I had the wonderful opportunity last Friday to watch local pianist Sunghee Kim perform a concert at Oregon State University’s free Friday lunch concert series. Kim presented three pieces: Bach’s Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, Sonata No. 23 in F minor by Beethoven, and Ballade No. 1 in G minor by Chopin.
While I don’t have videos of Kim playing these pieces, I wanted to share them with you and give a little history on each.
Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV 825
Between 1726 and 1730, Bach composed six partitas (a suite for a single instrument) for piano. These partitas were some of his last keyboard suites the composer wrote during his life.
Partita No. 1 has six movements:
- Prelude (a short work considered a preface to the remaining movements)
- 0:00-2:09 in the video
- What to listen for: lyricism and gentle counterpoint.
- Allemande (a renaissance style dance)
- What to listen for: a lively march-type theme throughout the work.
- Courante (“running”, a work in triple time danced to with fast running and jumping steps)
- What to listen for: an agile yet slightly moody dance.
- Sarabande (a slow dance)
- What to listen for: varying levels of nostalgia and introspectiveness (this is now a word).
- Menuets I and II (a French dance for couples) (*Side note: these could be considered two separate movements)
- What to listen for: a delicate yet playful mood.
- Gigue (“jig”, a lively dance)
- What to listen for: sharp staccatos and melodic echoes hidden (sometimes obviously) within the rapid notes
Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 (“Appassionata”)
Beethoven composed Piano Sonata in F minor in 1804, during his middle period (check out my post on Beethoven’s life for a breakdown of his three compositional periods). By this point, the composer was mostly deaf; we can hear the struggle in this particular piece. The shifts in mood and bursts of sound paint a glimpse into Beethoven’s tragic mind.
*Fun fact: like most of his piano sonatas, “Appassionata” was not nicknamed until after Beethoven’s death.
- Allegro assai
- What to listen for: the main theme is made of two contrasting motifs: tranquil octaves (played at the very beginning of the piece) and an ominous low bass triplet (0:46). These themes are developed throughout the movement.
- Andante con moto
- What to listen for: a set of variations bursting with warmth. This movement is a complete contrast to the first and third.
- Allegro ma non troppo – Presto
- What to listen for: complexity in the rapid 16th notes with a passionate ending.
Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23
Chopin began composing his first ballade (a work for solo piano written in the style of a ballet with a narrative) in 1831 while he was living in Vienna, but he didn’t finish the work until after he moved to Paris in 1835.
*Fun fact: Chopin did create the ballade as a musical genre! His first inspired other composers (such as Liszt and Brahms) to create their own ballades.
What to listen for: the introduction and the coda of this piece are extremely improvisatory in nature; this idea then transforms itself into the waltz theme that is developed throughout the piece. The ballade tells a story full of mystery, hope, and turbulence before coming to a dramatic finish.