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Beethoven Waldstein Rondo: Why cross hands?

Posted: 16 Nov 2014, 14:39
by UKPiano1
In the Rondo (third movement) of the Beethoven Waldstein Sonata, the opening section has the right hand playing the arpeggio accompaniment, while the left hand crosses back and forth over it to play the melody. This is quite awkward for me, and I have found that reversing the hands makes it easier.

So, my question is: why was it written with the more difficult method of the left hand crossing over the right when this makes no difference in how it sounds? For show, or is there some technical or musical reason behind it?

Re: Beethoven Waldstein Rondo: Why cross hands?

Posted: 17 Nov 2014, 03:24
by Colin Nicholson
I have also noticed this.... to a point I agree with you, but it could be to do with the pp dynamic effect of the opening bars, and the leap of a major 10th between the hands.... if played solely by the left hand, the leap may cause an accent on the 2nd semiquaver or even a slip.... and at the end of bar 4, the right hand would need to cross over the left hand to perform the octaves..... so defeats the object I think. There is also a lot of "artistic" stuff with Beethoven, and to the non - pianist, cosmetic movements of the hands looks very impressive. Arguably - yes, the right hand could easily play the melody.... but it wouldn't be long before confusion kicked in!

I used to think that dancing was all about your feet & legs.... but after watching "Strictly" -- they even mention where your thumb should be pointing! / facial expression etc.

During my teaching, I also incorporate some kind of suspension of the hands during sustained chords/ endings.... so the hands don't just "wander off" .... by holding the hands in mid-air just above the keys creates tension, and a good rounded performance.... I imagine Liberace would have every LH finger decorated with rings just for that rondo! .... so yeh, to a point - if under examination for example.... do what it says on the tin. There is no mentioning of this LH melody in any of the Tovey notes. I think also due to the tonic/ dominant transitions.... the sharing of the opening arpeggios are easier to control during the leaps.... just my opinion. :piano;

Re: Beethoven Waldstein Rondo: Why cross hands?

Posted: 17 Nov 2014, 15:02
by UKPiano1
Hi Colin,

Thanks for the excellent, detailed answer. I also enjoyed the humor.

Best wishes,