The Beethoven Piano Sonatas at Carnegie Hall

Classic Arts Features   The Beethoven Piano Sonatas at Carnegie Hall
Daniel Barenboim performs all 32 of Beethoven's piano sonatas.

If you had to guess which of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas has been performed in Carnegie Hall more than any other, which would you choose? The "Moonlight"? "Les Adieux"? The "Pathétique"? Good guesses, but all would be incorrect. The "Appassionata" (No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57) leads the way at 224 performances.

Piano sonatas by Beethoven‹among the most popular works in the entire piano literature‹have been performed in Carnegie Hall at least 1,797 times. The "Waldstein" (No. 21 in C Major, Op. 54), the second most performed at 143 times, was part of the very first concert heard in the Carnegie Hall building on April 1, 1891‹a month before the Hall officially opened. The recital took place in what is now Zankel Hall.

It might be surprising then to learn that when Daniel Barenboim performs all 32 sonatas beginning on June 10, he will be only the fourth pianist in Carnegie Hall's history ever to do so. In 1936 Artur Schnabel was the first to attempt this musical marathon in the Hall. The year before, he had been the first to record them all‹on 204 sides of 78-rpm disks‹and he was the second pianist ever to have performed the entire cycle in public, following the lead of Hans von Bülow.

Forty-seven years passed before another entire cycle was performed here: Alfred Brendel presented the complete sonatas in 1983 and again ten years later. Maurizio Pollini played them all during the 1995-96 season, at which time the Rose Museum had the remarkable privilege of displaying 16 of the sonatas in manuscript, first-edition, and sketch form‹treasures never before lent to the United States by the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn and the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna.

‹Gino Francesconi
Archivist and Museum Director, Carnegie Hall

Visit the Rose Museum to find out more about Carnegie Hall's rich and diverse history.

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