BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 30-32, Opp. 109-111

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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770- 1827)

The Three Last Sonatas

Sonata No.30 in E Major, Opus 109

Sonata No.31 in A Fiat Major, Opus 110

Sonata No.32 in C Minor, Opus 111

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn inDecember, 1770, the son of Johann van Beethoven, a singer in the service of theArchbishop of Cologne, and, more important, the grandson of Ludwig vanBeethoven, Kapellmeister to the same patron. It was perhaps the verydistinction and strength of character of the head of the family that lay at theroot of Johann van Beethoven's inadequacy as a father and final professionalincompetence. The elder Ludwig died in 1773, but was to remain for his grandsona powerful posthumous influence, while Johann slid further into habits ofdissipation, with Ludwig, his eldest surviving son, assuming in 1789 the roleof head of the family, with responsibility for his two younger brothers.

In Bonn Beethoven received erraticmusical training at home, followed by a much more thorough course of study withChristian Gottlob Neefe, who was appointed court organist in 1781. By 1784Beethoven had entered the paid service of the Archbishop as deputy courtorganist, employed as a viola-player or as cembalist in the court orchestra,and turning his hand increasingly to composition. A visit to Vienna in 1788 forthe purpose of study with Mozart led to nothing, cut short by the illness andsubsequent death of his mother, but in 1792 he was to return to the imperialcapital, again with his patron's encouragement, to take lessons with Haydn.

Beethoven came to Vienna with the highestrecommendations and was quick to establish himself as a pianist and composer.

From Haydn he claimed to have learned nothing, but he was to undertake furtherstudy with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger in counterpoint and with the courtKapellmeister Antonio Salieri in vocal and dramatic setting. More important hewas to attach himself to a series of noble patrons who were to couplegenerosity with forbearance throughout his life.

As a young composer in Bonn Beethoven hadfollowed the trends of his time; in Vienna he was increasingly to develop hisown unmistakable and original musical idiom, sometimes strange and uncouth bythe standards of the older generation, but suggesting completely new worlds toothers. It was an apparent stroke of fate that played an essential part in thisprocess. By the turn of the century Beethoven had begun to experience bouts ofdeafness. It was this inability to hear that inevitably directed his attentionto composition rather than performance, as the latter activity becameincreasingly impossible. Deafness was to isolate him from society and toaccentuate still further his personal eccentricities of behaviour, shown in hissuspicious ingratitude to those who helped him and his treatment of his nephewKarl and his unfortunate sister-in-law.

In Vienna Beethoven lived throughturbulent times. The armies of Napoleon, once admired by Beethoven as anenlightened republican, until he had himself crowned as emperor, were to occupythe imperial capital, and war brought various changes of fortune to thecomposer's friends and supporters. The last twelve years of his life were spentin the relative political tranquillity that followed Napoleon's final defeat, aperiod in which the freedom of thought that had characterised the reign ofJoseph II was replaced by the repression of his successors, anxious to preventa recurrence of the unfortunate events that had caused such damage in France.

Beethoven survived as an all-licensed eccentric, his bellowed politicalindiscretions tolerated, while others, apparently saner, were subject to theattention of the secret police. He died in March, 1827, his death the occasionfor public mourning in Vienna at the passing of a figure whose like the city wasnot to see again.

The years after the downfall of Napoleonin 1815 may have brought a measure of peace to Europe, and to Vienna, where theCongress met to re-establish something of the old order. 1815 brought newturbulence in Beethoven's private affairs, with the death from tuberculosis ofhis brother Caspar Carl, who left a nine-year-old son, Karl. The following fiveyears found Beethoven in a bitter legal wrangle with his sister-in-law Johannavan Beethoven over the guardianship of the boy, a quarrel in which he did nothesitate to denigrate the boy's mother in every possible way. The influence ofhis powerful friends had its result in an Appeal Court verdict in his favour in1820, although his relationship with his nephew cannot have brought either ofthem much satisfaction.

1820 brought a renewed burst of activityas a composer. In that year Beethoven completed his Sonata in E Major, Opus109, and the two final piano sonatas were to follow in 1821 and early 1822.

At the same time the Missa Solemnis was finished and work was continued on the NinthSymphony. The remarkable final string quartets were to follow.

The thirty-two piano sonatas of Beethovenspan a period of twenty-five years, from the publication in 1796 of the threesonatas of Opus 2, dedicated to Joseph Haydn, to the last sonatas of1820, 1821 and 1822. They reflect the development of the composer's languageand invention, as the high classical style gives way to wilder poeticimaginings and technical expansions of the original form, taking advantage ofthe increased range and capacity of the piano itself, which underwent variouschanges.

The Sonata in E Major, Opus 109,was dedicated to Maximiliane Brentano, daughter of Antonie Brentano, aconvincing candidate for the role of Immortal Beloved, the mysterious woman whowas revealed as the object of Bcethoven's hopeless attachment in a letter foundamong his effects after his death. The sonata, which follows immediately afterthe massive Hammerklavier Sonata, has an improvisatory element in its swiftchange of mood from the bright opening to the Adagio that interrupts it. Therapid second movement in E minor provides a brief glimpse of traditional sonataform before the final movement, an expressive theme and six variations,starting with a waltz and including, in the fifth variation, that element ofcounterpoint that had become increasingly important.

Beethoven intended to dedicate his lasttwo sonatas to Antonie Brentano, although Opus 111 appeared in Viennawith a dedication to Archduke Rudolph. The Sonata in A Flat Major, Opus 110,opens with a theme, to be played con amabilita, one of those expressivemelodies that Beethoven had handled so well as a performer. Delicate arpeggioslead to a subsidiary theme, which is to return as the movement draws to aclose. The second movement, a duple time scherzo and trio, leads to a thirdmovement with all the freedom of improvisation, including a recitative andArioso dolente that is to return to link the following fugue with the inversionof the subject that forms the final section of the movement.

The Sonata in C Minor, Opus 111,opens with a strongly dramatic introduction leading to the statement of whatsounds very much like a fugal subject, although it is to receive differenttreatment of a less formal kind in the movement that follows. The second of thetwo movements of the sonata is in the form of a theme and variations in Cmajor, treated with considerable freedom. The two movements combine in aremarkable way the two elements that had assumed the greatest importance in thelast period of Beethoven's creative life, the element of counterpoint and theelement of variation, which here undergo their apotheosis.

Jeno Jando

Item number 8550151
Barcode 4891030501515
Release date 12/01/2000
Category Classical
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Jando, Jeno
Jando, Jeno
Composers Beethoven, Ludwig van
Beethoven, Ludwig van
Producers Feszler, Monika
Feszler, Monika
Disc: 1
Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
1 Vivace, ma non troppo - Adagio espressivo - Presti
2 Andante molto cantabile ed espressivo
3 I. Moderato cantabile, molto espressivo
4 II. Allegro molto
5 III. Adagio, ma non troppo - IV. Fuga. Allegro, ma
6 I. Maestoso - Allegro con brio ed appassionato
Piano Sonata No. 32, C minor, Op. 111
6 I. Maestoso - II. Allegro con brio ed appassionato
Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
6 I. Maestoso - II. Allegro con brio ed appassionato
Piano Sonata No. 32, C minor, Op. 111
7 III. Arietta: Adagio molto, semplice e cantabile
Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
7 III. Arietta: Adagio molto, semplice e cantabile
7 II. Arietta: Adagio molto semplice e cantabile
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