Soundboard: Pianist Till Fellner

Classic Arts Features   Soundboard: Pianist Till Fellner
Ben Finane chats with Austrian pianist Till Fellner, who is currently on a tour of world cities (including New York and Washington, D.C.) performing, over the course of two years, a seven-concert cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas in each.


His most recent album is the Bach Inventions (ECM).

Ben Finane: What has extensive and intensive performance of the complete Beethoven sonatas led you to discover about them as a whole?

Till Fellner: Well, I'm rather at the beginning [laughs], in the second program of the seven recitals. But I think cycles like this are great for the player and listener because you can see the variety of the composer's work and also his development, and maybe that is of special importance in Beethoven's case. He was really looking for novelty with each sonata that he wrote. His development is simply incredible, which reminds us that he had so much more time than most composers. Beethoven was 57 when he died, but this is still nearly double the years given to Mozart and Mendelssohn.

BF: The contemporary view of the Bach Inventions still tends to restrict the works to the composer's original design: student exercises in two-part counterpoint.

TF: Yes, I studied some of the inventions as a student and when I started to play the whole cycle I discovered how beautiful they are as a concept piece, with a variety of character. In approaching the Bach Inventions, there is not such a difference from taking on the Beethoven Sonatas in that I am always trying to understand the meaning of each piece, its inner necessities, the "special." You of course have to think about what is typical to a certain composer, but then there is the danger of generalizing, even more so if you ask about a certain style. A style is not a set of rules, it's a language, but one that can express a lot of different things. Classical (by which I mean the Viennese School) is a very free and vivid language and style. But of course one big issue with playing Bach is the polyphonic language: ensuring that you make independent lines and not melody and accompaniment. Beethoven's music, too, is polyphonic, especially in his late period.


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