I can’t help wondering to myself whether Jeffrey Kahane can maintain the intensity of the performances he delivered last week through another long weekend. Tonight he has no help from the orchestra – the piano sits alone on the stage. Only Beethoven will be there to keep him company on the music stand, Sonata No. 30 and 33 variations on a waltz by Diabelli. Jeffrey jumps into the sonata with gusto. Again the theme hits me of Beethoven pushing the classical forms to their limits. The four movement structure is familiar, but the music in each contains far fewer strong resolutions and cadences than I recall from earlier sonatas or the concertos. The floatiness of it brings Debussy to mind, and occasionally Chopin. The innovative feel is as undeniable as the flow of emotion, which Jeffrey expresses wonderfully.
The variations are a different experience entirely. Sarah calls them “tedious exercises”. I also struggle to keep pace with them, especially without the benefit of any knowledge of the original waltz or the allowable ways to create a variation from it. Nevertheless, I appreciate the variety in the collection and the apparent uniqueness of each. In some I imagine I hear the frustration and rage of composer unable to hear his music performed, in others a tender forgiveness of life’s cruelties. The playing looks incredibly difficult, so much so that I feel a touch relieved for Jeffrey when he finishes the list without deflating with fatigue. I wish him a good night’s rest before we all return tomorrow for the grand finalé.