If I had to choose a single piece of music to be the last standing – a nightmare scenario of course – it would be Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata.
Come the zombie apocalypse, with luck there will always be Beethoven. In particular, the Hammerklavier’s slow movement, which on recordings I have can clock in variously from around the 16 minute mark, to over 20. I can’t lie, the slow, slow versions are my favourite. I have one by Solomon, which is 22.21.
Apart from learning something from these varying times about the way I was listening, I have always felt this slow movement to be somehow the most intense musical representation of human emotion I have ever heard. In the right frame of mind, I am moved to tears by its heartbroken courting of silence and emptiness.
Similarly, I have always loved Schubert, so therefore this wonderful recording is something of a win-win. From Schubert, there are 3 Pieces for Piano, D 946 and the Impromptus D899, which I first fell in love with on a wonderful record from the brilliant Radu Lupu.
Classical Nowhere is socially awkward at concerts – it’s hard not to feel a bit alienated at some of them – but ye gods, to have been at this one. I am always wholeheartedly amazed at the mental stamina and musical ability that fires performance like these; intense, alive, amazing. Live, some people must have been transported, rendered insubstantial. It would have taken me weeks to recover from the Hammerklavier.
Interestingly, I meet my new friend Rameau here again for the second time in a week. Having enjoyed very much the Pieces de Clavecin as played by Jean Rondeau it’s really interesting to hear Rameau on the piano, in particular Les Tendres Plaintes, which is beautiful.
For the stunning Hammerklavier alone, this record is a new favourite. As it closes with Brahms’s Intermezzi, Op. 117 2. B Flat Minor, Sokolov leads us all away into a place of great thoughtfulness and poignancy. Until the great release of applause and acclaim from the audience lucky enough to be present for this time-stopping music.