BÉLA HARTMANN

PIANIST

A prize-winner of both national and international competitions, the Czech-German pianist Béla Hartmann has established a reputation for lively and individual interpretations of a wide repertoire, ranging from Rameau to Luciano Berio. 

Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven form the core of this extensive range, and he was both prize-winner in the International Schubert Competition, Dortmund (1997), and winner of the Beethoven Medal of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe (1995). In 2000, he was a semi-finalist at the Leeds International Piano Competition.

In 2005 Béla Hartmann performed the complete piano sonatas and dances by Schubert, in a series of eight recitals at Steinway Hall, London. Other programmes include the complete first book of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier, works by Dvorak and Smetana and contemporary composers such as Widmann, Birtwistle, Berio and Petr Eben. Béla Hartmann had also performed widely on fortepianos. He has given recitals at prestigious venues in London, across the UK and Europe, as well as in the U.S.A., where he appeared at the Carnegie Recital Hall, New York. Concerto performances include concertos by Brahms, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Dvorak, Beethoven and Mozart. Béla Hartmann is also a keen musical essayist and has published both in print and online on areas such as performance practice and artistic identity.

Béla Hartmann studied in Munich with Vadim Suchanov and Nicolas Economou and at Trinity College, London, with John Bingham. A scholarship from the Tillett Trust enabled further studies at the Hochschule für Musik, Munich, with Elisso Virssaladse.

Béla Hartmann's debut CD with works by Schubert was released by Meridian Records in 2011 to critical acclaim.

www.belahartmann.com

 

Schubert:            Sonata in B Major, D.575

                                    Allegro ma non troppo

                                      Andante

                                      Scherzo. Allegretto

                                      Allegro giusto

 

Berg:                        Sonata in B Minor, Op.1

 

Beethoven:            Sonata in C Major Op.53 „Waldstein"

                                    Allegro con brio

                                    Introduzione: Adagio molto - Rondo. Allegretto moderato

 

The works in this programme are all of Viennese origin, although they belong to two different periods: Schubert and Beethoven composed their Sonatas early in the nineteenth century, just before the dawn of musical romanticism, whilst Berg's Sonata Op. 1 stands at its twilight, composed in 1909. All three works are experimental in nature, exploring the possibilities of sonata form in different ways. In the case of Schubert's Sonata in B, dating from 1817, these explorations are chiefly found in the first movement, a playful fountain of surprises, sudden key changes and tonal contrasts held together only by their very unpredictability. The remaining movements are all gentle in character, occasionally recalling the vagaries of the first but mainly content to emulate its good humour. The Scherzo in particular is a beautifully tender country dance, combining tonal adventures with the gentlest of caresses.

Alban Berg wrote his early Sonata for Piano whilst studying with Arnold Schoenberg, but before the invention of the twelve tone method. The Sonata is nominally in B Minor, but for most of the duration the dissonance and ambiguity of the harmonies make its tonality obscure. It is a good example of expressionism in music, the tortured harmonies and anguished melodies recalling expressionist paintings such as "The Scream" by Edvard Munch, or early silent films such as "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari". Formally it is however completely conventional, in fact almost more so than its earlier companions in the programme.

Beethoven's Sonata in C, Op. 53 dates from 1804 and was dedicated to his patron, Count von Waldstein. It was Beethoven's most extensive and ambitious Sonata yet, featuring technical challenges to the performer not previously encountered and an almost symphonic scale of form and sound. The brief slow movement, replacing an earlier lengthier movement now known as the "Andante favori", serves as an introduction to the last movement, which opens in a magical softness that earned the Sonata its French nickname "L'aurore" - the dawn. This opening includes a highly unusual and controversial pedal marking by Beethoven, requesting the performer to hold down the sustaining pedal across a number of harmonic changes, resulting in an unprecedented blur of sound. Whilst it is true that on the instruments of Beethoven's time the blur is less substantial than on modern pianos, it is nevertheless contrary to all received customs and is sanitized in most performances even in today's thirst for authenticity.

An interesting historical footnote: the Count Waldstein who was patron of Beethoven was only a few years earlier the employer of Giacomo Casanova, the famous writer and adventurer, who worked in the court library in Bohemia and died there in 1798.