As I wrote in my previous blog, I love to use the turn of the year for summing up, zooming out, and looking ahead - to create inspiring visions and images that I can use to guide me in the time to come. To find images that generates a feeling that will nourish and sustain me, that will keep making me want to move forward. Images that bring that nice sense of eagerness when I wake up in the morning.
As most of you know by now, one of those long-term visions that I have had for many years, and launched in a very concrete form in 2011, is to be able to play all of the Beethoven sonatas in an intensive concert series in 2027, at the 200th anniversery of Beethoven's death. One of the reasons why I find this vision so inspiring is that these sonatas really form a corner stone in the literature of music. To quote Daniel Barenboim, "Bach's preludes and fugues form the Old Testament, and Beethoven's piano sonatas form the New Testament of Western music". And it is true: each of the sonatas is a world of its own, and together they form such an important fundament for all the music that has come since. It is therefore an unspeakable pleasure to dive into these worlds one by one, and also to see how they fit together into the life-story that is Beethoven's amazing journey: from the classicistic Mozart-like early sonatas, to the revolutionary famous works like the Moonlight, Sturm, and Waldstein sonatas, and to the transcendental visionary works of his final sonatas, op 106 and op 109-111. Another reason why I find this project so inspiring is that it is a feat that - despite its strong appeal to almost all pianists - quite few pianists actually accomplish. Many of the most famous pianists of the previous century - Horowitz, Rubinstein, Rachmaninoff, etc - never got through (at least recording) all of them, despite coming close in some cases. To my knowledge, there is only one pianist, ever, in Denmark who played all of them, and in Sweden I only know of two: Per Tengstrand and Hans Paulsson. I have always liked major projects, that take many many years to accomplish, and this Beethoven project is thus a little bit also a manhood test. Like running the Iron Man, or the Spartathlon. It would put me in a quite exclusive group of pianists, and thus prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that my choice of having science as my main occupation has in no way hampered my ability to pursue my piano ambitions.
An inspiring video of a father loving his son, and their love of big joint projects. I love such projects, and I love such father-son relationships.
More specifically, regarding this Beethoven project, I am basically on track. Last year was the third year, and since my schedule is to play 2 sonatas per year, I have now played from 6 sonatas in concert: op 2:1,3; op 10:2, op 27:2, op 31:2, and op 111. The only sonata that I haven't played in full yet is op 111, since I only played the second and last movement in the concert in February 2013. The reason for this division was that that movement is so long - 20 min, the second longest of all his movements - and that it therefore alone is longer than many of the other sonatas. I have since then worked with the first movement, and especially after some nice time to practice now during the holidays, I now know it almost by heart as well. To play the complete op 111 is therefore one of the first concerts planned for 2014, and it will mark an important milestone in the overall project. This sonata is one of the most difficult ones, apart from being one of the most remarkable ones, and I will then have played both the first and the last sonata. In other words, after that, I just need to fill in with the ones in the middle :) The two new ones "in the middle" planned for 2014 are op 10:1 (now in the Spring, an easy one), and op 109 (another favourite among the three final amazing ones, and it will require the entire year to learn). 2014 will also mark the year when I will have played 1/4 of the sonatas (8 of 32), and since I thus now am starting to have quite a few sonatas under my belt, I will this year also start with rehersal concerts.
These rehersal concerts will thus be repeats of sonatas that I already have played, but that I keep alive and active. In virtally all cases I will in these concerts also take the opportunity to improve upon things I haven't been completely satisified with yet. This thing of taking up old pieces again is an absolutely necessary part of this project, and it is also very rewarding: you come much deeper into a piece when you already know it, and can go directly to specific difficult details, and to the musical "feeling-aspects" of the piece. These repeat concerts will be held in three ways: as new lunch concerts, as music soirees, and as a new thing for me - as regular concerts.
Such regular concerts is something I have earlier shunned a bit away from, since there have been a few things I haven't liked about them (primarily the distance between the audience and the performer). However, after attending a few fascinating concerts - perhaps most importantly a concert with Sokolov in Stockholm, and my virtual concert feast now during the holidays - I have started to apprieciate some of the special things that only are possible in regular concerts. There are three places close to here that I feel calling to me: St:Lars kyrkan (my original practice place), Wallenbergsalen (with its new grand piano), and Lunnevad (where I started my more formal studies, and to where I have long wanted to come back). We will see which of these will be the first one out. Apart from these places, I also feel like performing when I go travelling; this is a dream I have had for a long time, and I think that these local concerts will bring me one step closer to seeing that happen more and more.
Regarding the music soirees, I had one of those during 2013, in August. Its topic was "M", and it was described in an earlier blog. During 2014 I plan to have one in the end of the spring, a small one with some 35 guests, with the working title: "4 Beethoven sonatas and a little bit of theatre". 2 of these Sonatas will be solo (probably the first and the last) and the other 2 will be together with guests (probably the cello sonata op 69, and his clarinett trio). 2014 will also be devoted to planning for the thereafter following big soiree, which will be held during 2015, with the title "Ballader och andra berättelser" (eng: "Ballades and other stories").
Frederic Chopin, as depicted by Wodzinka (from Wikipedia).
A Ballade is originally an old song and dance form, one of the oldest ones we know of actually, but it has also been going through many re-interpretations and transformations, and a corner stone in those transformations are Chopin's interperations of them. He wrote 4 Ballades for solo piano, and each of them is a master piece. During 2012 I played the first and the last, and I have now during 2013 been practicing on the third Ballade. Since I have had some nice peace and quiet to practice during the Christmas holidays, also this major piece is now much closer to being ready for prime light, and I plan to play this as well during the first half of the Spring. The rest of 2014 I will spend learning the remaining Ballade, the second one in F major. I think that that Ballade is the easiest one, so I hope and think it will be possible to learn it in about a year. After I have learned that one, I plan to play all of them at the big soiree in 2015, and probably also at a concert in St:Lars kyrkan.
Learning those 4 Ballades by Chopin marks the end of another major project I have been working on the for the last 2 years, and once it is finished, I am ready to embark on another major one. Once I get closer to that point, it will be nice to start dreaming more in detail about what that project will be. Perhaps something by Bach (a long-term dream is to play his Goldberg variations)? Another tempting thing, which I want to do one day but perhaps not immediately afterwards, is to start with a new Chopin project: his etudes. During the holidays, I have read through his op 25, the last 12 etudes, and they actually looked more feasible than I thought.
J.S. Bach, does he have some piece that will end up being my next big project after the Ballades are finished?
Those are the main dreams I have going into 2014 - it will be interesting to see how they play out during the remainder of the year :)