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Practice Journal: "Pathétique Sonata" - Beethoven - Part Two

A couple of weeks ago I revisited Beethoven's outstanding work - the Pathétique Sonata - and, just to reiterate, I can in fact play this whole suite beginning to end relatively well, but the first movement demands my attention. Particularly those passages marked 'Allegro Molto e Con Brio'.

Refer to Part One for the reasons why it is so difficult and how I am helping myself to achieve greater perfection, but meanwhile have a look at this video where I perform all three individually separated 'Allegro Molto e Con Brio' passages (not including the repeat of the first one):

I still have a broken metronome, sadly, but interestingly it seems a greater challenge to play without - even when playing at a reasonable speed (I sped up slightly for this take).

So what still needs working on?


I don't know if I'd specifically refer to it as a lack of trust on my part, but after I hit the record button I actually had about two false starts before what you see above. In my mind I seem to be struggling to correctly assess the situation. Bear in mind that this comes after a whole passage of 'grave', which is naturally a drastically different approach to performance, and so the sudden contrast of rapid quavers in the left hand is something I need to get right so that I can perform convincingly when I do play the piece as a whole.

Note Accuracy

Partly this is to do with the speed I learn, and partly to do with fingers. However, as you can see there are passages in this which involve the right hand crossing over the left hand. This in itself is a fair enough technique, but bear in mind the eventual speed of this (even the speed I'm playing above) and how rapidly the music transitions between the two hands. Quite relentlessly, in fact.

Whilst I will do a take with about 90% accuracy, I can't deny it still feels a little uncomfortable, not to mention that that remaining 10% either sounds bad or I stumble over completely. And it's not a specific part - it changes on each performance!

One of the tactics I am trying to adopt is to play these parts with a slightly different hand / finger shape. The notes during these passages are marked as staccattisimo, meaning that at the very least I don't need to slur them usually. This allows me to be able to curve my fingers more to ensure that they are much more likely to hit the correct notes - especially important in the first passage with lots of hand jumping as it is in Eb minor (i.e. - lots of black notes!).

Speaking of this...

Jumping off the Notes

I've found it of the greatest importance to jump off the notes even more than I was whilst progressing upwards whilst the left hand performs rapid quavers. This allows for my right hand to be able to much more accurately hit the notes and not be too much of a distraction for my left hand which needs to keep the rhythm going quite relentlessly.

In order to achieve a fairly pleasing result, I am using the right pedal (sustain) to an effect so that when I do jump off the notes, at the very least it isn't too detached and lingers just long enough to create a nice effect.

It is possible that the next practice journal I do on 'Pathétique' will be for a different movement, but in the meanwhile I will be continuing to improve my performance of these pieces.



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