A very interesting programme of Beethoven’s last two Sonatas:op 110 and op 111 in the last of a series of three concerts dedicated to the composer in his 250th anniversary year.The concert was presented by Rome University in collaboration with the German Embassy.It was fitting that the young Italian pianist Filippo Gorini should be invited to play both Sonatas as he had won the Beethoven Competition in Bonn at the age of 20 and has since been taken under the wing of Alfred Brendel.His first two CD’s of Beethoven op 106 (Hammerklavier) op 111 and the Diabelli Variations have been rapturously received by the critics.
Still in his early twenties he has been preparing , during the long lockdown, the Art of Fugue ,one of Bach’s infinitely complex works that even the composer left unfinished…infact it dissolves into the infinite after 14 fugues and 4 canons………a riddle that is still left unsolved to this day.
Filippo Gorini is very serious young musician with something important to say with a transcendental technique and an intellect way beyond his 24 years.I enclose two articles about recent performances one of which was the op 111 that was on the programme today with it’s twin op 110.
It was in 1983 that I managed to persuade my friend and teacher Guido Agosti to give a lecture recital on op 110 and 111.He too prefaced his masterly performances with an introduction much as Professor Rostagno did today.
The recording of op 110 from the Teatro Ghione is one of the very few recordings by this leggendary figure who had been befriended in his youth by Busoni.Far too reserved to have a major public career the world used to flock to his studio in Siena each summer to be informed,enlightened and invigorated by his playing and total dedication to music.For him music was the Bible – Beethoven his God.
An unexpected on line concert without an audience due to the restrictions reintroduced for public performances in Italy.Some interesting references to Adorno,Bekker,Rosen and Mann in Professor Rostagno’s brief but informed introductions as he attempted to explain what he thought was the message that lay in these two works.The catastrophy and return to life of op 110.The coming to terms with contrasts in life and the acquisition of simplicity in op.111.
Agosti had attempted something similar too.Interesting concepts and mercifully short as the true answer lies in the music itself .Music takes over where words are just not enough and nothing could be clearer than the music in the hands of a true musician of the calbre of Filippo Gorini.
Op 110 was full of subtle detail almost orchestral in conception and for that was full of beauty without any sentimentality.The opening more like a string quartet than a melody and accompaniment.The trill beautifully prolonged as it dissoved into the sublime simplicity of Beethoven’s melodic line.Sustained by the left hand that gave great weight and an inner strength to this seemingly simple opening statement.The fleeting passage work up and down the keyboard was played with a clarity and lightness as Beethoven himself has indicated.The half bowed left hand chords again just added depth and weight without for a moment allowing any heavyness in the etherial right hand figurations.There was a controlled passion in the robust syncopated passage that follows dissolving to a whisper as the meanderings of the development gradually enter.The precise crescendo and diminuendo markings of Beethoven unobtrusively realised in the left hand as the opening theme appears in many different guises above. The contrasting vigour of the Allegro molto second movement with its bursts of syncopated energy dissolved so magically as it prepared the scene for the very heart of the Sonata : Adagio ma non troppo and above all the miraculous arioso dolente.
There was no break between the movements and Beethovens pedal indications in the recitativo were beautifully translated into magic sounds The vibrations of the ‘bebung’- repeated notes- created exactly the atmosphere in which Beethoven could float miraculously one of his most beautiful melodies.Again following the very precise pedal indications of the composer the fugue that follows seemed to grow out of the arioso so naturally.A mellifluous fugue with a forward movement that swept us along on a continuous wave breaking only momentarily the pastoral feel with the entry of the great bass octaves.The arioso seemed to reappear like a wondrous vision even more tender than before.The inversion of the fugue slipping in almost unnoticed as it gradually became more alive. Transformed into passionate declamations and a glorious outpouring of sounds-a true reaffirmation of life to quote Charles Rosen.
I have written about op 111 this summer at the Ravenna Festival and it was played with the same gripping rhythmic energy.It alternated with moments of reflection before dissolving into the major key for the Arietta. Played simply in three so that the variations that follow,grow naturally out of the previous one.Plunging into the third tumultuous variation in 12/32 time that in turn dissolves leaving the fragmented theme searching for it’s way forward.The absolute clarity of Filippo’s playing here was quite remarkable with a control and maturity way beyond his years.The leggiermente, un poco legato writes Schnabel, was perfectly judged leading gradually to it’s climax via even more fragmented trills and a question and answer between the hands.Gradually the way forward is found with a simple passionate outpouring of the theme that ascends into the stratosphere amongst magic trills sustained by a barely whispered left hand.A final disintigration of the falling interval of the theme leads to the gentle whispered farewell in the major key.Peace at last .Simple and lasting.This was Beethovens last word on the Sonata.