The music of Beethoven is returning to Cameron University in the third concert of Hyunsoon Whang’s planned complete cycle of the famed composers sonatas.
Whang has set the goal of performing the entire cycle of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas over the next few years. The sonatas are considered one of the most important collections of works in the history of music. She began the cycle in September 2019 and has performed six sonatas to date.
Whang will open the recital with Sonata No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 10 No. 1. Like the other sonatas in Op. 10, this composition was dedicated to Countess Anne Margarete von Browne, the wife of one of Beethoven’s patrons. It was written between 1796 and 1798.
“This sonata is from Beethoven’s early period, full of youthful energy and urgency,” Whang said. “It is compact yet contains plenty of drama and contrasts. The outer movements are jagged and unsettled, on purpose of course, and the middle movement Adagio molto is heavenly.”
Whang will then present Sonata No. 15 in D Major, Op 28, “Pastorale.” The work is generally admired for its intricate technicality as well as for its beauty. Published in 1801, it was dedicated to Count Joseph von Sonnenfels, a jurist, novelist and president of the Academy of Sciences.
“This sonata from the middle period is one of my favorite Beethoven sonatas,” Whang said. “The ‘Pastorale’ was not a subtitle given by Beethoven himself, but one can definitely hear and feel the nature’s typology throughout. It is expansive, lyrical, tender, and symphonic in nature. Beethoven truly loved nature from which he found inspiration and solace throughout his life.”
Whang has selected “Les Adieux” Sonata No. 26 in E-flat Major, Op. 81a, to conclude the recital. Beethoven was prompted to compose this piece following Archduke Rudolf’s abandonment of Vienna in May 1809 due to the threat of war and his subsequent return in late January 1810. It is considered one of Beethoven’s most challenging sonatas due to the mature emotions that must be conveyed throughout as well as the technical difficulties involved. The composition is the bridge between Beethoven’s middle period and his later period.
“Of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, this is the only truly ‘programmatic’ sonata in the sense that Beethoven gave it its subtitle ‘Das Lebewohl’ (farewell) for the first movement followed by ‘Abwesenheit’ and ‘Wiedersehen’ (absence and return) for the subsequent movements,” Whang said.
When selecting which sonatas to perform in one recital, Whang strives for a well-balanced program that she enjoys practicing and playing and that the audience will enjoy.
“I wanted to build a program around the Sonata No. 15,” she said. “The C Minor Sonata is a great opener with its dark, intense quality, then the euphoric D Major, the Pastorale, which is more like a symphony than a piano sonata, then finally the well-known, satisfying Sonata Op. 81a to end the program.”
Whang is a faculty member at Cameron University where she is the McMahon Endowed Chair in Music as well as a professor of music. She teaches piano, accompanying and music appreciation.