Thursday, January 26, 2006


I have noticed a slight uptick in the irritability of the universe lately. My evidence? The other day, I was in Starbucks minding my own business (so all these stories begin), typing nonsense at my too-cool-for-school laptop, when I noticed a man set something down at the empty adjoining table. Perhaps a minute later, another man put something at another spot by the same table. Both left to get in line, and both, sadly, came to the table with their drinks simultaneously, intending to sit and occupy (veni, vidi, vici): a childish spat ensued. I couldn't believe how stubborn each was to the cause, which was, after all, just a table (or perhaps more: a moment of repose?). The dispute ended by "sharing"; they each refused to relinquish, and sat the same table, glowering, sucking up each other's negative energy. One was in his early 20s, impeccably dressed, indubitably gay, and somewhat on the sniffy side of the spectrum; the other probably early 60s, peccably dressed, squarely straight, far on the grumpy side of the spectrum (almost invisible to the genial eye), and reading--of course--the NY Post. A mini culture war for my benefit. The younger one talked loudly on his cellphone to irritate his table mate, while the older read his Post, crinkling and uncrinkling, folding and refolding: a motion like the flapping wings of a giant, tired, grimy bat. Needless to say, I was quite irritated and distracted by this tempest in a teapot, perhaps even enraged, and eventually got up, pulled my handy chainsaw out of its case, and made a clean slice...

Just kidding.

I also witnessed this morning a similar dispute between a burly construction worker from Long Island and a small elderly Jewish lady, in Tal Bagels, revolving around the eternal issue of "where the line begins." (If only we could always know!) Luckily this dispute did not come to blows; I feel sure she would have embarrassed him rather badly.

These, along with several other instances of New Yorker irritability, have made me sense the vague winds of a trend... And this trend has even carried over into this very blog (heavens!) since my snarky post "BS of the day," in which I took a Mr. Wilson to task for some vague comments about Mozart, inspired quite a few reactions, and even the unimaginable: criticisms. I suppose this is to be seen not as a sad outcome, or even as a loss of innocence (a de-virginization of the blog) but as a positive thing, an act of birth, even: something has engendered a "discussion."

Let me just say a few more things toward this discussion, to try and mend some fences.

1) "BS of the day" was a self-conscious attempt to imitate other, snarky blogs such as Wonkette. I do not intend to adopt this style permanently, and I apologize to those readers who felt offended. Occasionally is it OK, though, if I just rant about something? Thanks.

2) I think opera is fantastic.

3) I was disheartened by the disintegration of the discourse into (sigh, as usual) a maligning of analysis. This happens so easily! I saw it in one of the comments: it began with the coupling of the words "erudite" and "analysis," which makes it seem a bit elitist already; and then, sure enough, the word "dissection" made its way in there; and then "there's no pleasure left." People say "you are analyzing this to death!" as if discussion and contemplation of music were some sort of murderous activity, some sort of science-lab experiment in which a frog must die, pinned to the table.

I have my own gripes with analysis, believe me. But I don't think the answer is this kind of dismissal, this kind of easy getaway, as in: what's the point of analysis anyway? followed by "meet you at the Redeye Grill for martinis." Specifically to keep my vision fresh, I feel the need to keep asking the same unanswerable questions about the music I am playing over and over again, to reach into verbal language for what it has to offer and cross back into the language of tones like a returning tourist. I feel this is similar to when I sing a phrase to myself in my head, when I imagine the music without sound (or at least anything that anyone else could hear); things are almost always better back at the piano--wider, freer--after this kind of removal, the removal of music from sound, its temporary passage into gesture, thought, imagination. If you are still thinking about martinis, I don't blame you.

I spent a great deal of time on Op. 111 this week, verbally and mentally, thinking how to communicate something about it to 25 freshmen. Of course I think the happiest, most enlightened person after the hour-and-a-half lecture was me. For the umpteenth time I felt I "finally" knew what I wanted to say (notice how we use that phrase as a compliment: "his playing really SAYS something to me, really SPEAKS to me"--even for non-verbal music!) with this piece, and the next day on the train back down the Hudson, this happiness became more pronounced. Scarfing my stir-fry in Penn Station, amidst a hassled underground crowd, I was singing inaudibly over and over again thirds, fourths, fifths from the Arietta. Well, perhaps not inaudibly; in my blissful imagined solitude, I might have moaned a little, enough so that the man who had cooked up my stirfry looked up and asked "It tastes good?" He looked either amused or concerned; food in that place wasn't really meant to be "enjoyed;" I smiled like a good little deranged maniac and said yes, it was delicious; he really didn't need to know the truth.

How was it that magic dust had been sprinkled again all over that theme, in that ugly place? Maybe it was partly the article that my colleague had xeroxed for me, in which I read that Schenker (a hardcore theorist if there ever was one) broke off from the world of technical terms and called the cadenza of the Arietta a "strange dream;" maybe it was the little technical/emotional phrase in the article "vertiginous fall of fifths" which showed me a pattern I had been too lazy to notice, while feeling all the while something frightening about that place--that it was too much to absorb, that everything was slipping away, that it was gravity-free, like the sense of (infinitely, impossibly) falling in a dream; maybe it was the part in which Schenker talks about the one high F which means so much to him, at a moment when the movement leaves off, loses track of itself, in which its ecstasy is so extreme that it cannot possibly continue along the path it is taking; and maybe it was partly a phone conversation with my friend C who said he was struck again, freshly, how in the wild, syncopated variation Beethoven seemed to see, ahead of time, the joyfulness of jazz, to anticipate so amazingly things which are now part of our lives, and C's use of the word "joyful" which is probably the perfect word to define on what side of an invisible fence the movement's austerity and transcendence lies.

How is that these little "academic thoughts" managed to whip me up into a frenzy of enjoying the movement all over again? It was not analyzed to death; it was analyzed to life. Only the three notes, long-short-long: just that, and the path leads off into a labyrinth in which the means of escape is never twice the same, in which the focal moments can change according to the observer or the day... Each time to play it: like entering/creating a universe. There is always the moment of being "too full," the sense that the adventure has reached a crisis point, that the emotion or invention has gone so far that you or the piano will explode; and always the balancing moment where things are slipping away, and dangerously "empty;" and always the starry conclusion, resolving or disappearing, twinkling with the high frequencies of the piano, promising, always promising...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


"The close of the Arietta variations has such a force of looking back, of leavetaking, that, as if over-illuminated by this departure, what has gone before is immeasurably enlarged. This despite the fact that the variations themselves, up to the symphonic conclusion of the last, contain scarcely a moment which could counterbalance that of leavetaking as fulfilled present--and such a moment may well be denied to music, which exists in illusion. But the true power of illusion in Beethoven's music--of the 'dream among eternal stars'--is that it can invoke what has not been as something past and non-existent. Utopia is heard only as what has already been. The music's inherent sense of form [emphasis added by blogger] changes what has preceded the leavetaking in such a way that it takes on a greatness, a presence in the past which, within music, it could never achieve in the present."

--Adorno, musing on Op. 111 Beethoven

and then:



The agonizing question
whether inspiration is hot or cold
is not a matter of thermodynamics.
Raptus doesn't produce, the void doesn't conduce,
there's no poetry a la sorbet or barbecued.
It's more a matter of very
importunate words
from oven or deep freeze.
The source doesn't matter. No sooner are they out
than they look around and seem to be saying:
What am I doing here?


rejects with horror
the glosses of commentators.
But it's unclear that the excessively mute
is sufficient unto itself
or to the property man who's stumbled onto it,
unaware that he's
the author.

--Eugenio Montale, musing

Saturday, January 21, 2006

BS of the day award

Though the mountains of BS we as a species create each day make it difficult to choose, today this seems like a winner to me:

His work appears on the surface to be something very simple, but at the same time it’s very complex," Wilson said. [editor's note: ugh.] "That’s something that fascinates me in the work of Mozart. Secondly, the body of the work is the light that he creates, the mental light, the mental landscape, and one could say the virtual light. That’s very different from Wagner, Puccini. It’s a special light I associate with the music, with the Requiem, the Magic Flute.

Only an opera person (he says, gingerly) would place Mozart in the context of Wagner, and Puccini, and I must say it is very perceptive of him to notice that the music of Mozart is indeed quite different from either of those two LATE-ROMANTIC COMPOSERS. I'd like to take this moment to perceptively and brilliantly observe that I find the mood of Jane Austen quite different from that of Kafka.

As to the whole mishmosh of "mental light, mental landscape, virtual light": give me a break. I mean I get it, he's putting it in the terms of his art, but some specificity would avert my encroaching nausea. And: "the work is the light," but later "It's a special light I associate with the music." And wandering around in circles like this we could spend days and days learning nothing.

Read the whole article for yourself here; this man has redecorated Mozart's birthplace, and I have to admit, after all that snark, that it looks pretty cool.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I realize now--and as always, too late--that one of the great purposes of the blogworld is interconnection, the ongoing dialogue of concerns, weaving in and out of the worldwideweb. A virtual, impossibly sprawling watercooler. Everyone else on the in blogland seems to be constantly quoting and linking--linking like a giant string of idea-sausages, held thinly in their word-casings--and buzzing back at the buzz of the day, week, or month. Added to the giant list of my faults (something like Don Giovanni's list, as enumerated by Leporello) is a general lack of links on my site to other sites, and a reluctance to engage in "current topics." I hesitated to blog about fluorescent green pigs a week or so ago; and when Beethoven's Grosse Fuge manuscript surfaced, you read nothing of it here either.

But yesterday I read (with some envy) a short and sophisticated post by Alex Ross ("Truthiness.") I came to its powerful final sentence, something about totalitarianism depending upon myth, and I thought: there's someone who can sum up a thought in a decent amount of space; why does it take me so long to offer an opinion? At the same time, I felt vaguely uneasy at the swiftness and totality of his judgement, and yearned to ask qualifying questions. Ross is hard on Frey; he is skeptical of the "essential truth" defense (in which the spirit is somehow more important than the literal facts); he refers to a general "diseased attitude toward truth in American society." I do not attempt to refute the main thrust of his post (the usefulness of truthiness for political deception and power)... But I wonder why people are so attracted to "true stories" in the first place? What is the appeal of novels and movies "based on real events"? I'm not sure that "truth" itself is not a more dangerous entity than we are giving it credit for; perhaps the desire for truth is part of the problem.

Though an avid and sheepish consumer of TV, I abhor "reality shows;" they bore and disgust me. What could be more ridiculous and sad than swallowing those cued-up, coached, crocodile tears? Feelings are not as easy to record as all that. If they were, then Beethoven et al would be out of business. Alex Ross might say (leading the witness, your honor!) the problem with reality shows is also a kind of truthiness, a kind of lifeyness masquerading as life. But I think this issue is not graphable on the axis true/false; these shows are too true and too false simultaneously; because of the desire for truth, they downplay aesthetic consideration (which makes them aesthetically false) and to compensate for this, leaping into the gap, there is the choking falsehood of coerced emotionalism. Why do people buy into this? I always wonder. Is it that people want gritty reality, people want stories that they can either identify with, or which represent a "more real" life than the sheltered existence they lead? Perhaps the lie begins with this urge for reality.

Last night, looking at the dresser in my bedroom, I realized I felt light again. I wondered why "again." I realized I had struggled against the obvious, and there was now just the obvious path of being light, and doing what's necessary, and practicing the piano, and loving the art. But there always seems to be, preceding the realization of the obvious, a long period of denying it, of being sure the truth is elsewhere. Working harder against the imaginary obstacle. Even Narcissus manages to figure out he's been looking in the wrong place:

I burn with love for my own self: it's I
who light the flames--the flames that scorch me then.
What shall I do? Should I be sought or seek?
But, then, why must I seek? All that I need,
I have: my riches mean my poverty.
If I could just be split from my own body!
The strangest longing in a lover: I
want that which I desire to stand apart
from my own self.

--Ovid, Metamorphoses, tr. Mandelbaum

...and subsequently Echo, the aural mirror who cursed him with his visual reflection, comes to regret her curse and take pity on the boy she loved and killed. Is this myth totalitarian? I guess I find myself, at my moments of realization, wishing in some way that I could be in constant possession of the truth as I see it then (but always then, then, then). I blame myself for being temporarily blind and climbing downhill. Why couldn't I have seen it sooner? In some way one wants the time between epiphanies to get shorter and shorter, towards some infinitely small limit, meaning eventually: constant total awareness. But really I think truth is part of a myth, and always at the end of the struggle, following denial or quest: the end (but not necessarily the purpose) of a narrative. And my life constitutes so many of these little myths, ending in discoveries or blank walls; all dovetailing, and of necessity taking time. My desire to free truth from time, to have more and more truth all the time, may be as fatal and unnatural as Narcissus gazing at himself in the pond.

Readers will groan if I make a musical parallel? But good old Beethoven and his Sonata forms ... if you know enough Beethoven, you are familiar with the myriad moments at the ends of the development sections, when he hovers suspensefully on the dominant. Even those who love and revere Beethoven must have thought on occasion that he dips into that well rather often, for the same (generic) suspense. And what is he holding back, anyway? The most obvious possible thing: the tonic, the home key. Hmmm. What kind of truth is that? Has anyone else ever thought impatiently, while listening to one of those passages: just resolve it already!? Perhaps I was wrong to call it generic: sometimes this suspense is humorous, sometimes otherworldly, eerie, thrilling... etc. (In a side-note I think Brahms wins the prize for best returns to recaps...more later?) But it is funny, all this drama around the obvious, necessary solution; pretending you can't find it. Musical narratives are full of these kind of myths, enacted, "pretend" struggles, like the ones I realize I am waging within myself. They depend on not knowing the truth all the time. Eagerness for the truth would not necessarily make them better works of art. The recurring quality, the sense of deja-vu, of reenacted pattern and ritual, of formal conformity, cannot be totally explained by my cynical side, which points and says "he did this before!" Call it if you will a trick, a gimmick, a falsehood; its pretend wonder seems more sincere than many other people's truths.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

So there!

For those of you complainers and whiners out there, you can just stop! I have achieved the mindblowing technological and organizational feat of posting my concert schedule online, on a dedicated Denksite. I know, I know; be dazzled by my internetitude at This is a temporary, bare-bones site, before I really get jiggy with it. For my target audience of hardcore readers who couldn't really give a crap about coming to any of my concerts, ever, I'm sorry; this had to happen; this boulder of practicality will only temporarily disrupt the stream of my arcane, obscure, intensely unmarketable musings.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Well, well, you never know what will be in the dreaded INBOX. One private email suggests, on the basis of my recent posts, that my mind must be a "quite fun but cynical place." Another private email deduces from blog "evidence" that my Beethoven preparations are "agonies."

I was surprised and depressed by both. No, no, I wrote back to one: my current practicing is intense, but never agony: for kicks, let's call it an "arduous ecstasy." And to the other, who suggests I am cynical, I don't know what to say... A cup of coffee sips by while I mull.

Before consulting my INBOX, I had just performed, rather dramatically, but for myself, a raw groan of disgust at politicans and pundits of all stripes grandstanding on talk shows and C-SPAN, and it seemed only coffee and Beethoven would soften my irritation with them, and their emptiness. But here I was, passing vocal judgment on their awful cynicism, and the charge came sneakily back at me, through pixels and packets, karmically. It is not the first time the c-word has been levelled at me, but it seemed odd in this case... to receive it when my motives had seemed so "ideal."

I guess my motivation in the last post had been idealistic in the sense of being impossible: to "explain" the beauty of the coda of the slow movement of Beethoven's Op. 10 #1. This coda has always made me feel something very unusual. I wanted to translate a vague sense of my feeling into words other people could understand. To do this, I ignored a cynical voice, and personified the theme (A), (what if A were a person?) and by this metaphoric extension attempted to explain its transformation in the coda as a kind of epiphany, an emotional turning-point and completion. Some people may find this distasteful--too personal, too intrusive, too specific, too Oprah--and I completely sympathize with their qualms; some people prefer to refer to themes as "generative cells," or "gestalts," or whatever... I prefer to shift as the situation suggests. To me the abstract voice saying "It's just a variation on the theme," though appropriate in some cases, does not satisfy here. Often when I hear pianists I admire I feel what I can only describe as "animation," phrases imbued with a kind of momentary personality; there may be hundreds or thousands of these in a piece ... or only a few ... and when you see certain pianists perform, you also see some of these mini-possessions take hold, you see a schizophrenic flitting across their face, a nanosecond glint in their eye, reflecting a clear harmonic shift or even some unheard cadential possibility, which molds the music into people you know, you once knew, or wish you knew. And this metaphoric cast of characters, this invisible infinite operatic company, is part of much of the language of our "Western art music." Sometimes pianists prefer visually to remain impassive, to look on and not let their faces register the changes of the music; in this case, though, I think there is another personification going on: pianist-as-God. Many people prefer this impassive approach (which I have never been able to manage), but I am not sure it is not the more "arrogant" solution: why must the musician always be "above" the music? Can't we get down in the muck also? Or do some audience members prefer not to be reminded of the (necessarily imperfect) humanity of music?

Back to my point. I guess it seemed so clear to me that the whole gist of my last post was a certain emotional fulfillment laid bare, that I was shocked by the "cynical" characterization. Also, it expressed a certain (perhaps foolish) confidence in the idea, against all odds, that even very elusive things can be shared. True, I began with the bit about being a jerk: but the point of that was somehow partly hyperbole, partly that I regretted it, that I wished I could/would communicate more clearly certain emotional, personal things about music at all times; and the post and the blog as a whole are often kind of an outlet for these confessions/communications. Perhaps though, I should think like a pianist practicing and try to hear "outside myself," outside my own desires and intentions to what is actually communicated. Did it communicate a cynical message? I sure hope not.

I will be controversial: I think there are certain aspects of the meaning of that coda that can only be expressed in words. Music is not "above everything." Reaching into music for "mundane" words can be a redemptive act--a humanization of music, a connection back to ourselves--so that music is not a circular, isolated ritual in concert halls but a part of the language of life.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Patterns of A

When people ask me about "how exciting" being a pianist is, I tend to be a jerk. I reply with stupid things, the mere accessories of the trade: the monotony of hotel rooms and airport lounges; the Sisyphean accumulation of frequent flyer miles; the little voice inside that whispers in your brain that you could always practice more, more, more.

Sometimes I'm a jerk for virtuous reasons: someone has just shared with me how boring their job is, how much they hate it, and they ask me, with a weird light in their eyes, what it's like being a pianist. This happens on dates. And I try to reasonably downplay the pleasures of a musical career, with the hope that I don't sound false. Probably other times I'm a jerk for jerk's sake, because I'm impatient, or because I'm lazy. Maybe I'm in one of those moods where I imagine that that which I truly love cannot be shared. Anyway--do people really want to hear?

Yesterday I came back from a late, lonesome lunch at the ubiquitous Saigon Grill; I did not take off my coat; but sat down at the piano with a plain lust for the following measures:

I played them several times; wrote in fingerings (soon to be corrected, changed); tried to connect my brain more definitely to the tips of my fingers; contemplated the shaping and timing of the turn; and then--shamelessly--skipped to the coda. I am only human! I admit sometimes I just want to skip to the "good parts." As much as I wish I could, I do not always enjoy every piece equally at every moment; I have weaknesses for certain moments and I build my conceptions around them, toward them. But, I tell myself, Beethoven must have built his conception towards this coda too. How could he not? I often enjoy thinking about the pride composers must have felt at having written certain passages; even they were pleased, even their impossible standards were met.

As I played the coda, I felt guilty. Not for skipping to it; but because I needed to accomplish "something useful" before I gave myself this searing pleasure. In a flash, I recalled my former teacher, Gyorgy Sebok, impeccably dressed--having parked, as always, illegally in the loading zone--walking into a lesson I had with him, saying that he had just vacuumed the house, and that it made him "feel useful." He smiled his European, utterly cultured smile, which commented ironically all at once on the vacuum, on himself vacuuming, and on the very idea of usefulness. The incomparable guru finding himself useless, sucking up dust.

So, I tore myself away from the piano and I hauled the Hoover out of the closet and cursed its non-retractable cord and cursed the astonishingly outdated electrical systems of my building, and cursed the red carpet I put in the piano room, which seems to put an exclamation point on every morsel of dirt it collects.... and thus cursing, I did a serviceable job. With the unpleasant Hoover smell lingering in my nostrils, making me want to cough, I removed my coat and sat down at the piano, calmed by the carpet's clarity. Now I took on the coda in earnest. This slow movement is a difficult, painstaking narrative, in that we have to follow (Beethoven unravels) the same long thread twice: he makes us re-experience the same sequence of events with only a small modification the second go-around. It tests our patience, or at least it tests mine.

I hate formal diagrams, but sometimes I succumb to them. Here's what I'm talking about:

A ... transition ... B ...

A ... transition ... B ...

And by this point most of the movement is over. So you had better like A and B. I'm fond of A and B (though I prefer to refer to them by their "real names"), but I have to admit they're "not enough" for me. As beautiful as they are, they are kind of naked; they are sparely scored; Beethoven is testing the limits of how few notes he can get away with, how little material he can use to fill out a large space. This is not a weakness! I remind myself as I play and try to find lots to love in A and B, but even as I am adoring these materials I heed the craving they create. What's missing? When will I not feel I am filling in the spaces left by the composer? To be fair, I think A and B are not "missing anything;" they are trying to express something-like-this; they are a symbol of spareness; their existence defines a void which must be filled.

When I had to grade students' papers at Indiana University, I would anticipate with horror the concluding paragraphs, which would inevitably begin "In conclusion," or "Summing up," or etc. It's true, the student had usually made all the points he/she had to make by that point, and there was no escape except through redundancy. Some sense of finality was necessary; how else could the paper be over? And don't get me wrong; I was as glad as the student that the paper was over. But how do you say again what has been said, while not just saying it again? I would ponder this imponderable while gleefully crossing out their final paragraphs: "said that already," I would helpfully inscribe.

Let's be boring for another moment and establish that theme A has a certain pattern to it:

Short. Short. Long.


a a b


Idea. (Responding) Idea. Arc.

In this pattern, the third time's the charm. Though the first two segments (short, short) establish the crucial "grammar" of the theme--a dialectical rhythm--the third segment (long) provides a paradox: it simultaneously functions as a symmetrical, rounding idea (being exactly as long as the preceding two segments combined), as conforming filler, and on the other hand functions as a force for the unexpected and new: it sends the whole musical paragraph in search of some meaning or goal.

Let's say, then, that the very structure of A--its one-two-three punch, which we have now analyzed so heartlessly-- has some serious semantic baggage. I might even say it has a personality, a way-of-being.

At first glance, Beethoven's coda falls into the "said that already" trap, because: here comes A again, for a third time. But it is a bit different:

The melody is now supported by a web of other voices, which fill out the slow rhythmic spaces, which make the theme more fluid, make it seem to float above a current of rhythm. In this he fills a void in A, he gives it a continuity it had longed for. (Or we had longed for?) But Beethoven is not just dealing with A-as-theme... in which case this coda could be written off as a fleshed-out variation, with added notes. Earlier in the movement we have had these kind of added-note variations, which are lovely but do not add, somehow, to the "meaning" of A; they merely help to beautify its stasis. So, added notes are not enough themselves to do what the coda does. I think Beethoven is dealing below the level of the theme, delving towards A-as-personality, towards A's "reason for being," which is its giving over of itself to its third part. Because Beethoven has put more voices in play ... when the pattern of A heads into its third (searching) phase, the dangers and beauties of these extra voices can be unleashed. While the melody simply descends from the fifth scale degree down to the tonic, in the most predictable way--

--the other voices do unpredictable and extraordinary things, creating momentary breathtaking dissonances that become a part of the total feeling (the total image) of the phrase, which make the "simple" descent of the top line more deeply felt, which color the relinquishing of the movement's slow energies with a tremendous intensity and regret. (To put it all analytically: the tenor line moves from A-flat to G, and this G clashes against the C in the top line, and then just after that, the alto line moves from E-flat to F through an amazing passing tone E-natural, and the moment of that E-natural, perched "between chords," coloring the A-flat major tonic with its wrong-right-noteness, is the most memorable sonority of the passage for me, though it is the briefest.) While our "original A," in its third phase, reached up melodically, to try to "escape" the registral space in which it was inscribed--

--the intensities of this last A are within, quite literally and music-theoretically: in the play of the inner voices. Whatever A is looking for, it finds in a different space, in a different solution; it searches, now, inside itself. (Is A a person? And how has A found this solution?) And this is it, my big why, the transformation of meaning that the coda does to me, the place where a streak of amazement clouds my brain's connection to my hands and I find fulfillment in my ears, hanging on to those dissonances, my body buzzing ... and knowing that "something has changed." I would not be happy calling it by any music-theoretical name but I can trace how the music-theoretical names wind themselves into this changed moment.

Without ego, Beethoven adores his own moment; he winds us back up to E-flat in the top voice, and repeats the falling, fantastic gesture; now the structure and therefore the balance of power in A has changed: a struggle against the structure of A transforms itself into a prolonged farewell. And because he has now injected the falling five-line (E-flat down to A-flat) with such meaning, he then is able to repeat it, and call up the meaning without the meaning; we keep hearing those descending notes as the movement falls away, and though they are relatively plain, they are full: they symbolize the alteration we have just witnessed.

I have allowed myself to get carried away from the haven of identifiable notes to the scary world of interpretation and meaning, to suggest even that the movement interprets itself. Do you think, on a date, over a glass of white wine, in a noisy New York restaurant, I could manage to get this across? Because sometimes I think I need to go at least this deep to express why piano playing makes me happy. I really don't want to be a jerk when people ask me about being a pianist, but sometimes I am anyway. Wait. I said that already.