Andras Schiff’s masterclasses on Beethoven’s piano sonatas, downloadable for all courtesy of the Guardian. He plays the “Moonlight” sonata about twice as fast as it is normally played, and I like it much better that way. In explaining to the audience who Ludwig Rellstab (the poet who imaginatively gave the sonata that moniker) is, he plays one of the songs from Schwanengesang, and even begins singing shakily, to much amusement.
Just listened to the “Tempest” masterclass as well. One thing I learnt that I didn’t know: at the end of the exposition of the first movement, before the first repeat, Beethoven quotes Bach’s St. John’s Passion. And Schiff claims he quotes it in Op. 101 as well.
One point that Schiff made which I thought was very true: Beethoven’s last movements are always the strongest in the piece, whereas Brahms’, Schumann’s and Schubert’s tend to be the weakest. I haven’t heard much Brahms and Schumann but I have definitely noticed it for Schubert. I have gotten into the habit of skipping his last movements altogether. I love the D960 B flat sonata and think the first three movements are probably amongst the greatest piano music ever written, but I loathe, loathe the last movement, and never understood how it could be used to end such an epic work. Same goes for the D784 A minor sonata. Schiff phrased it like “but when it comes to the last movement they fall down”, and kept apologising for criticising these composers in a most amusing tone of voice.
Another amusing point near the end when he said that the ending of the Tempest sonata deserved a moment of silence because of its sheer emotional effect. Then he complained about those concert-goers who like to show that they know the piece and know exactly when it ends by clapping immediately after the last note, when the performer would prefer to sit in silence a while. He proceeded to give a demonstration of the phenomenon, which had the audience rolling in laughter. I, of course, feel quite the same about those people. Admittedly, there have been times when I have been underwhelmed by the ending of a performance and felt the period of silence to be uncomfortably long, but if the performers are not budging, it means that they are not inviting applause yet, and it is only appropriate to respect their wishes.
Apparently Schiff prefers to bring his own piano for the “Waldstein” sonata, so that he can play that glissando in the last movement that cannot be played as a glissando on modern pianos.