Friday 18 July 2014
Time was the greatest gift
Mari Kodama about the upcoming Beethoven Box
We are very proud to announce that in September we are going to release the Beethoven - Complete Piano Sonatas Box with Mari Kodama. Read the interview in which the talented pianist unveils the process of this incredible achievement.
Interview with Mari Kodama:
Your recordings of the Beethoven cycle spanned more than a decade. What opportunities did this expanse of time offer?
“Beethoven’s piano sonatas are a musical treasure of inestimable value. The more time I spend with them, regardless whether I’m playing them at the piano or reading them away from the piano, the more I discover. The greatest opportunity provided to me by the project was time itself. I had the time to think through my interpretations of a given work several times, so that I was able to view and illuminate it from different standpoints. The most exciting part was always when I considered the relationship between the works already recorded and those yet to be recorded.”
Beethoven’s piano sonatas can be regarded as a ‘work in progress’, as an organic development of the standard model, ‘sonata’, all the way to its dissolution in the late period. Which of the sonatas do you consider milestones? Which are your favourites?
“First of all, I’d like to say that, for me, all 32 are absolute masterpieces. Through their great inner power and connotations of freedom and revolution, the extremely classical early sonatas already embody Beethoven’s character.
Op. 26 in a sense sums up the works preceding it and, with the variation movement and the funeral march, introduces an entirely new style. Then, in Op. 27, No. 1, this development becomes even more apparent – an entire drama in one movement. Around the time that Op. 53 and 57 were being composed, technical improvements were making the sound of the piano stronger, more nuanced and richer in colour. And that was probably the sound that Beethoven had in mind, and which ultimately led to the next milestone, Op. 106, in which he pushed the instrument to the limits of what was then possible. The last three sonatas are works of imponderable depth, in which temporal boundaries become blurred. My favourites are Op. 2, No. 2, because it is so ingratiating, Op. 10, No. 3, because of the enormous contrasts between the movements, Op. 28, because of how it presages later works, Op. 31, No. 3, because of its joyful dance structures, Op. 81a, because of the story of Beethoven’s friend associated with it, Archduke Rudolph, and Op. 101, because of its joyous march, its terse but highly emotional slow movement and its fugue.”
Did the somewhat isolated location for the recordings have an effect on your interpretations?
“The recording studio in Valthermond is in a converted barn. At times you could hear the tractor driving by, sometimes together with bird song or thunderstorms. I felt a real team connection with the producer, Wilhelm Hellweg, the tonmeister, Jean-Marie Geijsen and the piano tuner, Michel Brendjes. Michel always prepared the instrument early in the morning. Then, after some good Dutch coffee, we were able to energetically launch into a session. We cooked together and occasionally even picnicked in the garden. Although the studio has the acoustic of a large concert hall, the cosy atmosphere made the recording situation extremely peaceful and harmonious.”
How did such an intensive involvement with Beethoven’s piano sonatas affect you?
“Immersing myself so deeply in Beethoven’s artistic world allowed me to realise what a visionary and how modern a thinker he truly was. Beethoven is often portrayed as a rigorous and strict composer who never smiled. But he was in fact a great exponent of humanity and justice. His music overflows with strength, spaciousness, warmth and humanity, without ever sacrificing the most exquisite whit and humour! Beethoven’s art is always with me. And that is a true gift.”
The entire box of this serie will be available in SEP 2014.
Mari Kodama was interviewed by Franz Steiger.