Ludwig van Beethoven: The Piano Sonatas; History, Notation, Interpretation

PDF Ludwig van Beethoven: The Piano Sonatas; History, Notation, Interpretation November 30, 2021

Author in the category "Miscellaneous"
  1. Gerald R. Mettam
  2. Jan Marisse Huizing
Ludwig van Beethoven

A comprehensive and immersive survey of thirty-five Beethoven piano sonatas

“Beethoven piano sonatas accompany every pianist, amateur or professional for his or her entire life and constitute one of the most miraculous constants of the human civilization. To help us around the exciting journey through those masterpieces Jan Marisse Huizing combines his expertise, knowledge, and above all his unconditional love for this music.”— Alexander Melnikov, pianist

Beethoven’s piano sonatas are among the iconic cornerstones of the classical music repertoire. Jan Marisse Huizing offers an in-depth study of the sonatas using available autographs, first editions, recordings, and nearly three hundred musical examples.

Digging into the historical background and historical performance practice, the book provides illuminating detail on Beethoven’s pianism as well as his characteristics of notation, form and content, “types of touch,” articulation, beaming, pedal indications, character, rubato, meter, metric constructions, tempo, and metronome marks.

Packed with anecdotes, quotations, and considerable new information, the book will inspire all involved with these masterworks, playing a fortepiano or modern Grand, giving the sense of the composer sitting beside them as he translates his inspiration and ideas into his notation.


WHILE MANY STUDIES OF Beethoven’s piano sonatas, for example those of Schenker, Tovey, Uhde, Rosen, and many others, concentrate specifically on analytical aspects such as form and harmony, this book has its origins in the need to highlight a number of other, no less important themes.

Questions like the correlation of the musical content and form, knowledge of historical performance practice, and the choice of instrument contribute just as significantly to the insight we can gain into Beethoven’s piano sonatas.

In addition, for a well-considered interpretation, attention must be paid to the manner in which Beethoven expressed his musical objectives, to his own specific sound-image, his pianism, and the way in which he expressed his intentions in the notation. The significance of Beethoven’s handwriting
along with knowledge of the various editions, from the original printing through to the current urtext, are equally necessary for the creation of a convincing interpretation.

Of course, this book also investigates the playing of great interpreters, both past and present, whereby a historical overview is presented of the many recordings that have been made of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, including filmed recordings on DVD.

Many of these subjects came to the fore during my years as professor of piano and piano methodology at the Amsterdam Conservatory, where it was my privilege to find a kindred spirit in the person of my colleague, the pianist Willem Brons. Over the years it was an inspiring journey of exchanging discoveries and ideas about Beethoven interpretation, which led to invaluable contributions for this book. Thanks must also go to pianist/organist Christo Lelie for his continuing support and making available to me his extensive library and archive. Also warmly appreciated were interesting suggestions from my colleagues Albert Brussee, fortepianist Bart van Oort, and the Australian pianist Geoffrey Douglas Madge. In addition, I am grateful to the late Frans Schreuder. His substantial archive was of great importance during my research.

After the first edition of this book was published in German by Schott in 2012 (translation from the Dutch by Matthias Müller), further research strengthened my desire to publish an expanded English edition.

In preparing this manuscript, I would like to thank Dr. Silke Bettermann from the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn for her important information, and my sincere thanks go to Bart van Sambeek for editing several music examples. Furthermore, I must express my gratitude to the late eminent concert pianist and scholar Paul Badura-Skoda. His kind comments and advice were of great value in bringing this book to completion.

The task for this English translation was undertaken by Gerald Mettam on the basis of the original expanded Dutch manuscript. This led to an inspiring collaboration for which I am very grateful. In addition, I have to thank Matthias Müller again, who translated quotations from the German, French, and Italian sources insofar as an original source was not already available (see Bibliography). Furthermore, I must express my thanks to Schott and Universal Edition, whose edition of the sonatas I used for the majority of the music examples. Finally, my thanks go to Yale University Press, in particular and “in order of appearance”: pianist Boris Berman for alerting editor Sarah Miller to the manuscript, language manager Ash Lago, the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions, editor Jaya Chatterjee, author Harry Haskell for his expert editing of the manuscript, editorial assistant Eva Skewes, Millie Piekos for excellent proofreading, and senior production editor Joyce Ippolito. They have all been wonderful. I am pleased that this English edition is now available and hope that this book will be a source of inspiration for all those involved with Beethoven’s piano sonatas—as professionals, as amateurs, or, not least, just out of interest in these masterworks.
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