Beethoven: Sparks of Joy — Op. 106, “Hammerklavier,” enfolds soul-wrenching drive with those unknown last moments of a Mars landing.
The Opus 106 “Hammerklavier”, Beethoven’s 29th sonata, is one of the most demanding works in the entire keyboard repertoire. Magnificent in scope, enormous in length, it contains a soul-wrenching Adagio movement and ends with an incredible double fugue. One might compare the finale to NASA’s “seven minutes of terror” as the Mars spacecraft makes its final descent and landing on the Red Planet!
Beethoven remarked to his publisher Artaria that this sonata would be “a hard nut to crack”, and that it would have pianists gnashing their teeth for the next 50 years. In fact, Beethoven’s London publisher released only the first three movements (rearranged so that the Scherzo followed the Adagio) because it was felt that England had no pianists at the time capable of playing the finale.
Although Beethoven had already used the term “Hammerklavier” for the Opus 106, it has become universally accepted as the name for this immortal work. Here is a superb performance by Vladimir Ashkenazy. [Notes by Margaret Scialdone.]