Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas
“One of the most significant facts for the understanding of Beethoven is that his work shows an organic development up till the very end. The older Beethoven lived, the more and more profound was what he had to say. Such sustained development in the case of an artist who reaches years of maturity is a rare and important phenomenon.”
—J.W.N. Sullivan, Beethoven: His Spiritual Development
“Gregory Partain is a gifted pianist, and every item is intelligently and sympathetically played.” —BBC Music Magazine
Tuesday, May 5; 7:30
A fresh, compelling voice: Vienna conquered (1795)
Sonatas Op. 2, nos. 1, 2, 3
Thursday, May 7; 7:30
Early mastery: The virtuoso spreads his wings (1795-1798)
Sonatas Op. 7; Op. 10, nos. 1, 3
Friday, May 8; 7:30
Beethoven’s “New Way”: High drama, moonlight, and countryside (1798-1801)
Sonatas Op. 10, no. 2; Op. 13 (Pathétique); Op. 27, no. 2 (Moonlight); Op. 28 (Pastoral)
Tuesday, May 12; 7:30
Expanding horizons: Broken boundaries and novel sonorities (1802-1804)
Sonatas Op. 31, no. 2 (Tempest); Op. 31, no. 3; Op. 53 (Waldstein)
Wednesday, May 13; 7:30
Uncharted territory: “Beethoven–Hero” (1804-1814)
Sonatas Op. 57 (Appassionata); Op. 78; Op. 81a (Les adieux); Op. 90
Wednesday, May 20; 7:30
The final phase: Romantic yearning and epic struggle (1816-1818)
Opus 90; Op. 106 Hammerklavier ( iii Adagio sostenuto ); Opus 101
Thursday, May 21; 7:30
Apotheosis: Revelations, strange landscapes, and a last ascension (1821-1822)
Sonatas Op. 109; Op. 110; Op. 111
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote 32 piano sonatas over the course of his adult life–the first when he was 25, the last at age 52, just five years before his death. Sometimes called the “New Testament” of the piano repertoire, collectively they represent one of the most significant achievements in the history of western music. Spanning nearly three decades, these masterworks chart the artistic and spiritual evolution of a man some see as the greatest composer of all time.
Although we remember Beethoven chiefly for his compositions, he earned early fame as an electrifying and unorthodox pianist. Upon arriving in Vienna, it was the young virtuoso’s eloquence at the piano that most impressed the musical king-makers of his adopted home. For the rest of his career, the piano remained his favorite vehicle for self-expression, and the piano sonata became his compositional laboratory as he challenged the limitations of the genre and stretched the boundaries of music itself. After two centuries, the brilliant sonatas of Beethoven’s early years continue to delight, his “heroic” works still stun and inspire, and his profound final statements offer rich rewards through their depth and transcendent mysticism.
The 22 sonatas chosen for this seven-recital series include those traditionally deemed the most satisfying and most historically significant. Hearing them performed chronologically allows listeners the unique experience of following Beethoven’s creative thought process as it unfolds through an illuminating, powerfully moving odyssey.
Gregory Partain, pianist
In his twenty-eight years on the concert stage, Camas, Washington native Gregory Partain has performed as piano recitalist, concerto soloist, and chamber music collaborator throughout the United States, as well as in Germany, Poland, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Russia, and Greece. He has garnered consistent critical acclaim in the U.S. and abroad for his live and CD recordings of a wide-ranging repertoire: “…some of the best Scarlatti I’ve ever heard…these approach the same level as Horowitz’s legendary recordings” (American Record Guide); “Gregory Partain is a gifted pianist, and every item is intelligently and sympathetically played” (BBC Music Magazine); “…brilliant clarity, crisp articulation, and a magnificent sense of pacing” (All Music Guide); “He is a sterling-silver player. He doesn’t glitter; he gleams. Suffice it to say that the thrill in the audience was very real” (Lexington Herald-Leader).
Also a serious composer, Partain has focused in recent years on compositions for voice that explore spiritual themes. Major works include Requiem (a large-scale concert piece for chorus and orchestra) and Stabat mater dolorosa for a cappella chorus–both with traditional Latin texts–and “Come to the Garden in Spring,” a song cycle for soprano and piano based on spiritual love poems of Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th-century Islamic mystic.
Partain received his Bachelors degree in Piano Performance from the University of Washington and Masters and Doctoral degrees from The University of Texas at Austin as a Javits Fellowship recipient. Since 1991 he has taught at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, where he holds a Bingham Award for Excellence in Teaching.