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Sep 28, 2008

Rafał Blechacz's notes on CD "sonatas-haydn, mozart, beethoven"

From the CD of Rafał Blechacz "sonatas-haydn, mozart, beethoven",  the notes written by Rafał Blechacz of his thoughts on these three composers. 
The original Polish notes were already made available by some Polish media reports. 

A few words about this programme
Rafał Blechcz

In coupling Haydn's late piano sonata in E flat major with Beethoven's second sonata, I wanted to focus the listener's attention on the connections between these two composers and the strong impact of Haydn's music on his younger colleague's early works. 
Haydn's style was for Beethoven both a model and point of reference from which to search for and develop his own, individual voice. 
In their keyboard compositions, both composers came to draw extensively on their experience in writing in other instrumental genres. 
Looking closely at the E flat major Sonata, its texture, treatment and voice leading through the various keyboard registers, I am aware of the presence of symphonic and string-quartet thinking. 
And similar processes can be also found when analyzing Haydn's other sonatas. 

I've always enjoyed imagining the timbre of various other instruments when I play certain passages in Classical sonatas. 
While working on Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven, I've often attempted mentally to "orchestrate" the work, or part of it, whenever I had doubts as to articulation, pedalling or timbre. 
After performing this "instrumentation in the mind", those doubts about interpretation would disappear. 
I knew that certain octaves had to be played secco, other passages like a cello - with a full, warm sonority (like the middle section of the E flat major Sonata's Adagio) - yet another phrase would be an imitation of the clarinet, and some sounds in the lower voices clearly evoked a bassoon.
The third movement of the Haydn sonata is very orchestral in nature.
Listening to it, I can easily imagine the sound of a tutti, as well as of smaller groups of instruments (wind or string).

I associate fast runs, such as in the first movement of the E flat major Sonata, with typical string figurations where every individual semiquaver (16th-note) or even demisemiquaver (32nd-note) is important and must be audible. 
The loss of even one of these notes would upset the whole structure - like a string of pearls, which makes an enormous impression on us because each element, each pearl, is perfect in itself, noticeable individually, but also fashions a harmonious whole together with the others. 
Thinking about such phrases in terms of "pearly" runs is a means of avoiding a mechanical, purely technical, etude-like treatment of fast figuration.

There is, of course, a whole range of different moods to be found in this sonata - from one of triumph (conveyed by numerous sforzati and considerable dynamic contrasts) to the humour and wit in the finale and in the second theme of the first movement. 
Haydn's "London" Symphonies, written around the same time, share in this spirit, as does most of the other music he composed during his time in England.

The same qualities can be heard in Beethoven's A major Sonata, dedicated to Haydn and composed almost simultaneously with the latter's Sonata in E flat and Beethoven's brief period of study with Haydn. 
The beginning of the first movement, particularly bars 9-20, as well as bars 166-85 to me suggest a string quartet. 
When the opening motif is repeated forte (bar 20), there is no doubt in my mind that this is a full orchestral tutti. 
Typical pianistic elements are obviously also present in this work, and its emotional, expressive character foreshadows the mature, rebellious, heroic Beethoven (as in the middle, staccato section of the rondo and the recapitulation in the stormy first movement with its numerous harmonic changes). 

Mozart's Sonata in D major, K. 311, showcases his always original, indeed unique, pianistic style, with its distinct references to his operatic and symphonic music. 
The use of achingly beautiful vocal themes in the second movement is exceptionally moving and calming, and clearly shows that opera was Mozart's greatest love. 
I feel that the middle movement is often the "heart" of a work. 
It is the place where the composer, as well as the performer, takes the opportunity to reveal in sound everything lurking in the deepest reaches of his soul. 
He is free to articulate everything while still leaving it nameless. 

Does this mean that we are dealing here with Romantic works? 
I don't think so, yet it would be wrong to suppose that Classical composers felt a different kind of joy, sadness, hope or despair than the Romantics. 
The fundamental nature of emotion is always the same; only its expression changes. 
When playing works from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic or even impressionist repertoire, I often feel that these composers always comvey the same substance, feeling and emotions, even though the style and approach of each is unique. (Written by Rafał Blechacz)

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