I have recently decided to specialize in the works of Beethoven. In particular, I intend to study and learn several of his sonatas in the next several years of my life (or however long it may take). As I prepare to do so, I want to learn about Beethoven's intentions in writing each of his sonatas, and more importantly, the way that Beethoven played them himself.
Does anyone know of a book or of any writings about how Beethoven played, how he intended his sonatas to be played, what influences he was under, and what time periods he wrote them in?
I would also greatly like to read about interpretations of the sonatas concerning how they should be played along with an analysis of their musical progressions, chords, keys, key changes, etc.
Can anyone recommed any books? Thanks.
(PS - I do intend to formulate my own interpretations, but I believe I would greatly benefit from studying those of others.)
Well quite a daunting task you are facing. I am not aware of specific studies about Beethoven as a performer, let alone as a performer of his own sonatas (which were not intended for the public concert but essentially addressed to amateurs for study and private pleasure), only sparse accounts by some of his pupils like Ries or Czerny or other witnesses, but not always reliable.
As to analysis and interpretation, one of the best book (still) around is A companion to Beethoven's Pianoforte Sonatas
by Donald F. Tovey (ABRSM Publishing), which is a bar-by-bar analysis of the 32's. Another very useful book to understand Beethoven's approach to composition is Beethoven and the creative process
by Barry Cooper (Clarendon). Also, don't miss Ludwig van Beethoven: Approaches to His Music
by Carl Dahlhaus, an in-depth collections of essays on inner aspects of Beethoven music (one essay is about sonata form in Sonata Op.31/2).
I think also that you should listen to many different approaches to that body of works by great Beethoven interpreters, like Schnabel, Arrau, Gilels, Richter, Brendel, Heidsieck, Nat and Schiff (just to name a few). In my opinion, listening carefully to great pianists is the single most important thing to do to understand what piano interpretation is really about.