Previous cello sonatas had either been cello solos with continuo accompaniment or, like Beethoven’s first two, piano sonatas with cello obbligato. Here, every theme is perfectly conceived for both instruments; Beethoven had invented a new genre..
– Cellist Steven Isserlis
With Beethoven’s birthday right around the corner, we thought it a good time to revisit one of the highlights of #Heifetz2017….the captivating Sunday Matinee performance by Artist in Residence cellist Thomas Mesa and faculty pianist Dina Vainshtein of Beethoven’s “game changing” Sonata No. 3.
What’s so different about it? In a fascinating essay for The Guardian titled “How I Fell in Love with Ludwig,” renowned cellist Steven Isserlis tells the story: The third sonata, the A major, Op 69, inhabits a different world altogether. Beethoven worked on this sonata between 1806 and 1808; by then, his deafness was acute, if not quite complete. In his tragic letter known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, written in October 1802, Beethoven had admitted that he had harboured thoughts of suicide. “It was only my art that held me back. Oh, it seemed to me impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt was within me.”
Yet this sonata – in common with several other works from the same period – is one of the most positive works imaginable; from the opening phrase, it radiates serenity, humour and joy. There is not a note that is trivial, however. The A major Sonata is a thoroughly classical work, its proportions carefully measured, the themes answering each other in perfect symmetry. It is also the first equal sonata for cello and piano.
Cuban-American cellist Thomas Mesa has his own, compelling story,, some of which he shares with our Francis Auditorium audience before the performance. A proud alum of the Heifetz Institute, Thomas was the 2016 Senior Division 1st Place Laureate and winner of the $50,000 Robert Frederick Smith Prize from the Sphinx Competition, an organization dedicated to promoting the careers of African-American and Latino classical musicians. Thomas was also named a winner (along with fellow alum Zlatomir Fung) of the 2017 Astral Artists prize. And w!e’re delighted to announce that Thomas will be joining our HeifetzPEG faculty – our new program for exceptionally talented young string players aged 9 to 13 – in the summer of 2018!
Remember, if you enjoy our Video of the Week feature, you can check out the entire series here – and subscribe to get them in your inbox every week!