1. Bagatelles Op. 126 I. Andante con moto. Cantabile e compiacevole  (5:11)
2. Bagatelles Op. 126 II. Allegro (2:34)
3. Bagatelles Op. 126 III. Andante. Cantabile e grazioso (3:08)
4. Bagatelles Op. 126 IV. Presto (4:22)
5. Bagatelles Op. 126 V. Quasi allegretto (1:58)
6. Bagatelles Op. 126 VI. Presto (4:34)
7. Sonata No. 30 Op. 109 I. Vivace ma non troppo/Adagio espressivo (4:10)
8. Sonata No. 30 Op. 109 II. Prestissimo (2:25)
9. Sonata No. 30 Op. 109 III. Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung. Andante molto cantabile ed espressivo (14:47)
10. Sonata No. 23 “Appassionata” Op. 57 I. Allegro assai 11:09)
11. Sonata No. 23 “Appassionata” Op. 57 II. Andante con moto (8:21)
12. Sonata No. 23 “Appassionata” Op 57 III. Allegro ma non troppo (8:18)

Katie Mahan
CD 30161
Steinway & Sons

A Journey through Beethoven’s Inner World

“I live only in my music.”  These were the words of Ludwig van Beethoven, a man who endured a lifetime of loneliness and despair and yet had the inner strength to compose some of the most sublime music ever written. He lived to put the expression of his heart and soul into music, and he viewed the world and his difficulties as challenges to overcome. It is this aspect of his personality which allowed him to write music which was truly a triumph of the human spirit. 

On this CD, I have chosen to present a program which transports the listener into the inner world of this great composer. Traveling from his final work for piano backwards to the beloved Appassionata sonata, we hear the expression of his emotions and passions, and witness his transformation as an artist and a man. In the twenty years that separate the Bagatelles and the Appassionata, we feel anger transformed into humility and fear transformed into serenity.

Going in reverse order through the program, we begin with the Appassionata sonata, a deeply personal work in which Beethoven traverses previously uncharted seas of imagination. At the time of composition, Beethoven considered this work to be his greatest sonata.  There is no other piece in his piano œuvre which more completely reveals Beethoven’s true character than this groundbreaking sonata. It is filled with diabolical mood changes, revealing a man who has finally succumbed to his fate. In this work, Beethoven presents the entire range of his personality; his struggle, his despair and his determination to fight, and begins a journey toward the revolutionality of his late works. It is here that we begin to understand this tragic man whose deep passions and transcendental nature propelled him forward in the face of despair.

It is only through the appreciation of the intensely visionary Appassionata that we can begin to grasp the mystical quality of Beethoven’s late works. The profound depth and spirituality of Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas pushes the limits of human understanding, and it is clear that in these works, Beethoven succeeds in triumphing over his tragedy and in so doing finds expression for the transcendental power and sublime inspiration that he knew existed in the depths of his soul. 

In the E major Sonata Op. 109, Beethoven reveals an inner peace which has nothing in common with the extroverted, tumultuous persona of the Appassionata. The virtuosity of Beethoven’s earlier style is replaced in this late Sonata by a profoundly spiritual expressiveness which gives us a glimpse into the way in which Beethoven’s inner world has changed. By studying the progression of Beethoven’s works from the Appassionata to Op. 109, we can recognize how he has truly ventured into another world in his music; one of inexpressible joy and serenity. 

Progressing from the Sonata Op. 109 to the Bagatelles Op. 126 – Beethoven’s final work for piano – the listener is invited to experience yet another musical revelation. In these six “Kleinigkeiten”, Beethoven takes the innovations that he has presented in his last three sonatas and condenses them into miniature versions, presenting the same rhapsodic character and the same profound expressiveness as his larger and more famous works. These Bagatelles reveal another aspect of Beethoven’s character – that of the great innovator. One feels the strength and foresight in Beethoven’s persona, and witnesses the incredible power of this great man to see into the future. In these final works, Beethoven breaks with tradition, revealing intuition rather than convention and victory over suffering, and in so doing, gives the listener a glimpse of the indefatigable spirit and inner world of arguably the world’s greatest musical genius.

I have chosen these pieces because for me they epitomize the essence of Beethoven’s life journey. They speak not only of the turmoil that existed in his inner world but also to the acceptance into the prophecy of his vision of the future. It is a challenge for any musician to summarize the expressions of such a great composer in a short program of so few works, but it is my hope that the Beethoven spirit can be felt and seen on the musical journey I have prepared for my listeners on this recording.

Recorded at the Meistersaal in Berlin (Tonmeister: Rainer Maillard: Emil Berliner Studios, Berlin). The album will be available in multiple formats worldwide on the Steinway & Sons Label beginning May 1.