Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonatas Op 53, Op 81a and Op 57
Ludwig van Beethoven (December 16, 1770 – March 26, 1827) was a German composer and virtuoso pianist. He was an important figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western classical music, and remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.
Born in Bonn, then in the Electorate of Cologne (now in modern day Germany), he moved to Vienna, Austria, in his early twenties and settled there, studying with Joseph Haydn and quickly gaining a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. Beethoven's hearing gradually deteriorated beginning in his twenties, yet he continued to compose masterpieces, and to conduct and perform, even after he was completely deaf.
Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op.53
Piano Sonata No. 21nicknamed Waldstein, is considered to be one of Beethoven's greatest piano sonatas, as well as one of the three particularly notable sonatas of his middle period (the other two being the Appassionata sonata, Opus 57, and Les Adieux, Opus 81a). The sonata was completed in the summer of 1804. The work has a scope that surpasses Beethoven's previous piano sonatas, and notably is one of his most technically challenging compositions. It is a key work early in his 'Heroic' decade (1803-1812) and set the stage for piano compositions in the grand manner both in Beethoven's later work and all future composers.
The Waldstein receives its name from Beethoven's dedication to Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein of Vienna, a patron as well as a close personal friend of Beethoven's. Like the Archduke Trio (one of many pieces dedicated to Archduke Rudolf), this one bears Waldstein's name though there are other works dedicated to him. This sonata is also known as 'L'Aurora' (The Dawn) in Italian, for the sonority of the opening chords, which conjures an image of daybreak.
The Waldstein has three movements:
1. Allegro con brio
2. Introduzione. Adagio molto - attacca
3. Rondo. Allegretto moderato - Prestissimo
Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, opus 81a
Piano Sonata No. 26 known as the Les Adieux sonata, was written during the years 1809 and 1810.
The title Les Adieux implies it is of a programmatic nature. The French attack on Vienna, led by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1809, forced Beethoven's patron, Archduke Rudolph, to leave the city. Yet, there is some uncertainty about this nature of the piece — or at least, about the degree to which Beethoven wished this programmatic nature would be known. He titled the three movements "Lebewohl," "Abwesenheit," and "Wiedersehen," and reportedly regarded the French "Adieux" as a poor translation of the feeling of the German "Lebewohl" (Kolodin, 1975). Indeed, Beethoven had written the syllables "Le-be-wohl" over the first three chords.
On the first 1811 publication, a dedication was added reading "On the departure of his Imperial Highness, for the Archduke Rudolph in admiration".
The sonata has three movements:
1. Das Lebewohl (Les Adieux - The Farewell); Adagio - Allegro
2. Abwesenheit (L'Absence - The Absence); Andante espressivo (In gehender Bewegung, doch mit viel Ausdruck)
3. Das Wiedersehen (Le Retour - The Return); Vivacissimamente (Im lebhaftesten Zeitmaße)
Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, opus 57
Piano Sonata No. 23 colloquially known as the Appassionata, was composed during 1803, 1804, 1805, and perhaps 1806, and is dedicated to Count Franz von Brunswick. The first edition was published in February 1807 in Vienna. Like the early Sonata No. 8, Pathétique, the Appassionata was not named by the composer, but was so labeled in 1838 by the publisher of a four-hand arrangement of the work.
The Appassionata was considered by Beethoven to be his finest piano sonata until the Hammerklavier, being described as a "brilliantly executed display of emotion and music". 1803 was the year Beethoven came to grips with his complete deafness, and the Appassionata clearly reflects the emotional turmoil he felt during its composition.
The sonata has three movements:
1. Allegro assai
2. Andante con moto - attacca
3. Allegro ma non troppo - Presto