Volume 3. of my recording of the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas has been released. This selection contains sonatas from the turn-of-the-century, a time when Beethoven had truly found his voice, some of them among my very favorite, e.g. the Moonlight Sonata. During the process of recording the complete 32, eight weeks of sessions spread over a period of three years, we ran a human experiment of a sort and recorded one full take of the fabled Adagio sostenuto at the end of each day. And on some days I couldn’t prevent myself from playing more than one version, beginning another immediately after having finished the previous one. The main idea was to observe how the interpretation would change during the course of the project, another one was to provide us with many, MANY versions to choose from when doing the final edit.

We ended up with well over fifty versions, that sounded surprisingly similar. I couldn’t say if that meant that the experiment ended up in failure, or in success–or perhaps neither. Maybe the likeness of the takes was simply a sign that the way in which I play this one of the truly most mysterious and amazing pieces of the repertoire is so completely internalized that even specifically setting the stage for variety won’t free me from stepping away from the path. I hope so, since I wouldn’t care to speculate on the other, far less flattering possibility suggesting a rather modest amount of musical imagination…

But, well, in the end there was variety in the mood, tempo, sound, and phrasing between the different takes. And upon entering the editing process, the huge number of full takes (normally there would be just a handful) presented us with an exciting dilemma: should we try to find a single take to use with the other two movements that had gone through the normal process, nice bits chosen from different takes to create a version that sounds like “the perfect” take-1 (the scare quotes because the seemingly endless possibilities of digital mastering are a double-edged sward: on the one hand cutting away all the mistakes but on the other hand ending up slicing such central affects as excitement and subjectivity). I won’t tell you what we ended up doing.

But I will tell you that the last step before finishing was that for a little while when we enjoyed listening to the Moonlight Sonata with two alternate opening movements. But the day came when the master had to be sent to the CD-factory, and along with it, sadly, the need to say goodbye to one of the versions. Selecting the one that is now on the CD wasn’t easy, but it provides solace to be able to present the other one here:

Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonata in C-sharp Minor Op. 27 No. 2 “Moonlight”, Adagio sostenuto played by Paavali Jumppanen


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