A Mys­ti­cal Ex­pe­ri­ence

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Some pi­anists get an­gry when any­one refers to Beethoven’s Opus 111, the Pi­ano Sonata n. 32, as the com­poser’s “swing sonata,” or “the one with the jazz move­ment.” But it’s very hard not to be re­minded of jazz, or some kind of “proto-jazz” at least, when lis­ten­ing to the de­light­fully syn­co­pated arpeg­gios mid­way into the sec­ond move­ment. And that’s not the only thing that makes this sonata so ap­peal­ing to both con­nois­seurs and clas­si­cal am­a­teurs: the work’s strong emo­tional pre­lude is fol­lowed by rar­efied at­mos­pheres that flow into a joy­ous fi­nal stretch, per­fectly ex­press­ing Beethoven’s love for the Ro­man­tic- era ideal of a “brotherhood of men,” com­bined with the sense of for­give­ness to­wards hu­man­ity he felt in his last days. Writ­ten when the com­poser was com­pletely deaf, this was also his last sonata. Pi­anist Al­fred Bren­del once said that “nowhere else in pi­ano lit­er­a­ture does mys­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence feel so im­me­di­ately close at hand.“Skep­ti­cal?


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