July 2011

July 2011

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A time of reflection

The Beginning of Beethoven's
late period

I am probably alone in letting Beethoven's period start with opus 53 and not after Les Adieux (Opus 81a). There two reasons for it.

Firstly I think with Opus 53 Beethoven has truly found his way and is climaxing towards his final sonatas in a consistent and steady way.

Secondly it is the large gap between his piano sonatas opus 31 and Opus 53. That is a lot of other work published in between and unusual considering the regularity Beethoven dedicated his time to piano sonatas in his earlier work. 

Of course, in fact there are two sonatas Opus 49. But these two sonatas written in his very early period were never published by Beethoven himself, but any keen student starting with Beethoven has to thank Beethoven's brother for these two sonatas, because it is him who brought these two sonatas to a publisher. 

Just to underline and try to justify my personal stance on Beethoven's late period here I will look a little bit in Beethoven's personal life at this stage...

Because this period was a breaking point indeed.

  • Beethoven in this period accepted the irreversibility of his deafness.
  • He took his international future in his own hands
  • Undertook with confidence his composition into new areas like Opera and the String Quartet.
Beethoven's illness had driven him to frontiers of death to such an extend that he wrote his last will in Heiligenstadt and kept it in his drawer for the rest of his life. But even though the consequences will even be worse in the near future, gradually he won't be able to have a normal conversation, he has to stop as a performer in 1814, from 1818 people have to write down what they want to say to him, but from this point onwards he is no longer the victim of his deafness.

He even considers to move to Paris in this period, which shows that he is aware of his international reputation and importance. Only his venture in writing an Opera is holding him back and the fact that this area of his work didn't really lead to success eventually is probably the reason he stayed in Vienna. 

The large gap between Opus 31 and Opus 53 is not really a time gap. It is a gap due to his publishing efforts, which became more and more international. Beethoven had tried to keep his publishing efforts in England and France in his own hands and his publisher in Leipzig did not find that agreeable. To the extend that Breitkopf & Haertzel had returned Beethoven's overture to his Opera, his symphony 'Eroica' and his Piano sonata Opus 53, the famous Waldstein. 

And there we are back on track with our series on Beethoven's piano sonatas. For me the beginning of his most beautiful period. The mature rather than the late Beethoven...

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