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Exceeding the “Active Volcano” Beethoven

Posted November. 15, 2006 03:02,   


“I returned from Naples yesterday after performing the Schumann concerto. It is understandable why many artists such as Goethe have traveled to Italy for inspiration. If Beethoven went to Italy as well, maybe he could have relieved some of his tension.”

Pianist Baek Geon-woo (60) welcomed us with a calm voice from his home in France, forgetting about his exhaustion after his performance trip. He also told us about his visit to the Pompei Vesuvio Volcano and the port city Sorrento with his wife, actress Yoon Jung-hee, after his recital.

“Beethoven was like a volcano ready to erupt at any moment. However, despite his masculinity, there were many quiet ending sonatas. Recording all of Beethoven’s sonatas is like depicting his entire life.”

Baek started to record “New Testament of Music,” which is the complete sonata of Beethoven, (“Old Testament” is comprised of 48 concertos from Bach’s Das wohltemperierte Klavier and Pucca) with the British Decca last year. Recently, Baek produced sonata numbers 1 to 15, which contains young Beethoven’s agony and ambition and his harsh life. It was only a year after he mastered the 11 middle part sonatas (numbers 16 to 26).

“As Beethoven himself offered his first sonata to Haydn, he must have been affected by Haydn and Mozart. However, exceptional artists have their own worlds established from a young age.”

Traditional sonatas are made of three movements. However, Beethoven’s sonatas include those made from four movements such as symphonies and two movements. Thus, the performing time varies from eight to 46 minutes. Baek argued that “Beethoven was a ‘music revolutionist’ who surpassed the period and thus could not follow the dull established form.”

Baek will be giving a Beethoven piano recital at Seoul Arts Center Concert Hall on December 19. Other than Beethoven’s sonata numbers 27 and 28, Baek will play those works that have both given to and received influence from Beethoven such as Mozart, Wagner and Stockhausen to reflect Beethoven’s position in western music history.

He cited, “Wagner could not exist without Beethoven,” and that, “It is very difficult to produce a piece of art that can engage people just for the sake of the melody for over 20 minutes such as Beethoven`s Hammerklavier third movement and Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde.”

After producing the last sonata (numbers 27 to 32) next year, Baek plans to complete his Beethoven sonata recording after three years. He plans to attract global attention with another event next December. The event will show all of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas in eight days at the Seoul Arts Center Concert Hall. There have been people who completed them in a year or over a few months, but no one has done it in eight days (four per day).

“It will be like living with Beethoven for a week. Of course, the musicians will get tired and the listeners will have to be ready. On top of everything, I believe it is a noble challenge for music. Is this not the reason why we climb mountains?”

Performance detail 02-751-9607