“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Waldstein Sonata: Where do the Little Notes Go?

Beethoven in 1803
     A student writes complaining of difficulty executing leaping appoggiaturas in the Waldstein Sonata (1803-04), measures 271-273 in the first movement. Remember, I said, the small notes, nuisance as they can sometimes be, become much less so when given a place in time. This concept goes for all ornaments indicated by symbols.

     Here is the passage as printed:

Waldstein Sonata, mm 271-273 as printed.
Click on image to enlarge.

Notice that the small notes are in fact printed as appoggiaturas, not
Count Ferdinand Waldstein
grace notes. So, the conscientious performer would logically ask, should it follow the rule and be placed on the beat? Try it. This creates a small but unruly bump in the forward momentum. Now look at the suspension in the right hand. The appoggiatura is indeed the bass note of the chord to which the suspension resolves, albeit delayed by one note. 
    What to do? Go with the momentum. In speed, the appoggiatura will not register as a beat anyway, so it becomes a de facto grace note to which is given a place in time. If we remember our theory, this is a so-called faux bourdon progression. Here's how most pianists play this passage:

Waldstein Sonata, mm 271-273 as played.
Click on image to enlarge.

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