Pastor's Blog

Les Adieux, Op. 81a

Les Adieux, Op. 81a

Eric Hauck - March 18, 2024

The safety of my frozen lake and gray sky 800 miles in the past, I wait in a winter sun. My bag, filled with virtuosic etudes by Chopin and the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies, carries the truly daunting: 16 measures of a slow-to-start Beethoven Sonata.


Op. 81a, affectionately referred to as ‘Les Adieux,’ is considered one of the most difficult of the 32 sonatas. Not because of its technicality, but the anguish behind Beethoven’s writing. Dedicated to his patron, Archduke Rudolph, Beethoven wrote a translated ‘farewell’ over the opening three chords. This ‘goodbye’ to a friend ripped away for war lays the foundation to a piece of music that meets even the standard of a Juilliard audition.


So what makes it so hard? The tempo, slow. Rhythms, common enough. The difficulty lies in Beethoven’s intentionality. To convey the loss Beethoven felt requires facility and depth I barely understood six years ago at my graduate school audition. Playing this music today, I am forced to look my own growth in the face by the comparison of my interpretation then versus…..


Boy, was I about to get incomprehensible. That was going to be another four rambling paragraphs to just say: goodbyes are hard. They are hard to convey, hard to emote, hard to understand. And they will read differently every time you look at them.


Lent is a season of goodbyes. We had to say ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to sugar. ‘Adios’ to ‘alleluia.’ We have to see Jesus die on the cross for us. I often neglected Lent as a means to Easter, to the resurrection. But lately I have felt a responsibility to almost savor this time in order to begin to fathom the sacrifice made for us. To provide the reunion at Easter with a fuller spiritual context.


While the playing of ‘Les Adieux’ marked the farewell to my northern life, another pivotal farewell comes as a song performed at my college baccalaureate ceremony:


The Irish Blessing

May the road rise to meet you,

And may the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine on you,

As the rain falls gently on your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God smile on you.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you,

In His hands.


So while we look forward to Easter and meeting the risen Lord again, we can also mindfully experience the depth of Holy Week, knowing that while it is a time of farewells, we remain safely ‘in His hands.’