Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 29 in Bb Major, Op. 106 is extreme in every way – tremendously long and a challenge to the limits of both piano and pianist with its wide dynamic and pitch range; virtuosic, constantly shifting musical textures; almost unbelievably fast metronome markings and tumultuous expressivity. Having become completely deaf by 1816, Beethoven also suffered frequent illness and the piece is marked by struggle throughout, exemplified in the unusual conflict between two keys a semitone apart: B-flat Major and B minor.
Franz Liszt is credited with giving the first public performance of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 29, Op. 106 in 1836 at the Salle Erard in Paris. It was the last sonata he ever performed, and one he so admired that he published an edition of it, transcribed its third movement for string ensemble, and taught it to his students. Like Beethoven, Liszt famously challenged the boundaries of piano technique, colouristic texture, and expressivity. However, the selection of pieces on this program shows Liszt’s more introspective side, reflecting on suffering and the nature of life and love. The final piece on the program is Franz Liszt’s youthful transcription of Schubert’s song “Auf dem Wasser zu Singen”. This song text reflects on the passage of time and concludes with the narrator’s wish to escape time, much in the way that Beethoven and Liszt have, upon the towering, radiant wings of their music.
The concert will be a fundraiser for Ukraine with 50% of ticket sales going to the Maple Hope Foundation’s ‘Defence for Ukraine’ fund. The Foundation will also have an information table set up at the concert.
This concert is generously supported by donations in memory of John Grace.
Read the interview with Olga Pashchenko in Stir Magazine and the feature story on this concert in the Vancouver Sun here
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)
Hammerklavier opus 106
Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886)
Funerailles n7, S.173 from ‘Poetic and Religious Harmonies’ (1849)
Miserere, d’après Palestrina n8, S.173 from ‘‘Poetic and Religious Harmonies’
La Lugubre Gondola No. 2 S. 200 (1882)
Franz Schubert-Liszt (1797 – 1828)
«Auf dem Wasser zu Singen» (1837)
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Beethoven completed the Hammerklavier Sonata in 1818 during one of the most difficult periods of his life. Having become completely deaf by 1816, he also suffered frequent illness and the loss of several important patrons, was embroiled in a bitter custody battle over his nephew, and experienced a prolonged compositional drought. This sonata triumphantly proved that he was still capable of composing and retained a strong kinesthetic sense of the piano despite his deafness. More than that, it transcended the keyboard writing of previous generations, both the sonata writing of his teacher Franz Joseph Haydn and the contrapuntal writing of Johann Sebastian Bach (with the monumental fugal finale). The piece is marked by struggle throughout, exemplified in the unusual conflict between two keys a semitone apart: B-flat Major and B minor. In one of his sketchbooks, Beethoven scribbled “h moll schwarze Tonart” (B Minor black key). Other nineteenth-century composers chose this key to set opera scenes dealing with demons and the underworld. B-flat Major, by contrast, was a cheerful and hopeful key for Beethoven, the key of his Symphony No. 4 and of the “Archduke Trio”, which like the Hammerklavier Sonata was dedicated to Beethoven’s most loyal and supportive patron and friend, Archduke Rudolph of Austria.
Franz Liszt is credited with giving the first public performance of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 29, Op. 106 in 1836 at the Salle Erard in Paris. It was also the last sonata he ever performed, and one he so admired that he published an edition of it, transcribed its third movement for string ensemble, and taught it to his students. Like Beethoven, Liszt famously challenged the boundaries of piano technique, colouristic texture, and expressivity. Robert Schumann called his Transcendental Etudes “studies in storm and dread… fit for ten or twelve players in the world.” The selection of pieces on this program, however, show a more introspective side of Liszt, reflecting on suffering and the nature of life and love. Most were inspired by the poetry of Alphonse de Lamartine, a French poet known for his melancholic lyricism and his love of religious themes. “Funerailles” is a heroic elegy for the victims of the Hungarian War of Independence and features pictorial effects including the ringing of mourning bells, trumpet calls, and daring, galloping octave figures. “Miserere, d’après Palestrina” opens with a stark, chant-like theme (not in fact by Palestrina) setting the text of Psalm 51, “Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness: according to the multitude of Thy mercies do away mine offences.” Liszt then accompanies this them with a shimmering texture of tremolos and rapid arpeggios that grows in passion and intensity. Consolations is a set of six deeply tender and reflective pieces, perhaps inspired by his love of the Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein, with whom he lived for many years, receiving inspiration from her fervent spirituality. The two selections on this program are in E Major, a key signifying love and religious devotion to Liszt.
Following the death of his son Daniel in 1859 and his daughter Blandine in 1862, Liszt turned his attention to compositions pondering death and memorializing loved ones. La lugubre gondola paints a Venetian funeral procession traveling by gondola, complete with the rocking rhythm of the barcarole, the gondolier’s rowing song. The unusual harmonic language conveys a sense of utter desolation. Apparently, Liszt composed this piece in response to a premonition of the death of his son-in-law, Richard Wagner, that he felt while visiting Wagner in Venice. La lugubre gondola shares the barcarole rhythm with the final piece on the program, Franz Liszt’s youthful transcription of Schubert’s song “Auf dem Wasser zu Singen”. This song’s text, which also appears printed in Liszt’s transcription, reflects on the passage of time and concludes with the narrator’s wish to escape time, much in the way that Beethoven and Liszt have, upon the towering, radiant wings of their music.
- Christina Hutten
Ah, with dewy wings
On the rocking waves, time escapes from me
Tomorrow with shimmering wings
Like yesterday and today may time again escape from me,
Until I on towering, radiant wings
Myself escape from changing time.
Olga Pashchenko, Fortepiano
Olga Pashchenko is one of today’s most versatile keyboard performers on the international stage. Equally at home on fortepiano, harpsichord, organ, and contemporary piano.
From Bach and Beethoven on historical instruments to Ligeti on contemporary piano, Olga enjoys a busy and eclectic concert career as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. She is a regular guest at early and contemporary music festivals alike, including: the Utrecht Early Music Festival; the Radio France Festival in Montpellier; the Festival Musiq’3 in Brussels; the fortepiano festivals of Amsterdam; the Maggio Musicale Florence; the fortepiano series of Milan and Padua; AMUZ Antwerpen; Concertgebouw Bruges, and the Cité de la Musique in Paris. As a concerto soloist, Olga has performed with the Orchestra of the 18th Century; musicAeterna with Teodor Currentzis; Meininger Hofkapelle; the Amsterdam Sinfonietta with Alexei Lubimov; the Collegium 1704 under Vaclav Luks at the Chopin Festival Warsaw; and with the Finnish Baroque Orchestra at the RSO Festival Helsinki. Her chamber music partners include Alexander Melnikov, Evgeny Sviridov, Dmitry Sinkovsky, and Erik Bosgraaf. Most recently, Olga made her debut at the Salzburg & Berlin Festivals in recital with Georg Nigl.
Pianoctambule, Concertgebouw, Muziekgebouw aan t’IJ, and a recorded recital for WDR at Schloss Hohenlimburg. She will also perform duo recitals at Cite de la Musique and the Beethoven Haus with Georg Nigl. In Autumn this year, Olga will embark on a decade-long project to record and tour all the Mozart Concerti with Il Gardellino, completing two discs this season with performances in Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels amongst others.