July 2011

July 2011

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Grand Sonata

Opus 7

Eb major or C minor is Beethoven's favourite key for sure. Composers do certain things in certain keys and the texture of a work in a certain key often is elaborated upon in later works in the same key. 

Study of the Sonatas, which have 3 flats is an enlightening enterprise in itself. 7 out of the 32 sonatas use that key signature and you can follow the development. Beethoven final sonata will be in C-minor and..... refer back to the Pathetique.

Opus 7 is his fourth Sonata and is a grand sonata. After this sonata Beethoven, during a long period, will scale down the length of his sonatas. Beethoven probably realised it is one thing to write grand sonatas for the piano, but it is another thing for the general public to be able to play them!
Opening Opus 7
The opening of this sonata will be elaborated upon in the famous Pathetique Sonata (no. 8), which also claws back material from sonata no. 5 also in C minor. 


Pathetique final mvnt
Opus 10 Middle Mvnt

Beethoven then keeps building on what he has done in previous sonatas en continues to refer to material already used. That is nothing unusual. That is how composers develop and how you can see that a work is written by a certain composer. 

J.B. Lully Royal Music-standard Enforcer
But in Beethoven's art it goes well beyond what composers do in the baroque period, namely writing the same music again and again. 

Handel is a notorious example. 

Or for instance Jean Baptiste Lully, who at the age of 18 concluded he now had mastered the art and knew it all. And put himself at the head of the Royal controlled art establishment to inspire other composers to do likewise...

Nothing like that in Beethoven's art. Beethoven continues to develop and explore what more can be done with the same material.

Opus 7 mvnt 2

The second movement is absolutely divine and one of my favourites. The long lines and long pauses give it so much momentum that it captivates the listener. "Ah", said the lady sitting next to me in the concert hall, whom I had never met, after listening to this movement. "This is so much better than sex". 

Further down Beethoven will give his staccato left hand above which the right hand plays a beautiful line in legato. An effect he will use very often in his later sonatas. 

Then follows the minuet and trio of which really the trio is remarkable. Presented in Eb minor (6 flats) it is truely captivating. When you hear it the first time, you will stop with what you are doing and drop your pencil in amazement. 

The final movement is Beethoven's first attempt to write a rondo. A real rondo that is, not a sonata form movement. And the simplicity of the form is just not for him! The B-sections deviate into variations and at the end Beethoven does something, which (thank God!) he will never ever do again. 

The Lloyd Webber modulation!

That is: you end in a certain key: just move up a semi-tone and repeat the whole thing a semitone higher. Andrew Lloyd Webber does it all the time, and he should be forgiven, you can't expect BritPop to know about modulation! 

But at least we can say, indeed Beethoven has done it all and isn't it cute he has done one thing in his youth he probably has regretted for the rest of his life?!


Barenboim youtube recording stops exactly at the point of above mentioned modulation! Couldn't stand it either?....

But this little experiment by Beethoven, quickly forsaken, has made Lloyd Webber into the wealthy man he now is (apart from using a lot of out of copyright classical themes)...

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