Alexander Scriabin – Sonata No.5 Op.53 (1907)

The Piano Sonata No.5, Op. 53, is  written by Alexander Scriabin in 1907. This was his first sonata to be written in one movement,  a format he retained from then on. A typical performance lasts from 11 to 12 minutes.

“The Fifth Sonata, one of the most frequently played of the composer’s works, owes a great deal to the orchestral Poem of Ecstasy, and for this reason the Sonata is occasionally given that same title. Both draw on a poem by written by Scriabin, of which four lines are affixed to the beginning of the Sonata (a passage which “calls to life” the artist’s “hidden longings,” an example of the composer’s ever-increasing obsession with his own creative powers)…”  [source]

Original Russian text: Я к жизни призываю вас, скрытые стремленья!Вы, утонувшие в темных глубинахДуха творящего, вы, боязливыеЖизни зародыши, вам дерзновенье приношу!

Original French translation: Je vous appelle à la vie, ô forces mysterieuses! Noyées dans les obscures profondeurs De l’esprit créateur, craintivesEbauches de vie, à vous j’apporte l’audace!

English translation: I call you to life, oh mysterious forces! Drowned in the obscure depths Of the creative spirit, timid Shadows of life, to you I bring audacity! [ source]

Sonata No.5 Op.53 played by Glenn Gould :

Sonata No.5 Op.53 played by Vladimir Sofronitsky (live):

Sonata No.5 Op.53 played by Bernd Glemser :

800px-Alexander_Scriabin,_Tatiana_Schloezer_and_Leonid_Sabaneev_on_the_banks_of_the_Oka_RiverAlexander Scriabin, Tatiana Schloezer and Leonid Sabaneev on the banks of the Oka River, 1912.

Beethoven – Piano Sonatas (1795 – 1822)

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his 32 piano sonatas between 1795 and 1822. Although originally not intended to be a meaningful whole, as a set they comprise one of the most important collections of works in the history of music. Hans von Bülow even called them “The New Testament” of music (Johann Sebastian Bach´s The Well-Tempered Clavier being “The Old Testament”.

Beethoven’s piano sonatas came to be seen as the first cycle of major piano pieces suited to concert hall performance. Being suitable for both private and public performance, Beethoven’s sonatas form “a bridge between the worlds of the salon and the concert hall”.

Camille Saint-Saëns, in his debut public recital at the age of ten, offered to play as an encore any of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas from memory.

In a single concert cyclus, the whole 32 sonatas were first performed by Hans von Bülow; the first to make a complete recording was Artur Schnabel in 1927 (he was also the first since von Bülow to play the complete cycle in concert from memory). [source]

[List of the sonatas]

Glenn Gould – Piano




Anton Webern – Variations for piano Opus 27 (1936)

Variations for piano, op. 27, is a twelve-tone piece for piano composed by Anton Webern in 1936. It consists of three movements:

  1. Sehr mäßig (“Very moderate”)
  2. Sehr schnell (“Very fast”)
  3. Ruhig fließend (“Calm, flowing”)

Webern’s only published work for solo piano, the Variations are one of his major instrumental works and a seminal example of his late style. [source]

Glenn Gould – pianoforte, filmed in 1974.


Is Glenn Gould's solitary string quartet a masterpiece or an unruly child?

Although its origins and first performances have drifted into the mists of time, Glenn Gould’s String Quartet, Op. 1, provides a glimpse into the great composer and musician’s psyche and skill set for those string quartets and audiences adventurous enough to take it out for a drive. Gould finished the 35-minute quartet in 1955, a few months before recording the set of Bach’s Goldberg Variations that would turn him into an overnight piano sensation. Preceded by obscure childhood compositions, an atonal bassoon sonata, and an unfinished piano sonata, the ambitious quartet—redolent of late Romantic Strauss and Schoenberg, with quotations from Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge and Quartet in A minor, Op. 132— is music of consequence, fugal riches, and often darkly sumptuous beauty.

Even so, the quartet would certainly have been long forgotten if its composer were not a legend for his artistry at the keyboard. Fortunately, the fledgling Alcan Quartet, based in Chicoutimi, Quebec, where it is supported by the Canadian aluminum giant after which it is named, has come to the rescue with a splendid new recording on the ATMA label.

The Alcans—violinists Laura Andriani and Nathalie Camus, violist Luc Beauchemin, and cellist David Ellis—are uniquely qualified to help reintroduce the work of this fellow Canadian to a contemporary audience worldwide: the first violinist, Laura Andriani, studied at conservatory with violinist Paolo Borciani of the Quartetto Italiano. Borciani was very interested in Glenn Gould. “I was very touched and intoxicated by the quartet writing,” Andriani says. “Learning the score, however, was a very intense experience.”

Read the full article in All Things Strings here.