Purposefully Bleak

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Q2 Music welcomes back pianist-in-residence Jed Distler into the curatorial driver's seat for a month-long investigation of Ludwig van Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas and the far-reaching effects this titanic body of repertoire has had on contemporary keyboard music.

Week One: "Purposefully Bleak" | by Jed Distler

It's great to be back at Q2 Music as Hammered!'s pianist-in-residence during Beethoven Awareness Month. Over the next four weeks we'll hear all 32 Piano Sonatas, each performed by a different pianist, and dozens of complementary contemporary pieces.

But first a fanfare in the form of my one minute reduction of the entire cycle! Then we zoom the musical lens in the opposite direction to peep in on David Lang's persistent, single-minded and relentlessly virtuosic keyboard style. Following Beethoven's bleak, driven yet intensely serene Opus 111 Sonata, the finale's spacious sound world carries through to one of Gyorgy Ligeti's most gorgeous Etudes and Henry Martin's classically poised Fourth Sonata.

Tuesday juxtaposes Olivier Messiaen's Beethovenian rhythmic rigor with equally thorny selections by John Adams and Kyle Gann, offset by the lyrical reserve shared by Samuel Barber (Ballade), Erik Satie (Sarabandes) and Beethoven's Opus 90 Sonata. Wednesday finds Beethoven's famous Moonlight Sonata among unlikely program mates that manage to coexist quite marvelously.

Steady beats and hypnotic yet non-Minimalist repetition bind Thursday's selections (imagine a DJ mash-up pairing the Beethoven Waldstein Sonata with the opening pages of Frederic Rzewski's Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues!). Lastly, on Friday, we'll hear how Beethoven's Opus 27 No. 1 Sonata and Henri Dutilleux's First Sonata blur boundaries between precepts of sonata form and pure, unabashed fantasy, followed by subtle and endlessly absorbing masterworks by Bohuslav Martinu and Dimitri Shostakovich.


Monday Playlist | Stream Above On-Demand Starting Monday


Jed Distler: The Thirty-Two Beethoven Sonatas In One Minute - Jed Distler, piano
David Lang: "Wiggle" from Memory Pieces - Danny Holt, piano
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111 - Maurizio Pollini, piano
Gyorgy Ligeti: "Arc-en-ciel" from Etudes: Book One - Molly Morkowski, piano
Henry Martin: Piano Sonata No. 4 "At Midnight's Hour" - Hilary Demske, piano