Making music together playing the Second piano sonata of Beethoven
In the past composers created Chamber music to be performed, as the term suggests, in the private chambers of kings, princes, aristocracy, and — closer to our times — in the living rooms of amateurs. Most Chamber music pieces did not pose too much of a challenge for ensembles. It was sufficient for the music to have good melody and harmony, as well as a logical compositional structure.
But in our time many Chamber opuses strive to amaze with unnatural extravagance and unusual instrumental techniques that require performers — before even playing a piece for the first time — to study a manual for innovative ways of producing sounds in order to capture the proper character of music in the process of multiple rehearsals. Obviously, after such efforts they cannot share their achievements other than on a concert stage in front of an audience of very sophisticated listeners. Nothing of that kind can be found in this new Quartet.
Michael Brailovsky, an alumnus of the Theory and History Department of the Leningrad Conservatory of Music (class of 1966), now lives in New Jersey. In his piano studio he aims to help students to comprehend the spiritual richness of classical music. Naturally, when the need arose to expand the repertoire of an unusual ensemble (flute, clarinet, horn, and piano) of which he was a member, he turned for a source of arrangement to one of Beethoven’s piano sonatas where the diversity of the material would provide every performer in ensemble with an expressive and not too difficult part. (Melodic lines in most cases are not duplicated in the parts of this score.) The texture of Beethoven’s music is dialogic and contrasting. This allows for a meaningful alternation of motifs and phrases in a variety of timbres that create an interesting stereophonic theater of a classical piece. In that sense the choice of the Second sonata is a good one.
Beethoven’s music has been reflected more than once in some masterpieces of Russian literature. It drove the plot of the famous “Kreutzer Sonata” of Leo Tolstoy. And in one novella that is not well-known abroad but very popular in Russia, Kuprin’s “The Garnet Bracelet”, just the mention of the Largo Appassionato of the Second piano sonata creates a highly emotional climax of the dramatic action at the point where words would be powerless. Now in the hands of this Russian arranger, Beethoven’s music shines in a new light, this time by musical means.
Of course, it is not possible to avoid some changes to the texture in the process of arranging a piano opus for a quartet. There are not many such changes here; they are done with sufficient delicacy to avoid the appearance of intrusive elements.
Michael Brailovsky’s quartet arrangement of Beethoven’s Second piano sonata constitute a marvelous guide to deeper artistic understanding of this brilliant composition. Equally, it provides excellent material for engaging ensemble playing at home, in a class workshop, and on the concert stage.
Gennady Belov, composer,
People’s Artist of Russia,
professor of the St. Petersburg
Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory
M. Brailovsky. Preface
G. Belov. Making music together playing the Second piano sonata of Beethoven
I. Allegro vivace (Music text example)
II. Largo appassionato (Music text example)
III. Scherzo. Allegretto
IV. Rondo. Grazioso