Article: Yossi Reshef and Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata

Carl Czerny, who studied this sonata with Beethoven, wrote that the idea for the last movement came to him, when he improvised watching a horse ride outside this window. So often we hear performances that try to romanticize or beautify the last movement, and missing the rhythmic element (hidden in the left hand). I try to keep in mind those few words from Czerny, when I attempt at interpreting this piece. I’ve performed the “Tempest” sonata more times than any other piece on my repertoire. Every pianist has their most played piece, and for me it is this sonata. The interesting thing that occurs when you play a piece over a few years, is to see how it evolves (the truth being told, it is the pianist who evolves). From playing it for my final high school exam, to touring with it in South Africa, Taiwan, the Philippines, Russia, India and many venues in the US, I find each time that I play it, that the piece is new. As if the location and circumstances give it a different kind of existance, from the recitative-like opening into the tempest itself (uniting motives, in a way that everything becomes the sides of the sage coin), the mystical second movement and the horse ride of the ending movement.

Listen to the first movement here:

Beethoven – Sonata No. 17 “Tempest”, 1. movement

Listen to the last movement from a live performance at the Azerbaijan Philharmonic hall:

Beethoven – Sonata No. 17 “Tempest”, 3rd movement, Allegretto