Beethoven Appassionata: A Torrent of Expressive Emotion
Beethoven is one of the most renowned composers to have ever lived and within his sheer volume of work, a handful of pieces serve to at least partially define the depths of this composer. One example is certainly the famous Beethoven Appassionata. Full of sound and raw emotional fury, I vacillate between the sublime and the carnal; as if the composer himself is speaking to me through the tones of the keys and the ominous dynamics featured throughout. While I experience a sensation of majesty within the undertones, there is undoubtedly a sense of anger throughout the piece and this serves to highlight how Beethoven himself was interpreting this portion of his life.
A Song Birthed from a Troubled Heart
In order to fully appreciate the Beethoven Appassionata, I found that it was first necessary to delve into the emotional bowels of the composer himself. Beethoven was a man of extremes. Known for fits of rage and a proclivity to fall passionately in love, these very same characteristics were perhaps best suited to be translated into a musical score. However, I believe that it is most important to recognise that this piece was written when he had learned of the severity of his deteriorating hearing loss. As a pianist, I can only imagine what he must have been feeling after such an utter condemnation. Akin to a painter who loses his sight, this is arguably the cruellest curse for a composer; the inability to experience his own creations.
The Emotion of the Beethoven Appassionata
While all three of his movements vary in terms of tempo and melody, I quickly learned that there are a handful of themes which can be seen throughout the piece as a while. As contemporary Austrian pianist Carl Czerny pointed out, it seems as if the Beethoven Appassionata represented “ocean waves on a stormy night”. This could very well be an allusion to the sense of loneliness that Beethoven must have felt when he first learned about his irreversible hearing condition. Indeed, I can hear angered and yet silent cries within many of the notes that he chose to use.
A Recognised Masterpiece
According to Czerny, Beethoven himself fully recognised that the Appassionata was his must emotionally demanding piece; second only to the subsequent Hammerklavier. I also feel that the reason why so much emotion is achieved is through the use of two lyrically related themes as opposed to ones which markedly contrast with one another (a common practice during this time). As a result, we are immersed within clearly defined moods which compliment one another and allow his raw emotions to resonate even more with the listener. I experience a medley of emotions within this piece. Fury, angst, unrequited love and an unquenched sense of desire are all tones which constantly repeat throughout the three movements. The Appassionata reflects a duality in Beethoven; a desire to love and be loved while at the same time realising that ultimately, such emotions may cause more pain than pleasure.