Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major (Op. 109)

by mudrhetoric

This project originally began when I heard the third movement and was thusly aroused. This perplexed me, as this was the first piece of music, at least in recent memory, that caused that sort of stirring. I began to rack my mind for the reason for my arousal and discovered that this movement was used in the gay romantic film, Trick, which I recall with great fondness to the point of it likely being my second favorite film to watch. I then began the process of listening through as many recordings of the work that I could find. I ended up listening to over 70 different recordings. Below are listed the five that I enjoyed the most, in order, and one honorable mention.

1. Alfred Cortot (1920)
For me this is a pure sensuous experience. His hands simply melt into the keyboard and Cortot embodies the piece. Such a romantic and gentle touch combined with a refined sensibility and a subtle arrogance.

2. Wilhelm Backhaus (1950)
Perhaps the diametric of Cortot, this is a steely interpretation with a marked technical mastery. Devoid of romance and emotionalism, it pierces.

3. Claudio Arrau (1965)
The modern Cortot who’s paws just melt into the keys. All the notes held a bit too long, sustaining that moment, just sex.

4. Edwin Fischer (1954)
A mixture of Cortot and Backhaus, a throwback to that Teutonic tradition. Light fingertips with such wonderful momentum. Graceful and beautiful.

5. Elly Ney (1960-1968?)
The slowest, and thereby, the most idiosyncratic. Plodding and plotting. Nary a note out of place, the placing of flowers in an arrangement.

Honorable Mentions
Chi-Hui Yen (2011)
The only modern interpretation on this list, and this is due to a bias on my end, for this work I actually enjoy the older sound, that slight hum of vinyl muffling the sustainment even further, creating a skewed dynamic. This performance though is wonderful, beautifully played, technically impressive whilst still holding onto that sense of romanticism of a bygone era.

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