Professor Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, my teacher, passed away in June. I have numerous memories of him, and can vividly recall individual scenes of our lessons. Since our first meeting when I was ten, he would question, explain things, and on occasion reprimand me as though I were an adult. As a child, his words were important lessons to me, and the process of carefully thinking them through and adapting them so they in turn became my words was the source of my growth both as a musician and person.
The two sonatas of the Opus 49 are considered to be ‘easy sonatas’, and thus are more often than not included in the repertoire of a ‘child’, but what they contain is ‘adult’. The Sonata No. 19, Op. 49, No. 1 is notable for being one of the few sonatas written in a minor key, and grasping its ‘shadow’ or perhaps ‘dark appeal’ is by no means an ‘easy’ feat. I once watched Professor Kämmerling teaching this sonata to a very young boy. Despite the boy being so young, I distinctly remember the opening ‘B’ note that jumps a sixth and the Professor incessantly telling him to “feel that note – feel it”. Beethoven’s sonatas are quite difficult for a child to understand, but to genuinely ‘feel’ each individual note is, in my opinion, the first step that even a child can take towards interpretation.
I pulled out my old score of the Les Adieux sonata and took a look at it. It is filled with the Professor’s notes that he wrote when I was in my teens. Among these notes, the following caught my eye: “Sound of hooves” (of the horse of someone leaving) for the left hand motif in the first movement, “Pain” in the second movement, and “Anticipation” in the third. Each of the movements in this programmatic sonata are respectively titled Das Lebewohl (The Farewell), Das Abwesenheit (The Absence) and Das Wiedersehen (The Reunion), and together with the title of the overall piece – Les Adieux – they may lend a sorrowful image to the work. However, a reunion awaits at the end. This ‘reunion’ encompasses the joy felt before a meeting, the continual excitement of the heart as though saying ‘I can no longer wait’ – before ending with a sense of satisfaction.
A farewell is always followed by a reunion – but this may not always be the case –
Through his music, however, Beethoven enables us to reunite with many of our loved ones in heaven. I had a fleeting image of Professor Kämmerling, who continued to study Beethoven to the very end, meeting and shaking hands with the composer.