Best guides to Beethoven Piano Sonatas
May 4, 2021 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Myself and a friend, both intermediate level learned-as-adults piano players decided to learn about (not play!) all of the Beethoven piano sonatas, one per week. We will get the scores and we will have recordings (Barenboim to start). What guides (videos, books, websites) are the best for this adventure? We'd be looking for insightful analysis, maybe a bit of the history, notes on performing... We also don't know what we don't know, what other things that would sparkle. I've reserved the Great Courses lecture series at the library but what else is good?
posted by storybored to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Andras Schiff lectures and performances can be illuminating.
posted by rekrap at 2:10 PM on May 4 [3 favorites]

I just want to say the Great Courses option should be the one taught be Robert Greenberg and he is awesome. My sister had him as an in person prof in school and she shared all these great, witty (and educational!) observations and stories he made about music when we got together. Years later I listened to one of his Great Courses series, without realizing it was the same guy, and started sharing bits with her. It didn't take long for her to recognize his style.
posted by mark k at 5:34 PM on May 4

Charles Rosen's book about the First Viennese School, The Classical Style, is a modern classic of musicology. As someone who was educated in Western classical music theory, I found it stimulating and eye-opening. He also wrote a book on the Beethoven Piano Sonatas, which, if up to the same standard, should be pretty good.
posted by bertran at 5:43 PM on May 4 [3 favorites]

Walk do not run to Jonathan Biss at Coursera.
posted by matildaben at 8:35 PM on May 4 [3 favorites]

You can have a look at the booklet from the Claves CD set on historical pianos (and give the performances a chance). Then there is William S. Newman's book on Beethoven performance which is core reading about details.
My own Beethoven the Pianist has many examples from the sonatas and provides backgrounds to Beethoven's early style and pianism. The bibliographies of such books are always a great source to find more stuff.
The Beethoven-Haus in Bonn has digital archives where you'll be able to see facsimiles of most of the pieces.
Tom Beghin has recently published a CD featuring a reconstructed hearing machine that Beethoven put on his Broadwood piano, and another one about his Erard piano. Extensive booklet texts.
posted by Namlit at 4:41 AM on May 5

Donald Tovey! In the UK his editions of the Beethoven Sonatas are classics, but he’s also written a companion which you might be able to get hold of.
posted by lokta at 4:43 AM on May 5

Charles Rosen's book on the sonatas, as bertran surmised above, is indeed excellent.
posted by dfan at 5:58 AM on May 5

I think Kenneth Drake’s Beethoven Sonatas and the Creative Experience are just the right mix of analysis, history, and performance notes that you’re looking for. It’s very much written from the perspective of making sense of the Sonatas from a performer’s perspective.
posted by bkpiano at 5:42 PM on May 7

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