A famous [?infamous] note

When does one do something one doesn’t believe in, especially in the hallowed realms of Beethoven playing?

The A natural or A sharp in the first movement of the ‘Hammerklavier’ (bars 225/226, just before the recapitulation) is one of the most disputed notes in all music: if whole books haven’t been written about it, certainly copious articles, essays and footnotes have. The point is that Beethoven is temporarily in 5 sharps, B major, and the question is: did he just forget to put naturals before the A’s or did he intend the much more bizarre but just plausible A sharp, arriving back at B-flat major for the recapitulation enharmonically (a bit like the first movement of the Fourth Symphony, in the same key), rather than by means of a normal dominant-tonic cadence if they are A naturals?

Having read a fair bit about it and weighed up the evidence, I’m convinced it should be A natural. And yet I’m going to play A sharp! The A sharp is not quite impossible, and it is so arresting and magnificently daring that, once one has heard it like that, the “normal” A natural is always a bit disappointing. I almost wonder if Beethoven, maybe subconsciously, wanted A sharp, knew it was, sort of, wrong, and deliberately “forgot” to put in the necessary natural signs to leave it as a distant possibility for posterity.


The two exquisite op.14 sonatas….

On to the exquisite two op.14 sonatas today. A relaxation after the strenuous and
revolutionary drama of the op 10s and 13 (Pathétique), yet they are elusive and in their
way subtly subversive. Some maddeningly fiddly bits in them as well, even though they
donʼt sound “difficult” to the listener. I bet the Baroness Josefa von Braun, the dedicatee, loved them. Canʼt help wondering if Beethoven had a crush on her – the music is, in its gentle and discreet way, so full of passion. It seems her husband committed suicide in 1819… (the sonatas date from 1798 /99).

Portrait believed to be of Baroness Josefa von Braun, this photo is from http://www.wilnitsky.com/scripts/redgallery1.dll/details?No=27661

Portrait believed to be of Baroness Josefa von Braun, this photo is from http://www.wilnitsky.com/scripts/redgallery1.dll/details?No=27661


When is a blog not a blog? When it has one initial entry and no follow-up over two weeks
later. So Iʼm going to try and do better and keep updating it at least every couple of days
from now on.

So – am on my second complete trawl through the sonatas, revising every one, every note
really, finding details I had never taken in properly or had not previously seen the point of.
Cross-checking editions and re-analysing textual inconsistencies. Itʼs endlessly fascinating
and I donʼt think so much about the marathon aspect, more of trying to know what Iʼm
doing in every movement and at every moment. This, I find, is the best way of getting the
memory secure – though itʼs not as simple as that: a lot depends on when I learnt any
given sonata (at 12, 18, 25 or 47 which is when I did my first cycle, cramming in pieces like op.90 which I had never played before and hardly knew). Then, in many ways the early
sonatas are the hardest to retain in the memory (apparently Barenboim finds this too so
Iʼm in fast company), probably because Beethoven hasnʼt yet achieved his consummate
mastery of structure and organic detail. I canʼt be the only pianist to find the
demisemiquavers of the Adagio of op.2 no 3 agonisingly laborious for the memory. One of
the sonatas I wish Iʼd learnt as a teenager!

Tickets for the evening performance of the Beethoven Marathon can be bought online from the St Martin-in-the-Fields website.

Media Release – September 2013


Karen Pitchford, KHJ Communications Ltd
Tel/Fax: 020 8292 2862 / email: pitchfordkaren@gmail.com

M E D I A    R E L E A S E Sep 2013


Piano Marathon to feature all 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas
15th October 2013; 9.15am – 10pm / St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square

A disarming technique coupled with an undoubted intellectual mastery made Julian Jacobson’s recital an awe-inspiring experience…” The Daily Telegraph

Celebrated pianist Julian Jacobson, acclaimed for the vitality, colour and insight he brings to his performances, celebrates the 10th anniversary of his first all-Beethoven charity piano marathon by staging this amazing event once more. The event will run from 9.15am-10pm on 15th October 2013 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square with the aim of raising money for WaterAid and St Martin-in-the-Fields’ ‘The Connection at St Martin’s’ that gives crisis grants to people in need across the UK.  Donate here.

Julian will perform all 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas from memory in chronological order with the exception of Op. 106 ‘Hammerklavier’, prefaced by the Sonata in E minor, Op 90, which together will form a special lunchtime concert from 1-2pm within the marathon event itself. Likewise there will be a special ‘Total Beethoven’ concert at 7pm that evening which will conclude the day’s marathon. During this outstanding feat of endurance – undertaken by only two other pianists – he plans to take just 2 longer breaks of 30 minutes each on the day and a few shorter breaks of just 5 minutes each. The event will be live-streamed with a button for people to donate during the webcast.

Hailing from a musical background, Julian’s father was the distinguished composer, pianist and festival adjudicator, Maurice Jacobson. Julian studied piano from the age of seven and had published four songs by the age of nine. Later he studied at the Royal College of Music, Queen’s College, Oxford and with the great Hungarian pianist, Louis Kentner. He was also a founder member of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Julian Jacobson has appeared in concerts worldwide both as a soloist and a chamber musician and has appeared with many leading orchestras and conductors. His commitment to contemporary music has lead to several commissions and premieres and he has an impressive discography across many key record labels. He is currently Professor of Piano & Chamber Music at the Royal College of Music and is a sought-after teacher at summer schools and masterclasses.

Julian Jacobson is no stranger to the world of Beethoven sonata cycles, this being his ninth. On 31st October 2003 he performed his first Beethoven marathon in a single day at St James’s, Piccadilly and again a year later at Harrow Arts Centre – only the second pianist ever to attempt this feat. In 2012/13 at The Forge, Camden Town, he became the first pianist to perform the revised cycle of 35 sonatas as in Barry Cooper’s new edition for the Associated Board, which includes three early works without opus numbers. For the forthcoming event, however, he will perform the standard set of 32 Beethoven sonatas.

Music & Vision wrote of Julian Jacobson’s previous Beethoven Marathon: “Not only a remarkable achievement of stamina, memory and dexterity, Julian Jacobson’s Beethoven Marathon- a performance of all Beethoven’s thirty two piano sonatas in a single day- was also an exhilarating…artistic experience, for both performer and audience

Admission free during the day with donations to charity welcome
Evening event ‘Total Beethoven’ (7pm) ticketed / Box Office: 020 7766 1100 or online from  the St Martin-in-the-Fields website.

Read Julian’s marathon blog: https://beethovenmarathon.wordpress.com/

For further information, please contact:
Karen Pitchford, KHJ Communications Ltd / Tel: 020 8292 2862 / Email: pitchfordkaren@gmail.com