[MUSIC] Hello Courserians, if that's the right word. Welcome to Exploring the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. I am genuinely so happy to have this opportunity to share my experience of this extraordinary music at all of you. My name is Jonathan Biss and I am a pianist. Forgive me if that seems self-evident, but it seemed important to say it up front as a means of explaining what this class will be and what it will not. My relationship to the Beethoven Sonatas is not primarily an academic one. I have lived with them for practically all of my life as a listener and for the majority of it as a player. That is to say I'm not a historian and I'm not a musicologist, but the work that historians and musicologists do is not or at least should not be, purely theoretical. And on the flip side, performance should not be purely intuitive. My own experience has shown me that there is a vast intersection between the two. Playing music has constantly shaped the way I think about music, just as thinking about music has constantly shaped the way that I play it. We, performers need to be acutely aware of the backdrop of the music we play, of the world that produced it and the way in which it is put together. Music, undeniably has an ineffable quality that can't be explained. But a huge part of the way we respond to it has to do with the way it fulfills or confounds our expectations. And these expectations are based on many things. The culture that we come from, the culture the music itself comes from, and the psychological effect that musical structure, harmony in particular, has on us. This is all of tremendous importance to the performer and it will be the subject of each of these five lectures. While, I will aim to give an overview of the 32 sonatas, it will also inevitably be a selective view. One could talk about these pieces forever and in fact, people have. It will also be a personal view, deeply influenced by my experiences playing the sonatas, which have been often overwhelming experiences. And frankly, by my own musical biases and fixations. The reason that we're still playing, listening to, talking about the Beethoven sonatas, some 191 years after he completed the last of them, is that they are monumental and mysterious enough to be able to accommodate infinite points of view. They are indeed endlessly interesting. If you're new to this music, I hope this will be only the very beginning of your exploration of Beethoven. [LAUGH] Having said all that, this week's lecture ironically is mostly not about Beethoven. One needs to know where music was to see how Beethoven really turned it on its ear. So, to launch this extended discussion of Beethoven, I wanna look at the realities of the musical world in the era that directly preceded him. Now, Beethoven really only has three predecessors who are connected to him in any meaningful way, Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Josef Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Bach didn't invent music, of course, but what he achieved moved Western music so drastically forward. His predecessors, marvelous as some of them are, often seem to come from a different universe entirely. Beethoven, like every other significant composer of the last 250 years, studied Bach. He was also in fairness, a great admirer of Handel. But any influence of Handel is occasional and incidental, whereas the influence of Bach, above all in Beethoven's ever-increasing interest in Fugal writing, that's inevitable and everywhere. Beethoven studied briefly with Haydn. Possibly more significantly, Haydn was either the inventor of or the first master of the three forms, piano sonata, symphony and string quartet. In which Beethoven made his greatest impact. And when Beethoven first left Bonn for Vienna, it was in hopes of studying with Mozart. While this never came to pass, and in all probability the two never even met. Mozart cast a long shadow on Beethoven. Several of his early works such as the String Quartet Opus 18 No.5 and the Quintet for Piano and Winds, these are very obviously modelled on specific works of Mozart. And throughout the 1790s, Mozart music is a clear point of reference for Beethoven. The model to be followed, rebelled against and ultimately he hoped surpassed. What I would like to talk about with regard to these three masters is not their influence on Beethoven, at least not per se. It's the role that each played in society and the role that their music played. Today, when we think about the sharing or dissemination of music, we think primarily of concerts and of recordings. Now, recordings obviously did not exist in this era. But important to remember, is that going back to Bach, the concert did not really exist either. The oldest purpose-built concert hall in the world is the Holywell Music Room in Oxford. And it was built in 1748, only two years before the death of Bach. Instead, music had a private function in the home, a political function, and perhaps above all, a religious function. In addition to the Great B Minor Mass, the St. Matthew Passion, the St. John Passion and the Christmas Oratorio, Bach also wrote over 200 cantatas. Many of these were straightforwardly religious works with biblical texts. Most of the others are special occasion works written for members of the nobility. Some of these did get performed outside of court. Along with his instrumental works, secular cantatas were often played in the Zimmerman's Cafe House in Leipzig. But as that name implies, this was not a con stall. And no money changed at hands, except through the sale of the coffee. Astonishing as it may seem, the closest Bach's music came to a concert performance in his lifetime, was as the accompaniment to coffee drinking. Given the perhaps, unhealthy reverence with which we now approach Bach, this is interesting to contemplate. Bach is, by any measure one of the greatest composers of keyboard music, but the pieces which solidify this case. So that's the 48 Preludes and Fueges of the Well-Tempered Clavier, the Partitas, the English Suites, the French Suites, the Goldberg Variations, the Italian Concerto. These were published in collections as Ubungen Studies. Now, the work were showing not meant precisely in the sense of later piano studies by composers like Hanon or Czerny, who have tortured centuries of subsequent piano students. These etudes were meant to engage the brain and doubtless, the soul as much as the fingers. But still, the title demonstrates that performance was not on Bach's mind as he wrote these masterpieces. Bach lived to be 65 years old, and most of his adult life was spent into three posts. First, as a court musician in Weimar in Köthen and finally as a church musician in Leipzig. I don't mean to give the false impression that Bach fits this cliche of the artistic genius who is totally unappreciated in his lifetime. It's just that appreciation for a musician didn't look anything then like it does now. Or even like it did in Beethoven’s heyday, which was 50 to 60 years after Bach died in 1750. Bach was respected by his employers and therefore given increasing latitude as he advanced in age, but he was in essence a servant. In his final post in Leipzig, Bach's responsibilities included giving singing lessons to the borders at the Thomasschule. Think of it. Bach was nearly 60 years old. Definitely old age by the standards of the time and writing what have long been considered some of the greatest works of Western art. And he was simultaneously teaching teenagers to sing. It really was another world. Let's take a short break for a review question.