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Watch the Complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas

Performed and recorded by More Than Music

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Published: 3 Dec 2020


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The Complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas

Performed and recorded by More Than Music
Recorded on 23 July – 3 Sep 2020 at Esplanade Recital Studio
Supported by National Arts Council, HSBC and Societe Generale
Audio by msm-Productions
Video by Tan Zexun

Videos reproduced with permission from More than Music

Programme Notes by Abigail Sin

One of the most enduring images of Beethoven is that of a stern and intimidating figure, with a brooding gaze and furrowed brow. We can almost picture him standing apart from the rest of us mere mortals, disdainfully observing our fumbling attempts to pay homage to his genius. Beethoven’s well-documented personal hardships and the veneration accorded to his music have contributed to the construction of this overawing persona, which has been mythologised by generations of musicians.

Portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

The myth of Beethoven as a solitary genius belies the fact that his music was not conjured up from a magical combination of starlight, suffering and solitude, with no external influences whatsoever. These violin sonatas were written after Beethoven had settled in the bustling capital city of Vienna, determined to make a name for himself. As a working musician, he was mindful of the demands of patrons, publishers, other performers and the public. He responded to the conventions, instruments and musical language of his time, continuously pushing the boundaries of his craft.

Around the turn of the 19th century, chamber music was very much in vogue amongst the aristocracy and well-educated music lovers in Vienna. Beethoven was as celebrated a pianist as he was a composer, and it was very likely that he may have performed some of his earlier violin sonatas at aristocratic salons. These were private musical gatherings where rich patrons would invite some of the best professional musicians to perform or even play chamber music with them. Many music-lovers also took pride in being proficient at an instrument - or indeed ensuring that their daughters took piano lessons! They were eager not just to listen to Beethoven’s sonatas but to purchase the published sheet music to play it for themselves.

With a rise in private music-making, the piano was quickly established as the fashionable instrument of choice. As a result, the convention in instrumental sonatas was to have the piano part dominate, while the melodic instrument was cast in a more subservient role, often simply doubling the pianist’s right hand. (This contrasts with the way we sometimes think of pianists as mere accompanists to superstar violinists today!) However, Beethoven began to subvert this convention, democratically dividing the important thematic material between the two instruments in a back-and-forth conversation. By the time we arrive at the 9th Sonata, which begins with a solo introduction in the violin, the two instruments are very much on equal footing, merging and blending their unique qualities to form a dramatic, cohesive partnership.

Beethoven’s first published set of violin sonatas, Op. 12, was reviewed in the influential Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung in June 1799. The critic complained of “strange modulations, an objection to customary associations, a heaping up of difficulties on difficulties till one loses all patience and enjoyment”. The Op. 12 Sonatas certainly defied the expectations of Beethoven’s audience, who might have been more accustomed to simpler compositions tailored for domestic music-making. Sonatas No. 1 and 2 whirl off on unexpected harmonic detours just as the listener thinks the music has arrived at a stable key, while Sonata No. 3 demands a truly fearsome level of dexterity from the pianist. These Sonatas would have provided a thrilling, entertaining showcase for Beethoven in his performances at musical soirees.

Beethoven Sonata No. 1, 2 & 3

Beethoven dedicated Sonatas No. 4 and 5 to Count Moritz von Fries, an important patron who hosted many private concerts. The two sonatas were originally meant to be published together, but a confusion over paper formatting during printing resulted in the works being reissued as separate publications. The Sonatas complement each other as a yin-and-yang pair. The open-hearted sunniness of the posthumously-nicknamed “Spring” Sonata contrasts with the agitation and volatility of Sonata No. 4, one of only two minor-key Sonatas in the cycle. Sonata No. 4 keeps us on our toes with ever-shifting outbursts and barely-suppressed tension while the Spring Sonata luxuriates in long-spun melodic lines.

Beethoven Sonata No. 4 & 5

The three Op. 30 Sonatas were composed in the summer of 1802, a deeply troubling time for Beethoven as he started to come to terms with his encroaching deafness. However only the Sonata No. 7 in C minor, full of pathos and high-octane drama in the outer movements, reveals any hint of Beethoven’s personal anguish. Sonata No. 6 contains some of Beethoven’s most sublime lyrical writing while Sonata No. 8 sparkles with good humour and high spirits.

Beethoven Sonata No. 6, 7 & 8

Sonatas No. 9 and 10 were both conceived primarily for performance rather than publication. Beethoven had specific well-known performers in mind for the premieres of the two Sonatas: George Bridgetower and himself for No. 9 and his pupil Archduke Rudolf and the visiting French violinist Pierre Rodé for No. 10. He tailored both Sonatas to their respective personalities and preferences. Described by Beethoven as “quasi-concerto-like”, Sonata No. 9 is cast on a truly epic scale, in terms of length, virtuosity, emotional range and the ambitious scope of the soundworlds. It is a monumental, heroic artistic statement, raging at the forces of fate while exulting in the joys and beauty of life. Sonata No. 10, composed 10 years later in 1812, is more intimate, containing moments of understated beauty. The piano and violin parts are engaged in a closely-knitted musical dialogue, journeying together as kindred spirits.

Beethoven Sonata No. 9 & 10


Artist Bios

Abigail Sin, Pianist

Abigail Sin is a prize-winning Singaporean pianist who has been performing in venues across Asia, Europe and North America as a concerto soloist, collaborative musician and solo recitalist. She has performed with many orchestras such as the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Philippines Philharmonic Orchestra, Armenian State Philharmonic Orchestra, Dnepropetrovsk Phiharmonic Orchestra, Kaunas Symphony Orchestra and the London Soloists Chamber Orchestra. Abigail’s performances have been broadcast over national television and radio stations in Romania, Hong Kong, USA and Singapore. In 2009, Steinway and Sons selected Abigail to become South-East Asia’s first Young Steinway Artist.

Abigail studied with Prof Thomas Hecht at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, where she was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Gold Medal as the top student of the cohort. She earned a Masters degree at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama under the tutelage of Joan Havill, winning the Guildhall School’s Romantic Piano Prize. She also won 1st prize at the Norah Sande Award, 3rd Prize, the Audience Prize and the Students’ Prize at the Lagny-sur-Marne International Piano Competition in France and The McCallum Prize for a pianist of promise at the Royal Over-Seas League Annual Music Competition. Abigail was selected for the Park Lane Group’s Diamond Jubilee concert season and was a quarterfinalist in the Honens International Piano Competition.

Abigail is an alumnus of the prestigious Verbier Festival Academy and Yellow Barn Festival. She has performed in the master classes of eminent musicians such as Leon Fleisher and Menahem Pressler. Her artistic outlook has also been shaped by performing new music and coachings with composers including Thomas Adès, Jörg Widmann and Brett Dean.

A keen chamber musician, Abigail was awarded the Guildhall School’s Ivan Sutton Chamber Music Award and was a finalist in the St Martin’s-in-the-Fields chamber music competition and the Royal Academy of Music’s Patrons Award. Committed to developing the classical music scene in Singapore, Abigail, together with violinist Loh Jun Hong, is the co-founder of More Than Music, a chamber music concert series which has won critical acclaim for its candid, interactive presentation of classical music.

A recipient of the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship, Abigail recently completed a PhD at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she studied with Prof Christopher Elton. In August 2018, Abigail joined the academic faculty of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.


Albert Tiu, Pianist

Born in Cebu, Philippines, Albert Tiu has been called “an artist of uncommon abilities” by American Record Guide. His 2010 Centaur recording, “Nocturnal Fantasies”, featuring Chopin and Skryabin, was dubbed “one of the all-time great piano recordings” by Fanfare. “One of the most inventive recital programs ever seen or heard” (ARG), this “compelling and poetically imaginative recording” (Clavier Companion) was also hailed for “performances where heart and mind unite in a deeply affecting union” (Gramophone).

Currently an Associate Professor of Piano at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore, he studied with Jerome Lowenthal at the Juilliard School, with Michael Lewin at Boston Conservatory, and with Nita Abrogar-Quinto and Nelly Castro in the Philippines. A recipient of Juilliard's William Petschek Award and a prizewinner of competitions in Calgary (Honens), Helsinki (Maj Lind) and Santander (Paloma O’Shea), he won the First Prize and two concerto prizes in the 1996 UNISA International Piano Competition in Pretoria, South Africa.

Known for his passion for innovative programming, he has presented recitals with themes like “The Classical Elements” (Earth, Air, Water and Fire), “Chopin without Chopin” (music by Godowsky, Busoni and Rachmaninov influenced by Chopin), and “Bee Flat” (the two Sonatas in B-flat by Beethoven). He has performed with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Hamburg Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony, Gstaad Festival Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic, Winnipeg Symphony, and Philippine Philharmonic. In 2005, he gave the Singapore premiere of Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto with the Singapore Symphony under Tang Muhai.

Recent recording projects include “The Classical Elements” on Centaur; Schubert’s “Winterreise” with tenor Alan Bennett; collaborations with violinist Kam Ning in "Road Movies", a Meridian disc featuring American composers; and with cellist Qin Li-Wei, in two discs on Decca of Beethoven and Rachmaninov.

He is absolutely addicted to Angry Birds, and in his spare time manages to practice some piano. This is a constant source of both humour and chagrin in the family. When it is in season, his addiction spreads to ice hockey, in which he supports the Pittsburgh Penguins.


Lim Yan, Pianist

2006 National Arts Council Young Artist Award recipient Lim Yan was a student of David Hartigan at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, UK, and subsequently graduated from the University of Manchester and the Royal Northern College of Music under the tutelage of Ronan O’Hora.

After placing first in the Piano Open category in the 1997 National Piano and Violin Competition, Yan’s competition results in Europe – including 1st at the 2001 Karic International Piano Competition – led to concert engagements across Europe and Asia. He gave two recitals at the Cheltenham Festival and also worked with the China Radio-Film Symphony Orchestra at the Beijing International Piano Festival. When the Singapore National Youth Orchestra was invited to the 2011 Aberdeen International Youth Festival, he was the soloist in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

Nearer home, Yan has appeared with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra several times in concerto performances, and also collaborated with the Orchestra of the Music Makers as well as re:Sound. Together with The Philharmonic Orchestra, he completed a cycle of all five Beethoven Piano Concertos and the Triple Concerto over three concerts in June 2012.

Besides his solo and concerto performances, Yan is a highly sought-after collaborative pianist and chamber musician, having worked together successfully with many leading musicians – for instance, violinist Ning Feng and cellist Wang Jian. His current chamber groups include a piano trio, as well as the established piano quintet series Take 5 which is well into their second decade.

Yan is also the Artistic Director of the Singapore International Piano Festival since 2019.


Jun Hong Loh, Violinist

Singaporean violinist Jun Hong Loh is a regular at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. He led the festival orchestra for numerous concerts as concertmaster and associate concertmaster under the baton of Charles Dutoit, Daniel Harding, Valery Gergiev and Gianandrea Noseda. Intent on developing the scene in his home country, he founded More than Music with pianist Abigail Sin; a concert series dedicated to presenting engaging and intimate concerts for audiences. He also served as the co-Artistic Director of the Singapore International Festival of Music in 2015. Aside from producing concerts, he is also active in the education scene as a part-time lecturer at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music and violin coach of the Singapore National Youth Orchestra and the School of the Arts.

Jun Hong graduated with a Masters of Music from the Juilliard School, under the tutelage of Prof. Glenn Dicterow, Joseph Lin and Sylvia Rosenberg. In 2009, Jun Hong received his Bachelor of Music (1st class honours) from Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore, where he studied with Head of Strings, Prof Qian Zhou.

He has won numerous awards, including notably Top Outstanding Young Person Award for Cultural Achievement by JCI, 1st Prize at Gisborne International Music Competition, 1st Prize and Audience award at the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition in Boston, 1st Prize at the Singapore National Piano and Violin Competition (Senior), 3rd Prize at the 13th Andrea Postacchini International Competition held in Fermo, Italy, 5th prize at the Canetti International Violin Competition held in Turkey, and the best Singaporean Award at the Singapore International Violin Competition.

Jun Hong’s performance track record ranges from performances in Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, to solo recitals in Berlin and Washington for the WETA radio station, to tours in Asia, New Zealand, UK, France, and USA, to premieres of the violin transcriptions of Scarlatti’s Piano Sonata in Berlin by publishing company Ries & Erler.

He has done solos with Orchestra Wellington, City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, Shenzhen Grand Theatre Philharmonic Orchestra, Manila Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra, SIFOM Orchestra, as well as the Singapore Festival Orchestra. Delving in to the film music industry, he recorded the violin solos for the movie “7 Letters” produced by 7 of Singapore’s top directors, and film scored by Ricky Ho, a Golden Horse Award recipient.

Adhering to his strong beliefs in giving back to the community, he performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in Kioi Hall, Tokyo, in a charity fundraiser concert for the disabled. Besides performing for various charity groups in Singapore, he also gives back to the community through education. Jun Hong has held numerous workshops and masterclasses for the younger generation in schools and youth orchestras. He has also served as the juror for the Semarang Open Violin Competition.

He plays on a 1726 Mezzadri on generous loan to him from the Rin Collection. He thanks his former teachers Mr Michael Loh and Yap Shu Mei for their guidance in his early years in music.


Shuxiang Yang, Violinist

A passionate soloist and chamber musician, Singaporean violinist Shuxiang Yang has concertised in Asia, North America, Europe, and Australasia—at venues ranging from Singapore’s Esplanade and Victoria concert halls to Boston’s Jordan Hall to the iconic Museo del Violino in Cremona. Concerto credits include solo appearances with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Singapore National Youth Orchestra, NUS Chinese Orchestra, and The Chamber Players. He has also been featured in prominent festivals such as the Perlman Music Program and Macao Arts Festival. Recognised as one of Singapore’s foremost young musicians, Yang has performed for several of the country’s leaders—President S. R. Nathan, President Tony Tan, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong—and was honoured as a President’s Young Performer in 2012.

Yang believes that music conveys meaning; it has the power to tell a story. Recent creative endeavours embody this ideology, emphasising the semiotic aspects of concert programming. In his 2016 recital project Dichterleben, an overarching narrative of life, death, and transcendence unfolds gradually through a collage of spoken poetry and music. A new programme, evocatively titled The Other Lands, is currently in the works.

Beyond the Western canon, Yang is fascinated by the seemingly endless possibilities of the avant-garde. Explorations along this frontier include performances with [nec]shivaree, New England Conservatory’s contemporary improvisation department, and Yong Siew Toh Conservatory New Music Ensemble. He particularly cherishes working with living composers from Singapore, and has premiered compositions by Phoon Yu and Koh Cheng Jin.

Yang’s unique musical voice took shape under the guidance of esteemed professors Donald Weilerstein, Almita Vamos, Roland Vamos, Qian Zhou, and Victor Danchenko. Also influential were his beloved pre-college teachers Sylvia Khoo and Lynette Lim, who kindled his ardent love for music and inspired him to pursue his dreams.

Yang was a recipient of the prestigious Loke Cheng-Kim Foundation Scholarship, and a prizewinner at the Hong Kong International Violin Competition, Cremona International Competition for Strings, and Atlantic Symphony Concerto Competition. He holds degrees in music from New England Conservatory (M.M.), Yong Siew Toh Conservatory (G.D.), and Northwestern University (B.M.). Currently a Doctor of Musical Arts degree candidate at NEC, Yang serves as a teaching assistant for Prof. Donald Weilerstein and the school’s musicology department.


Chan Yoong-Han, Violinist

Chan Yoong-Han is currently the Fourth Chair first violinist in the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. A graduate of Rice University and the University of Massachussetts in Amherst, his principal teachers include Chan Yong Shing, Beryl Kimber, Sergiu Luca, Charles Treger, David Cerone, Kurt Sassmannshaus and Dorothy Delay.

Yoong-Han has performed solo with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Szeged Symphony of Hungary, Singapore Chinese Orchestra, Singapore Youth Orchestra, Orchestra of the Music Makers, SAF Chinese Orchestra and Braddell Heights Symphony in concertos by Dvorak, Lalo, Berg, John Williams, Mozart, Martinu, Lutoslawski, Wieniawski and Sibelius, appearing with conductors including Lan Shui, Lim Yau, Erwin Acel, Matthias Bamert, Anthony Inglis, Han Zhong Jie, Darrell Ang and Joshua Tan. He was invited to perform as a soloist in the 2003 SSO President’s Young Performers Concert as well as the 1999 President’s Charity Concert. 

As concertmaster, he has led the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the Singapore Festival Orchestra (SFO), The Metropolitan Festival Orchestra (MFO), Orchestra of the Music-Makers (OMM) and The Philharmonic Orchestra (TPO). As part of Singapore’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2015, Yoong-Han was concertmaster of the MFO for the Sing50concert in the National Stadium, as well as concertmaster of the OMM in its performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony

Yoong-Han has participated and performed in the Aspen Music Festival, Singapore Arts Festival, Adelaide Bach Festival, The Singapore Encore (Brussels), Cascade Head Music Festival and SSO Chamber Series amongst others. As a chamber musician he has collaborated and performed with Christian Blackshaw, Cho-Liang Lin, William Bennett, Claude Delangle, Dennis Lee, Chiao-Ying Chang, Borodin Quartet, T’ang Quartet, the Choir of King’s College (Cambridge), the Singapore Dance Theatre, Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. Yoong Han is also a violist in the Take5 Piano Quintet Series since 2007.

In Singapore, Yoong-Han is the recipient of the 2000 Shell-NAC Arts Scholarship and the2004 NAC Young Artist Award. He is a member of the governing board of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music as well as in the board of re:SOUND Collective. Yoong Han has taught in the University of Massachusetts and Amherst College, and has been teaching in the School of the Arts Singapore since 2008.

Besides making music, Yoong-Han enjoys sharing life with his wife and two children.


The Complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas

Get up close and personal with More than Music as they explore Beethoven's violin sonatas.
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