adagio. . .

by mulberryshoots

Here’s an interesting discovery I made after reading a novel by Rachel Cusk, a young British writer. (I seem to have artists from the UK in my frame of reference these days for some reason.) In her novel, “Bradshaw Variations,” Cusk describes a character playing an “Adagio” movement from a Beethoven sonata. Although the sonata is not revealed, I was curious enough from the novel’s description to page through my Henle edition of Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas in two thick volumes. As I did so, I sat down at my Steinway grand piano, named “Victor,” rebuilt years ago by my husband, “G”, and began to sightread through ALL of the Adagio movements. I discovered in the process that they are among the most melodic, beautiful compositions that are contained in this oeuvre (not knowing the plural for the word, “opus”!)

Anyhow, “Adagio” means “slowly.” An apt concept for how to spend days when it is so hot and humid outside (now under the heat dome that the weatherman keeps talking about) and as summer days languish. These gorgeous melodies also serve as a musical antidote to all the cleaning up and cleaning out that I’m still in the process of doing (“simplifying. . .”) I’m even thinking of playing (and possibly recording) a program of Adagios when my birthday rolls around next year, perhaps. Because the tempo is “slowly,” the melodies also offer up an opportunity to make beautiful music while not having to kill oneself technically to keep up at this point in my piano playing life.

To my amusement, I discovered that I was already practicing Bach’s D minor sonata whose first movement is marked “Adagio.” It serves primarily as a chordal introduction to a wonderful Fuge movement.

So, I’m blessedly happy, adagio-ing along and am glad to have discovered these wonderful pieces. And for my money, they put Mozart to shame–the Beethoven melodies meatier, more robust, evoking such sweet pathos. Yum!