My Beethoven book has fallen apart, split into two uneven sections. I’ve had this book for ages, perhaps 27 years, dating back to my first months of finally having a piano at home — a rental, after an adolescence of noodling hungrily on pianos at various friends’ houses.
I’ve played pieces out of this book probably more than any other in my collection, and though it feels cliché to admit it, I’ve spent the most time on a pair of quintessential Beethoven sonatas: the “Moonlight Sonata” and the “Sonata Pathetique.”
So it’s no surprise that the break occurred in the middle of the first movement of the “Sonata Pathetique.” Page 142, to be exact, where I’ve thundered back and forth between the dramatic Grave theme and the still-a-little-too-fast-for-these-hands Allegro molto e con brio. (I won’t claim to play that section well, but enthusiasm counts for something, right?)
Poor page 146 is now entirely loose, though I take care to keep it safely tucked in. It is, after all, where the tender Adagio cantabile begins. I’ve spent many blissful hours immersed in the thoughtful, shimmering steps of that section of the “Pathetique.”
Sometime in the late 1990s, I also wandered into Piano Sonata No. 23, the “Appassionata,” particularly the Andante con moto section, which rises up out of a contemplative quiet into particularly sparkly phrases that always leave me smiling.
This songbook has some of my early notes on the first movement of “Moonlight Sonata.” I was teaching myself how to play piano back then, and to navigate so many sharps was an especially big challenge for me, so I went through and lightly penciled a square around each note that needed to be sharped. The joke is that I mismarked a note here and there. The pencil markings remain—the mistaken ones, too—though it has been ages since I’ve paid attention to them, even as I regularly–and now gingerly!–open up my trusty old Beethoven book and slip into the dreamy trance that stirs up from “Moonlight”‘s first movement.
Songbook: Beethoven: His Greatest Piano Solos, Vol. 1
Publisher: Ashley Mark Publishing Company (1970)
Status (2019): In Print
“I put it down to too much Beethoven.”Mr. Beebe,
in E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View