A series of lectures on one of the greatest bodies of music ever composed, from the point of view of a performer. Each lecture will explore a different facet of the music; all will attempt to locate the source of the tremendous psychological power of Beethoven’s music.
Our relationship to Beethoven is a deep and paradoxical one. For many musicians, he represents a kind of holy grail: His music has an intensity, rigor, and profundity which keep us in its thrall, and it is perhaps unequalled in the interpretive, technical, and even spiritual challenges it poses to performers. At the same time, Beethoven’s music is casually familiar to millions of people who do not attend concerts or consider themselves musically inclined. Two hundred years after his death, he is everywhere in the culture, yet still represents its summit.
This course takes an inside-out look at the 32 piano sonatas from the point of view of a performer. Each lecture will focus on one sonata and an aspect of Beethoven’s music exemplified by it. (These might include: the relationship between Beethoven the pianist and Beethoven the composer; the critical role improvisation plays in his highly structured music; his mixing of extremely refined music with rougher elements; and the often surprising ways in which the events of his life influenced his compositional process and the character of the music he was writing.) The course will feature some analysis and historical background, but its perspective is that of a player, not a musicologist. Its main aim is to explore and demystify the work of the performer, even while embracing the eternal mystery of Beethoven’s music itself.
Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas is scheduled to reopen in January 2015, with new material added in Spring 2015. Join the watchlist to be notified as soon as registration begins.
This season's Curtis courses are sponsored by Linda Richardson in loving memory of her husband, Dr. Paul Richardson.
There are no pre-requisites for this course. For those who would like to explore the subject from a different perspective, though, there are several terrific studies of Beethoven:
Of course, the best way to explore Beethoven’s piano sonatas is to listen to them. There are countless great recordings of these works; the complete cycles that I grew up with are those of Artur Schnabel (EMI) and Richard Goode (Nonesuch). They are products of two very different eras, and therefore they collectively form a document of the relationship great musicians have had with Beethoven over the past 100 years.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have written about Beethoven previously, on my website and as a Kindle Single. These writings are not specifically connected to the content of the course; they are more about my own personal relationship with Beethoven and his psychological effect on me, as a performer.
I am also in the midst of recording the sonatas; the three volumes already released are available from Onyx Classics.
Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment.
The Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation supports Curtis's lifelong learning initiatives.
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