Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dear old Uncle Harold


For the last few weeks I’ve been working my way back through the Beethoven sonatas again. I haven’t played them much for a couple of years or more. I think I got a bit sick of them, or felt I just wasn’t playing them well. Anyway, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying going back through them one by one, working on some passages to get them right: including passages in one that was probably the first Beethoven sonata I ever learned – except it doesn’t look as though I ever learned these particular tricky bits properly. Must have fudged them. How I managed to get away with that with my teacher I can’t imagine.
I mentioned a while ago, when I was playing through the Mozart sonatas again, that I was getting irritated by Franklin Taylor, who edited the edition I have.
The editor of the Beethoven volumes, Harold Craxton, isn’t much better. He doesn’t tend to add dynamics, unless there’s a very valid reason to do so. On that side, I give him credit. The layout of the music is excellent. It’s his introductory comments that are over the top. They have a real pompous uncle feel about them, the sort of pompous uncle who’s never done anything wrong and looks down with disdain on those who do. Especially people still learning their craft.
For Sonata number 7, for instance, we find this: In some early editions a very silly person inserted a crescendo leading to a fortissimo end. If people still exist who do not see the point of a pianissimo arpeggio without pedal and with an exact final crotchet, why consider their interests?
Or, after discussing some particular point, he writes: The Slough of Despond and the Serbonian Bog will be drained before all such possibilities are exhausted.
Will they indeed?
Or, in relation to the Pathetique: Remember it is very unimportant whether you take six months or six years in screwing this Allegro up until you can break speed-records, but that it is very important for your own harmonious development that you should not play it badly at any stage of your practice.
Or, in relation to the 3rd Sonata: Some students ask for an edition in which such passages [cadenzas] are written out in full-sized notes, chopped into ordinary bars by machinery. Their trouble is that they do not want to learn music, but simply to be taught a set of parlour tricks.
Dear me, Uncle Harold. How can my poor playing ever meet with your approval?
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