Ivan Donchev -The grand tour with Beethoven in Velletri

Ludwig van BeethovenSonata N. 5 in Do minore, Op.10 N.1- Allegro molto e con brio- Adagio molto- PrestissimoSonata N. 6 in Fa maggiore, Op.10 N.2- Allegro- Allegretto- PrestoPiano Sonata No. 7 in Re maggiore, Op. 10 N. 3- Presto- Largo e mesto- Menuetto: Allegro- Rondo: Allegro

This is what the distinguished french pianist Marylene​ Mouquet had to say about the recital:’Magnifico appuntamento con Beethoven grazie ad un artista esperto che ha capito l’essenza di Beethoven… Sa esprimerlo con brio, stile, forza d’animo e delicatezza. Grazie Ivan!

And this is what I have written about Ivan’s previous concerts nei Castelli Romani :

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2019/11/25/the-hills-of-rome-are-ringing-to-the-sound-of-music-donchev-in-velletri-and-taddei-ciammarughi-in-ariccia/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2019/04/29/ivan-donchev-in-search-of-liszt/

Some very fine playing from Ivan Donchev in the third of his series of the 32 Sonatas by Beethoven.Three early works of op. 10 written between 1796-98 belong to the close of the eighteenth century, part of that group of thirteen sonatas that remain within the classical tradition that Beethoven was at first to explore and expand. The Opus 10 sonatas are dedicated to Countess von Browne, the wife of Count Johann Georg von Browne-Camus, a nobleman of Irish ancestry in the Russian Imperial service in Vienna. Beethoven had dedicated his three String Trios, Opus 9, to the Count, to whom he was indebted in various ways, including the gift of a horse that he had soon abandoned.

They are full of youthful energy but already show signs of Beethoven’s personality alternating a startling rhythmic call to arms with classical lyricism.Always there is an undercurrent that carries us from the first to the last note almost without rest.The Bosendorfer that Ivan played with its bright clear sound was ideally suited to this early sound world whereas the later sonatas are more dense and melodic and may need a much richer almost orchestral sound.The Arietta from op 111 or the theme from op 109 are surely contemplated with the same density of a string quartet.Already Beethoven in slow movement- Largo e mesto-of op 10 n.3 anticipates what is to come in the later Sonatas from op 106 to op 111.All this was brilliantly described by Ivan in his short but very succinct introductory talk.

The first Sonata op 10 n.1 in C minor anticipates the later op 13 Pathétique with its imperious opening alternating with contrasting lyricism.It was played with a precision and absolute faithfulness to Beethoven’s indications.The coda before the development showed a striking resemblance to a similar passage in the later op 10 n.3 where Beethoven had already taken the germ of this idea one step further.It was beautifully realised by Ivan and just confirmed what he had said about the chronological order of the sonatas showing so clearly Beethoven’s development as a composer.It is infact a unique journey and very rare that an evolutionary path can be seen so clearly from the first op 2 n.1 to the last op 111.

There was a great purity of sound and a sense of balance that allowed the melodic line of the ‘Adagio molto’ to sing out so clearly.The almost belcanto ornamentation was played with a lightness and sense of shape that was quite magical.The turbulent question and answer phrases were integrated so well into the overall architectural shape of this great song.Disappearing to a whisper before the driving energy of the Prestissimo finale which was played with great vigour but alternating with passages of eloquent charm.

The Sonata in F major op 10 n.2 was a favourite of Glenn Gould and it is a remarkable work where the usual slow movement is substituted with a minuet and trio of quite startling originality.The opening movement has something of a pastoral feel to it which has a playful development section played with a rhythmic buoyancy and forward movement that is quite hypnotic.The explosive left hand trills could have unwound even more abruptly so as not to disturb the relentless rhythmic energy that Ivan had instilled. The Minuet too could have been even more legato like a plasma that spreads across the keys in such a remarkable way.A beautiful trio section though moved so well one in a bar that made the comments in the left hand even more poignant .The devilish Presto finale was played with such precision and a relentlessness that was breathtaking.

The Sonata op 10 n.3 is the first of Beethoven’s great works where he stamps the Sonata formula with his own unique personality.The first movement played in two with Beethoven’s startling sforzandi like a call to arms interrupting the rhythmic flow.One can already see on the horizon op 13 and 22 with a visual pattern that is gradually becoming more marked as he moves away from the classical shape of Haydn and Mozart.The left hand figurations in the development section were played with driving insistence with pleading comments from the right hand sforzandi. There were beautiful lyrical contrasts where Ivan’s playing reminded me of Gelber with his way of slightly playing out of sinc on occasion that gave such expressive power without harshness of tone.Infact all through today’s performances were Ivan’s sense of fullness without hardness and expressivness without sentimentality.It was just this that gave such depth of meaning to the intense Largo e mesto of great beauty and powerful emotional meaning.Beethoven’s remarkable way of holding a long bass note whilst allowing the right hand to comment above with such clarity was to be exploited in his later Sonata op 31.n 2 ‘The Tempest.’The magical mists of sound that had been hinted at in the earlier op 2 n.3 are here used to startling effect as it reaches a climax where the bubble bursts as we are brought back to the final magical notes which again anticipate the last notes of the very final op 111.The Menuetto was played unusually gently and it contrasted so well with the bubbling charm of the Trio .The question and answer of the final Rondo was played with a brilliance and precision,the final scales and arpeggios just hovered over the keys as the work came to a gentle end.

This was indeed a remarkable third stop in a journey of discovery and I look forward to the next stop of this stimulating panorama.

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