A Whole Lotta Notes!

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Q2 Music welcomes back pianist-in-residence Jed Distler for a month-long investigation of Ludwig van Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas and their far-reaching effects on contemporary keyboard music.

Week Three: "A Whole Lotta Notes!" | by Jed Distler

We begin the second half of my stint with a show devoted to music that is feisty, combative, restless and full of notes, starting with David Del Tredici's Opposites Attract, a madcap fantasy where Virgil Thompson's "The Mother Of Us All" and Richard Wagner's Tristan Und Isolde provocatively intertwine. Neil Rolnick's explosive piano with electronics essay Digits (played by the original "exploding pianist" Kathy Supove) foams at the mouth in B-flat major, which aptly sets up our Beethoven Appreciation month feature, no less than the mighty "Hammerklavier" Sonata in a fast, jazzy, nervously energetic 1986 recording by Peter Serkin that desperately needs reissue.

Fantasies and variations comprise Tuesday's show, from John Corigliano's Beethoven Seventh Symphony musings throughout his Fantasia On An Ostinato and Ross Lee Finney's fetching Alban Berg Variations to Beethoven's "Funeral March" Sonata in A-flat major, op. 26 (a sonata without a single movement in sonata form) and Michael Tippett's dense, knotty yet rhythmically vivacious Second Sonata. Beethoven's little Sonata in G major, op. 79 (performed by Wilhelm Backhaus in his historic 1954 comeback concert) provides a lighthearted curtain raiser.

Wednesday commences with the redoubtable Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and his austere, utterly fascinating Sonata in E-flat major, op. 7 by Beethoven, followed by Bruce Stark's elegantly wistful Five Preludes. After Robert Taub's sensitive Beethoven op. 14/2 comes a different kind of pianistic austerity, courtesy of G.I. Gurdjieff.

Thursday bring us Beethoven's "Les Adieux" Sonata in one of the few recordings that does the legendary Leopold Godowsky's pianism full justic, plus an overlooked yet quite beautiful op.110 Sonata interpretation that all piano mavens should hear by Awadagin Pratt. These Beethoven works bracket three utterly disparate yet equally commanding American music giants: Frederic Rzewski, Keith Jarret and Leonard Bernstein.

We finish the week with an emphasis on sly humor as born from Beethoven's op. 22 and op. 31/1 Sonatas, Oska Morawetz's Scherzo and my very strange, obsessive and fiendishly difficult Cordel for piano.

Monday Playlist | Stream Above On-Demand Starting Monday

David Del Tredici: Opposites Attract - Anthony de Mare, piano
Neil Rolnick: Digits for piano and electronics - Kathy Supove, piano 
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major, op. 106 "Hammerklavier" - Peter Serkin, piano