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XVIII 0 00 The Witness Tree Wem meine Musik sich verstiindlich macht, der muss [rei werden von all dem Elend, womit sich die andern schleppen. BEETHOVEN In a field requiring sustained dedication with no guarantee of reward, the serious interpreter becomes obsessed with finding reassurance of valid accomplishment and self-worth. Within the vastness of musical creativity that has preceded us, the phenomenon of Beethoven, like the witness tree (a marker from which nineteenth-century surveyors made their measurements), becomes a living point of orientation for establishing aesthetic boundaries and clarifying one's professional values. One would like to believe in the accuracy of the quotation above ('The one to whom my music makes itself understandable will, as a matter of course, become free of all the misery that others drag around with them"), which was included in a letter from Bettina Brentano to Goethe. What scholarly research cannot prove or disprove, personal experience can. The comment attributed to Beethoven is remarkable, first of all, in personifying the music as an active agent: it "makes itself understandable." The German modal muss is problematic, not to be understood "that the listener must (first) become free of all the misery," but that it will happen unavoidably as a result of the experience. Above all, the statement is remarkable for linking the music inseparably to the human condition, although following this concept to its logical conclusion presents unsettling implications for our profession. One may analyze a work until every note has been explained or practice it until every detail can be heard and yet not discover the spirit of the music. A Beethoven theme or motive remains inert until, like the composer, one exerts the will to com- The Sonatas 306 prehend the uniqueness of its form and content. As music that cannot ignore its own power, it demands that one make room for its stature within oneself by asking the reason for each compositional turn of events. The Poco Andante at the close of Op. 81a can be puzzling, all the more so as its harmonic life becomes motionless. Why did Beethoven not end the movement with the upward sweeping B scale, fortissimo? A Taiwanese graduate student, asked what she thought was Beethoven's reason for this seemingly unnecessary interpolation, said that it was "more than happy." In the sustaining of B tonic harmony, the return is depicted as consummated in the deepest and most treasured sense of two becoming one-spiritually or, in the observance of marriage, of two becoming one flesh. The music, if one is willing to follow its spirit unreservedly wherever it may lead within the self, has the capacity to establish within each of us who play it a standard for genuineness, honesty, and truth. It is a spirit that raises piano playing to the significance and reality of life, leading one away from a simple veneration of piano playing to preoccupation with the needs of human beings. Playing a sonata such as Op. 2 No. 1 can be for some a psychological safety-valve-a complex musical symbol, at once earthy and learned-for the working-out of the insoluble in daily life. In transforming overwhelming problems of body and mind into abstract polarities, Beethoven's musical speech taxes the capacity of the instrument and challenges the player'S will to rise to the level of its content. Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven's two elders in the art, though no less possessed of human passion, never feel frustrating to the player'S muscles, as does, for example, the Appassionata. In their many moments of light, they share with him a buoyant optimism; however, when faced with the darker side of reality, they become fatalistic. Beethoven, nourished by a different soil, contests his circumstances, imbuing his works with a philosophical content. Wer immer strebend sich bemiiht, Den konnen wir erlosen, [Whoever continually takes pains to strive, Him we can redeem,] Whether or not Goethe fully appreciated Beethoven or would have had an understanding for our role as re-creators, for the musician/interpreter these lines from Faust are the door to the world of the Beethoven sonatas, a body of repertoire that Artur Schnabel described as "music that is always greater than it can be played." Thus, in a passage such as that shown in Ex. 18.1, the imagination always perceives more than the fingers can project. In the physical effort of realizing so much with so little-the few notes widely spaced between the hands...


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