very clear. Because the sonata is not so much conceived from the piano, but is conceived almost orchestral in the sound massing. And that means that . " you have to go to the limits on many points in order to realize that. That is exactly where the difficulties lie. "

Music info

Ludwig van Beethoven:
Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, op. 57 "Appassionata"


Michael Korstick (piano)
Label: Oehms Classics

Broadcast:"The strong piece" on January 19, 2020, 7:05 p.m. on BR-KLASSIK