This begins with a simple melody. One quickly realizes: this is not the “familiar” Beethoven. This is not the unkempt, snarling titan railing against the universe. This is a kinder, gentler music, often deceptively simple and lovely on the surface. Much of it is pervaded by profound tranquility and sometimes an indefinable pathos. These pieces were written around the time of the colossal Ninth Symphony; but here, Beethoven is withdrawing into a delicate, private universe. That is not to say that the music is not as profound as his other works – the “Hammerklavier” Sonata is one of the greatest, most expressive, and most complex pieces in the piano repertoire (and it has one of the longest single movements) – but the depth is often hidden under a layer of almost minimalist “less is more” elegance. I don’t know what listeners of the time would have thought of this music, but with two-hundred years of hindsight we can listen to it (and to Mr. Goode’s beautiful interpretations) for either or both of its layers, the simple and the sublime. And of course there is a mystery: these sonatas would have sounded quite different on the fortepiano, the “hammerklavier” available in Beethoven’s time. I would like to hear a recording of these pieces played on that instrument as well.
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