You know that feeling you get after hitting the snooze button two or ten times in the morning, only to suddenly sit straight up from your slumber with a gasp and a panic when you’ve realized, you slept in…and you’re late! GAH!
Frantic. Frazzled. Once you’ve made it out the door with the buttons of your shirt misaligned, two different socks on your feet, you realize your packed lunch is in the fridge (great)…then, hello rush hour commute! Getting pushed and bullied on the subway, fighting traffic on the highway, or just trying not to get hit by a car while riding your bicycle, it’s a battle. (But good news, you win.)
Since the Daylight Savings time change, that feeling has been a regular occurrence in my life. And with my promise to begin training for the Beethoven Marathon this week (and my late start), the opening movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 2 No. 1 has been an ironic soundtrack.
I wonder if Ludwig ever experienced a version of this feeling. I picture his wild black hair flailing in the wind as he rushed down the streets of Vienna to get to his lesson in time with Mr. Haydn.
Written when he was 23 and his hearing was still in tact, Beethoven dedicated the three sonatas of Opus 2 to his teacher Franz Joseph Haydn - who proudly predicted would “in time become one of the greatest musical artists in Europe.” (Beethoven however, did not return the sentiment and was later reported to have said that Haydn was a teacher from whom he “did not learn a thing.”)
At the time, he was not yet using the piano sonata as a means of personal expression, but you can still hear young Beethoven’s confidence, if I dare say, cockiness. The music is brilliant, feisty, and those slow movements…ah…like your first coffee of the day. (Enter the Adagio…)
The Allegretto and Prestissimo remind me of my own days of piano lessons and what felt like hours and hours of forced practicing a day. Frustrated some days I just banged the piano, other days my fingers easily flew across the keyboard, and usually a combination of both – I would play through each song as fast as I could to meet quota and greet freedom!
Little did I know at the time (I was not a particularly wise 9 year old) these Beethoven Sonatas would bring me serenity and inspiration in the future…which is now.
Ready, set, go! First training session complete.
(The videos linked here are recordings by Daniel Barenboim.)