For Ludwig van Beethoven (Bonn, 1770-Vienna, 1827) the current pianists would be amateurs. The difference is not in technical prowess or musicality, but in improvisation. Today we identify this creative practice with jazz, and its knowledge is not indispensable for any classical pianist. But, at the beginning of the 19th century, it served to distinguish a dilettante from an expert. And an instrumentalist had to fill in the scores he played with personal additions, whether they were ornaments, fermatas or cadences.
We have a lot of information from that time on piano technique and the instruments used, but it is not easy to know how Beethoven improvised. “The testimonies are sometimes contradictory”, assures the pianist and composer Gianluca Cascioli in a videoconference with Newsfresh. “But we know that some indications of Beethoven's scores have changed their meaning.” And he shows it with an anecdote transmitted by his disciple Carl Czerny to Theodor Leschetizki: “During the performance of a sonata, the composer ordered him to improvise a fermata on a pilot whale sign. After two short or inappropriate attempts, he opted to run his fingers in a brilliant three-octave passage until Beethoven grabbed him by the shoulder and yelled: That's too much! ”
Cascioli (Turin, 42 years old) has just published, on the Harmonia Mundi label, his recording of Concert number 4 , of the German composer. In it he does not play any period instrument, but his interpretation is closer than any other to Beethoven's sound intentions, through manuscripts, treatises and other contemporary testimonies, which complete the version published in the Bureau des Arts et d'Industrie. “I do not pretend to offer absolute certainty, although I would like to overturn our granite conviction that we are playing exactly what Beethoven wanted ”, he specifies.
The origin of this project dates back to the late nineties. “I was looking for a source for the work close to Beethoven and my record label, Deutsche Grammophon, provided me with photocopies of a manuscript kept in the archives of the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna and produced by Josef Klumpar, one of Beethoven's copyists. . It included abundant additional virtuosic passages, in the first movement and in the third, hastily written above the solo part. Shortly afterwards, I was able to consult the original in Vienna and I learned that those pencil additions were by Beethoven himself. ”
The pianist refers to the famous manuscript A82b, commented on by Gustav Nottebohm in Zweite Beethoveniana (1887), whose study continues to divide musicologists. There are those who claim, such as Hans-Werner Küthen, that it is a pre-premiere version and intended for a private, chamber-based interpretation of the work. Others maintain, like Barry Cooper, that these additions were after the publication of the score, in August 1808, and Beethoven wrote them down in a hurry to be able to play them on the day of the premiere, on December 22 of that year, at a marathon runner. concert that included the first auditions of the Fifth Symphony , the Pastoral and the Choral Fantasy .
Each theory has generated a different record edition. In 1998, the pianist Robert Levin recorded Küthen's chamber version in DG, for piano and string quintet. And, in 1993, Mikhail Kazakevich recorded the proposal with orchestra by Barry Cooper, on the Conifer label, under the direction of Charles Mackerras.