On preparing for a Beethoven marathon: Julian Jacobson

I hope you’ve enjoyed a relaxing Summer wherever you are in the world. I’m back and am resuming my blog after several weeks tutoring on piano courses, relishing a short holiday, and doing a lot of writing.

Today’s guest post has been written by Julian Jacobson who is a concert pianist and a piano professor at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Julian is no stranger to this blog, and, over the course of the next few weeks, he will be running a series of posts  here, charting his journey every week, as he prepares for a Beethoven sonata marathon.

Julian has completed this marathon many times before, in which he, amazingly, performs all 32 of Beethoven’s sonatas in one day – yes, you read it correctly – in one day! In this introductory article, he muses on this forthcoming event.

Well, here we go again! Every time I do it – and the last time was in October 2013 – I swear I’ll never do it again (attempt to play all 32 Beethoven sonatas from memory in a single day). But two things happened in the last couple of years: firstly the Beethoven 250th anniversary year, during which I performed a great many of the sonatas, curated an entire cycle for the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe, wrote programme notes on all of them, taught, coached and gave masterclasses on them; and secondly the pandemic which gave us all time to reflect on what we might do when we were able to perform “live” again. And so I found myself inexorably drawn to the idea of having one more bash at it! Actually two, because my friend and colleague Enrique Graf very kindly and perhaps courageously invited me to repeat it at his festival in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. This will be on November 18 2022, my actual 75th birthday.

Having done the marathon in London first in 2003 , then 2013, I initially thought of doing it in 2023, but it seemed too far off and then I hit on the idea of making it a 75th birthday challenge for myself. I somehow doubt if I’ll be doing it again in another ten years’ time, but you never know!

Why should one play all the sonatas in a single sitting anyway? Having previously given seven cycles in the normal way, in seven or eight concerts spread over several weeks, I started wondering if it might be possible and interesting to play them all in a day, and the idea wouldn’t let me go. In the event, many people said how absorbing it was to follow the development of a genius from the early “rough diamonds”, full of character already, to the realised sublimity of op 109, 110 and 111 (I play them in chronological, or opus number, order). Naturally few people remain for all 32, but many hear enough of them to get a full enough picture! And, like the 2013 marathon, this one will also be relayed live online and available for some time after the event.

I’ll be updating this blog regularly from now on, with my ongoing thoughts on preparing the marathon as well as my thinking on specific sonatas and Beethoven interpretation generally!

You can find out more about Julian and the Beethoven marathon, here.

Find out more about Julian’s compositions and transcriptions, here, and a forthcoming Chopin recital, here.

Julian is also chairman of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe: www.bpse.org

Julian Jacobson
Image credit: Roger Harris



Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Martin Bekaert says:

    Fantastic how he will do this again . And this in 1 day, unbelievable.

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