On the evening of May 9th
, 2023, piano virtuoso Rudolf Buchbinder played Beethoven’s five piano sonatas at the NCPA concert hall, followed by the whole set of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas in a total of seven concerts in the following nine days. Before the concert, Buchbinder attended a press conference at Maestros' Club of the NCPA in the morning of the day, where he talked about his passion for Beethoven and his music life.
32 piano sonatas, completed during 1795-1822, almost ran through Beethoven’s music career, which can be regarded as the “Autobiography of Beethoven” on black and white keys. Buchbinder, who is set to present these 32 piano sonatas, is one of the most insightful masters for the authoritative
rendition of Beethoven’s works in our contemporary era. He not only records more than 100 albums of Beethoven’s works, including the complete piano sonatas and piano concertos, but also holds nearly 60 concerts of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas around the globe. Buchbinder is also adept in the studies on Beethoven. Delving into his letters, contemporaneous records and news reports on Beethoven and score manuscripts and making retrospect to Beethoven’s life experience and music career, Buchbinder collects 39 versions of the complete score of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, thereby enriching the full-length piano literature with practical actions.
On the evening of May 9th
, this journey began with the Piano Sonata No. 1 in F
Minor, which was composed by Beethoven at the age of 25. Nonetheless, the subsequent repertoire was not arranged according to the time of composition, but rather shed light on Buchbinder’s unique understanding and design. The last sonatas in the first half of this concert were the Piano Sonata No. 10 in G Major and Piano Sonata No. 13 in E-flat
Major “Quasi una fantasia”. The second half of this concert featured the Piano Sonata No. 4 in E-flat Major in tune with Piano Sonata No. 13, as well as the Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor “Moonlight”. Other well-known piano sonatas, such as “Tempest”
, “Les Adieux”
, “Appasionata, Pathetique”
, were also ingeniously arranged by Buchbinder along those associated sonatas. On May 17th
, this “marathon” will conclude with Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas of his twilight years.
On the morning of May 9th
, Buchbinder attended a press conference and conveyed his expectations for presenting the complete set of Beethoven’s piano sonatas to the Chinese audiences. He also talked about his understanding of Beethoven’s music at different stages in his life.
Buchbinder’s close connection to Beethoven traces back to his childhood. He said when he was a kid, he lived in a small apartment with his family. There was a radio receiver was on the piano in that apartment. Behind the radio receiver was a statue of Beethoven on the wall. When he was five years old, Buchbinder was enrolled at the Vienna Konservatorium, where he was the youngest student. He said when he studied at the Vienna Konservatorium, he gradually began to come into contact with some works and especially those works by Beethoven. This also lays a solid foundation for him to record and present other maestros’ works. Such education experience is a stepping-stone.
As Buchbinder grew older, his understanding of Beethoven deepened. In the 1970s and 1980s, he recorded Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas for the first time. Famous music critic Joachim Kaiser, a close friend of Buchbinder, unexpectedly asked the pianist to re-record these 32 sonatas. Buchbinder said that he didn’t want to do so. Then Joachim stressed the necessity to re-record these 32 sonatas, and he explained to Buchbinder that at a young age, people often have narrow their horizons and are inflexible when doing things. As we grow older, we overcome these flaws and get more sophisticated. Buchbinder said the Carl Czerny’s studies on Beethoven have had tremendous impact on him. A book, authored by Carl Czerny, sets forth a detailed description of various works by Beethoven, including all his movements, such as the violin sonata, 32 piano sonatas and so on. As for the Hammerklavier Sonata, Czerny mentioned that when he was playing a Beethoven piece, he initially paid attention to the original time signatures. After seven or eight renditions, Czerny might constantly change his rhythm and expression. Beethoven was one of the few composers of his time who demanded the right time signature, the right tempo and a separate cue for expression. Moreover, Beethoven endows pianists with a certain degree of freedom to express their personal emotions.
When it came to the impressive achievement of presenting the complete set of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in nine days, Buchbinder said that whether this series of concerts is held in a week or a month, it is extremely challenging because it is indeed a challenge to present a remarkable concert alone. In his opinion, the audiences should not only be familiar with and appreciate reputed and well-known Beethoven pieces, but also listen to all of Beethoven’s sonatas, which will be an interesting exploration journey for them. This complete set of sonatas stayed with Beethoven throughout his life, which were crucial pieces for him. The audiences are expected to gain insights into the emotional changes of Beethoven during his lifetime and the implicit emotions, such as anger, sorrow or pleasure on his own.