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Vol. 1 - ALBUM / All 25 pieces of Vol. 1 - "250 piano pieces for Beethoven" / 25​​​,​​​- €

by Susanne Kessel

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York Höller about his piano piece „Weit entfernt und doch so nah“ „250 Jahre Abstand zum Geburtstag von Beethoven – das ist gewiss eine große zeitliche Entfernung. Auch stilistisch sind wir als Komponisten heute natürlich weit von Beethoven entfernt. Und dennoch gibt es eine gewisse mentale Nähe im kompositionstechnischen Bereich, und zwar bezogen auf das Moment der „permanenten Durchführung“. Die Durchführung erreicht manchmal enorme Dimensionen in Beethovens Sinfonien, wobei Exposition und Reprise dagegen viel geraffter erscheinen. Das erscheint mir interessant in der kompositorischen Entwicklung bei Beethoven. Genau da ist Beethoven nach wie vor für mich nahe und dies soll in dem Klavierstück zum Ausdruck kommen. Ich habe die Tonbuchstaben, die im Namen Beethovens enthalten sind, also in Ludwig van das D G A und dann die Tonbuchstaben im Nachnamen BEEHE genommen, daraus zwei kontrastierende Motive gebildet und auf meine Weise mit diesen Motiven gespielt. Das war die kompositorische Herausforderung, die mir Spaß gemacht hat im Sinne einer permanenten Durchführung auf dem kleinem Raum von ca. 3 Minuten.“
Stefan Thomas about his piano piece "Bagatelle mit cis" “In a letter to Mathilde Wesendonck, Richard Wagner writes that to him the C# note in the beginning of the Eroica is “the note of the new music”. Of course he doesn't mean the C# as such, but more the way on how it appears! It comes surprisingly after a beginning that is very conventional up to that moment. This is an aspect of Beethoven's music which I consider interesting and exemplary, even today, without wanting to revive his tonal language, which is without any doubt a part of the past. Especially in a tonal language like mine, which is obliged to atonality – which is sometimes accused of sounding arbitrary – it came to me as a special challenge to allow a tonal sound at one specific part, of the piece, that is considered something really special that moment. I made an attempt with my “Bagatelle mit cis” to the above. Apart from that, though, there is another, more cryptic hint on Beethoven. The beginning rhythm in the upper voice is the same as the one in the first bars of the cello part in Eroica. I should note that I believe that any piece should be able to be heard and understood as an independent work.”
Moritz Eggert about „Hämmerklavier XXV. Abweichung (Hommage à Beethoven)“ “Hämmerklavier is a continuous cycle for solo piano that I started in 1994 and which has since grown to 22 pieces, filling 3 complete solo recitals if all were played in succession. The title does not refer to the „Hammerklavier“ type of fortepiano or even to the „Hammerklavier-Sonata“ by Beethoven (though of course the latter would not be an entirely unwanted homage), but rather to a peculiar attitude of the interpreter towards the performance. The piano is not just an instrument here – it is a counterpart; the pianist does not simply press the keys, he is also a „performer“ in the larger sense. The pieces all demand a high degree of virtuosity and intensity. It is practically impossible for the performer to approach the pieces in a neutral fashion. “Abweichung (hommage á Beethoven)” is like an aesthetic homage to Beethoven. If anything runs like a thread through most of Beethoven’s works, then that’s the freedom of individualism, which is most vulnerable in our time. The deviations of this particular piece are almost not noticeable but they rebel against a strict order.“
Stefan Cassomenos about his piano piece “Twilight in Bonn” “Twilight in Bonn is written as a tribute to Beethoven. It takes as its inspiration his Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, op. 110, which for listeners and performers alike has presented an opportunity to experience a deeply felt connection with the composer on an intensely introspective level. Twilight in Bonn harnesses Beethoven’s material, and with it presents a re-imagining of his expression. The music is liberated from the bonds of its original tonality and metre, suggesting the release of some intrinsic energy into the engulfing sonic ether and thus depicting the omnipresence and timelessness of Beethoven’s enduringly transcendent effect on our world.”
Demetrius Spaneas about his piano piece “déchirant” “The piece is both inspired by and based on passages from Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathéthique”; “déchirant” is almost a synonym for “pathétique”, yet refers more to things being somewhat unsettled. There is a unsettled melodic line floating over a distinct “techo dance” chord progression and rhythmic pulse. I wanted to present a modern young Beethoven mixing classical and techo, and using his intense dynamic range to create senses of both pathos and intensity. Beethoven is the greatest composer, no question. We emerged at a time where we, as a culture, were psychologically and emotionally ready for what he created. He expanded our consciousness and emotional spectrum.”
Leander Ruprecht about his piano piece „Sonata in D minor / (2nd-version)“ “The piece makes reference to the third movement of the piano sonata no. 17, in D minor, by Ludwig van Beethoven. It is something like a shadow of the Beethoven corresponding sonata, as it uses the same time signatures as the Beethoven sonata and the ’stormy character‘, which can be achieved in my piece, by creating the anxious ’stormy‘ sound with the timpani mallets. The piece ends and starts with a slightly modified Beethoven quote. Sonata in D minor/(2nd version) can, or should be played after, or before the Beethoven piano sonata No. 17, in D minor.”
William Kraft about his piano piece „A moment of your time“ “The request I received from Susanne Kessel for her Bonn project to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth was to compose a short piano piece and have some connection to Beethoven’s music. The complex collection of intervals in the opening measures of “Für Elise” (A half step, a perfect minor 4th, a minor 3rd, a whole step) captured my imagination with its seemingly limitless source for exploration.”
Frank Zabel about his piano piece „Mashup-Elise in Warschau“ “A mashup in popular music means: a mixture of 2 or more songs by replacing the embodiment of some elements (special rhythms or sound colours or harmony changes…) in one song through the embodiment of the these elements like appearing in the other song(s). Experimenting, improvising with “Für Elise”, I morphed the characteristic beginning of this piece to the beginning of Ligeti’s 6th piano etude “Autumn in Warsaw” – fast notes moving in different octaves (unisons and minor seconds mainly). So I took Beethoven’s melody, dislocated the single notes in different octave registers, destroyed the original rhythm and added the „Ligeti-figuration“ as well as a little canon in the c major part. What you perceive is rather a „deja-vu“ than a transcription of the original piece – only at the end you will recognise “Für Elise”, hopefully with a little smile…”
Helmut Zerlett about his piano piece „Moon in C sharp minor“ “As I’ve found out, the C sharp is not only the first chord of that famous Beethoven piece, but also a very comfortable key for a pianist to let his fingers enjoy the feel of the keyboard, thus there was no other choice for me other than to let my own fingers play and have fun…”
Gisle Kverndokk about his piano piece "Gott! Welch' Dunkel hier!" “The Act 2 opening of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio has inspired this work for piano solo. Here the music describes the dungeon of the prison where Florestan is being kept. His first words in his aria are: „Gott! Welch' Dunkel hier!“ A desperate cry from a suffering man, imprisoned for his beliefs. When I was writing this piece, I heard on the radio about the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, and along with other horrible events in the last months I really felt that it is very dark in the world right now. The world today needs to be reminded of the freedom message in Fidelio; the humanity that Beethoven fought for.“
Walter Zimmermann about „Groll & Dank“ (for piano and toy piano) “Groll & Dank” [resentment and gratitude] are composed like a sequence of folk dances, similar to the 12 counter-dances of Beethoven. However there isn’t a single quote from it. The combined under WoO 14 12 counter-dances were composed during the period of 1791-1801, so that they emerged before “Eroica” Op. 55. The dances take, on average, only a few seconds. Dance No. 5, in E flat major, lets the well known theme of “Eroica” theme sound. The only hidden original Beethoven quote in “Groll & Dank” is taken from the piece which Feldman named “A March to God”. Otherwise the lined up folk dances are transferred by a summation tones of the original set’s branched transparent structure, that is never quoted, but floats around like an illusion. The title “Groll” [resentment] refers to my piano concert exams. I did not pass because I started to improvise in the 3rd movement of “Les Adieux” and “Dank” [gratitude] that I could become a composer then, as I wasn’t fit in being a pianist.”
Dietmar Bonnen about "Rote Beete": “Die Rhythmus-Studio „Rote Beete“ bezieht sich auf Beethovens Streichquartette und seine Gellert-Lieder. Die Partitur ist in zwei Manualen plus Pedal angelegt – ähnlich wie die klassische Notation für Pfeifenorgel – und wird aufgeführt als Perkussionsstück. Der Spieler befindet sich unter dem Flügel, klopfend am Resonanzboden mit beiden Händen, während die Füße den Pedal-Part mit einem frei gewählten Klang (Stampfen, evtl. mit zugefügten Glöckchen u.a.) produzieren.“
Charlotte Seither about her piano piece „Left Luggage“ “In this piece the first chord of the Sonata Op. 31 No. 3 of Beethoven gives the beginning, being cut immediately, giving up any context, leading into silence. It appears like an object of left luggage, belonging to another place and time, forgotten by any fictive traveller of the past. The piece takes up some details, transforming them into the sound of the inside of the piano which then develops its own structure. The „left suitcase“ is coming up again, creating its own system of grammar by appearing or not, relating the „left objects“ in a secret way with each other. The piece deals with two layers of material, also the left objects seem to be „dissolved from their context“. It never quotes.“
Àrni Egilsson about “Respectfully. A bass players’ perspective” “I will never forget the incredible feeling I had when, in my first “real” job as the principal double bass player of the (now, sadly, defunct) Philharmonisches Orchester Nordwest in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, I played both Coriolan and Missa Solemnis during my first season there. From an orchestra bass player’s perspective, of all Beethoven’s works, I found these two both mesmerizing and transcending. The brilliance of the writing for my instrument is unsurpassed and sort of opens up your soul, thanks to the magic of Beethoven. “Respectfully”, both in a sombre and a bit light hearted way, depicts my deep admiration for Mr. Beethoven, a young man’s dreams of the future and an old man’s dreams of the past.”
Nickos Harizanos about his piano piece “To B” “The work “To B” is accompanied by a subtitle “… the ghosts he was hunting, are still here”, a quote written by the composer and referred to Beethoven’s unrealisable dreams and ideas as long as to the work’s character and symbolisms. Everything in the work is based on the dualism or has a frontal descriptive meaning and a second symbolic or metaphorical layer. The piece is divided in two distinctive parts. In the first there is an extensive use of modal scales with an ascending move which mix in the middle and lead to the second part where all the material are developed. The pianist is requested to hum and sing some notes with the mouth closed, hit and mute the strings in the soundboard of the piano and also to have some specific notes always sustained. All these elements function as a shadow, a ghost of the work, like a work within a work. Finally, in the piece, one can listen to some obsessive repeated notes or short motives that are also metaphorically connected with Beethoven’s often use of such musical material that carrieslso a meaning – core idea far from the music.”
David P. Graham about his piano piece “Two footnotes” “Faced with the opportunity to compose music for this ambitious Beethoven-project I remembered the impact all his Bagatelles made on me at first hearing and first playing through. Op 126/4 has always been my favourite. I chose two bars and imagined being allowed to start there but tell a completely different story. The Two Footnotes should thus be considered simply comments on that stunning original. They should be played together, with hardly any break.”
Alex Shapiro about her piano piece “Chord history” “My friend, the superb pianist Susanne Kessel, shares something significant with one of our mutual muses, Ludwig van Beethoven: they both hail from Bonn, Germany. So what better way to compose an homage to this giant, than to ask the devoted pianist what some of her favourite Beethoven piano chords might be? I knew my own answer: the iconic, imposing, foreboding, C minor start to Sonata No. 8, Op. 13, the “Pathéthique.” My teenage hands passionately played each phrase thousands of times, and while poor Ludwig might have been rolling over in his grave (there’s a good reason I chose to compose rather than perform), the influence of his music in my life has been monumental. That chord, along with Susanne’s fine suggestions, are planted throughout this little offering. And thus, Beethoven, Kessel, and Shapiro have become bound for a brief and touching moment in this CHORD HISTORY.”
William Kinderman about his piano piece “Bee[t]h[ov]e[n]” “Celebrated and long familiar is the sounding symbol for Bach – the four tones B flat, A, C, B natural – which in German musical terminology spell out the four letters of the composer’s name. Unfamiliar is the corresponding symbol for Beethoven. From the five sounding letters B-E-E-H-E–whereby B is expressed as B flat and H as B natural – we hear at once a pregnant motive that conveys the mysterious quality of the piece. The notation of this motive, with the inclusion of apparently superfluous natural signs before the notes on E, convey an obsessive atmosphere. Where are we led by this musical idea? An ominous, descending countermelody is soon combined with the Beethoven motive before we hear a fleeting lyrical passage, a utopian glimpse before the fateful idée fixe resumes. Thereafter the falling countermelody returns and breaks through with tragic force: springing from rapid scale passages, glissandi sweep across the entire keyboard, while the main motive thunders in chords in the deepest register of the bass. Yet at the conclusion the original motive returns. What lurks behind this deceptively simple utterance, which stands as an emblem for the composer?”
Haukur Tómasson about his piano piece “Beton” “In my work, “Beton” I am playing with the name Beethoven and its letters. Each letter of his name has its musical material, B = B, ee = repetition, t = staccato, etc. Since the repeated notes often are 4 in a row they of course connect to the 5th symphony. The form is close to a sonata form with its three main sections; exposition, development and recapitulation.”
Johannes Quint about his piano piece “Ein Akkord aus Beethovens Sonate op. 101” “The temporal dimensions of form unites in the Viennese classic compositional language correspond to those of the word language: motifs are about as long as words and topics are as long as spoken sentences. The music is extremely clear and hierarchically organized – in phrase, paragraphs, formal sections, etc. It is a music of ‘human’ scale: you can find your orientation at any time in the musical form. Beethoven, a unique genius, contains in his music repeatedly places where the human dimension of the activities will be overridden. One example is the syncopated chords in the first movement of the sonata op. 101, where the metric orientation is lost and this darkens the tonal horizon for some time. In my brief paraphrase I have focused and extended this part into a gigantic prelude and conclusion of one of Beethoven’s chords. My wish with this piece was to absolutize the enormousness which only shines out in Beethoven’s work – a poetic license if you will, which accounts for many of my pieces and requires a much longer time period. This is why the specification to compose a ‘short piece’ was especially sensitive, but also excitingly challenging.”
Joan Huang about her piano piece “A flowing brook in Yunnan” “About a year ago, Susanne Kessel came to our home mentioned about her “Beethoven” project, I was inspired by her enthusiasm. The theme of the second movement “Scene au bord du ruisseau” of Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony was the initial “water source” of my little piano piece. Then Beethoven’s theme gradually becomes “A Flowing Brook in Yunnan”, a well-known Chinese folk song. The continuation of Beethoven’s “brook” to China’s “brook” symbolizes Beethoven’s spirit is immortal and the water is universal.”
Boris Kosak about his piano piece “Karneval in der Bonngasse” “Boris Kosak’s Karneval in der Bonngasse is a homage to Beethoven, where more than ten famous Cologne Carnival’s songs are disguised in his style. It evokes the impression that the great master himself would secretly try out them at the piano, melting them with his own music. Astonishingly many melodic similarities testify the true origins of Beethoven’s music, who in his younger years in Bonn, living in the Bonngasse, also used to write music for Carnival performances and participated in them. Stylistic boundaries in this witty piece are quite blurred but still all through the composition the personal style of Boris Kosak is clearly recognizable. Cologne Carnival is one of the most important topics in his music, several compositions are dedicated to it, like the piano concerto Il carnevale di Colonia , the violin concerto Concerto in stile coloniale, or the concerto for orchestra Tusch.”
Demetrius Spaneas about his piano piece “déchirant” “The piece is both inspired by and based on passages from Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathéthique”; “déchirant” is almost a synonym for “pathétique”, yet refers more to things being somewhat unsettled. There is a unsettled melodic line floating over a distinct “techo dance” chord progression and rhythmic pulse. I wanted to present a modern young Beethoven mixing classical and techo, and using his intense dynamic range to create senses of both pathos and intensity. Beethoven is the greatest composer, no question. We emerged at a time where we, as a culture, were psychologically and emotionally ready for what he created. He expanded our consciousness and emotional spectrum.”
Berthold Wicke about his piano piece „Das Mädchen aus der Fremde“: „Auf einem Skizzenblatt fertigte Beethoven einen Entwurf zum Lied „Das Mädchen aus der Fremde“ nach einem Text von Friedrich Schiller. Diese Skizze (aufbewahrt im Archiv des Bonner Beethovenhauses) enthält nur die Gesangsstimme und die Angabe zur Begleitung mit Klavier und Klarinette. Für diese Besetzung habe ich das Fragment im Stil der Beethovenzeit ergänzt (UA 2011 im Kammermusiksaal des Beethoven-Hauses) – und es nun (2019) noch einmal als „Lied ohne Worte“ für Klavier-Solo umgearbeitet.“
Alexandros Georgiadis about his piano piece "Widmung an einen Titan": “In “Widmung an einen Titan” für Soloklavier ist das Anfangsmaterial – die Haupt-“Zelle” – das bekannte Motiv aus dem ersten Satz der Symphonie Nr. 5 von Beethoven. Die kompositirische Methode basiert sich auf einer Art permanenter Durchführung, d.h., das Hauptmaterial wurde unter verschiedenen Winkeln präsentiert (beobachtet). Schließlich ist die allgemeine Idee für dieses Stück, ein Beethovenisches “Flair” zu behalten und es mit harmonischem Maaterial bzw. Textur der Kunstmusik des 20. Jahrhunderts zu bereichern.”


released September 21, 2019


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Susanne Kessel Bonn, Germany

German pianist Susanne Kessel invited 250 composers all around the globe to write piano pieces "for Beethoven". In celebration of Ludwig van Beethoven's 250 anniversary in the year 2020, thshe plays all the 250 p ieces and publishes the sheet music within 10 festive Volumes at Editions Musica Ferrum / London. ... more

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