What do you do if you have written a Sonata as brilliant as the Appassionata?
Well, even if you’re Beethoven, you take a beat. You wait.
“So Beethoven knew, exactly, that he had written his greatest piano sonata until now,” says beknighted pianist, classical musical scholar, and conductor, András Schiff, in an eight part lecture + play series with The Guardian. “There is a gap of four years before he dares to write another one. He had also had also had other difficulties, personal difficulties and health-wise, really, his deafness is an ever-increasing problem.”
“And yet, after four years, in 1809, he comes up with the most wonderful and very different sonata – the Sonata in F# Major, Opus 78 – dedicated for the Countess Thérèse von Brunswick. There had been many speculations whether she was the ‘Immortal Beloved,’ or it could have been somebody else.”
“But,” Schiff continues, “it’s evident in this piece that this is like a declaration of love, it’s his most lyrical sonata. It couldn’t be more different from the one you’ve just heard (the Appassionata) It’s difficult to imagine that two such different sonatas could come from the same pen.”
This F# Major Sonata isn’t flashy, Schiff explains, yet Beethoven loved it. The outspoken composer was irritated that audiences seemed to prefer the C# Minor (incorrectly labelled the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata, Schiff notes) to the F#. “Beethoven said people rave about my C# Minor Sonata, but the F# Major is much greater.”
“I think this is one of the most beautiful melodies of Beethoven,” Schiff proclaims as he walks listeners through the Sonata’s different sections. “I can fully understand why he felt so close to this Sonata.”
You can hear the much-medalled, world-touring Schiff play this Sonata ‘à Thérèse’ – “full of joy, full of tenderness” – through the Vancouver Recital Society at the Vancouver Playhouse on March 24th. It’s an all-Beethoven feast of Sonatas from #24 through #28 in A Major.
Sir Schiff, who is also known for his Bach, will be performing the Goldberg Variations, The Italian Concerto and Overture in French Style in B Minor two days earlier at The Chan Centre.
Written by Elizabeth Newton
Header: Portrait of Ludwig von Beethoven composing Missa Solemnis. Joseph Karl Stieler. 1820
András Schiff Photo: Nadia F. Romanini