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ClassicsOnline Home » BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 5-7, Op. 10 and No. 25, Op. 79
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770- 1827)
Sonata No.5 in C Minor, Opus 10 No.1
Sonata No.6 In F Major, Opus 10 No.2
Sonata No.7 In D Major, Opus 10 No.3
Sonata No.25 In G Major, Opus 79
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in
December, 1770, the son of Johann van Beethoven, a singer in the service of the
Archbishop of Cologne, and, more important, the grandson of Ludwig van
Beethoven, Kapellmeister to the same patron. It was perhaps the very
distinction and strength of character of the head of the family that lay at the
root of Johann van Beethoven's inadequacy as a father and final professional
incompetence. The elder Ludwig died in 1773, but was to remain for his grandson
a powerful posthumous influence, while Johann slid further into habits of
dissipation, with Ludwig, his eldest surviving son, assuming in 1789 the role
of head of the family, with responsibility for his two younger brothers.
In Bonn Beethoven received erratic
musical training at home, followed by a much more thorough course of study with
Christian Gottlob Neefe, who was appointed court organist in 1781. By 1784
Beethoven had entered the paid service of the Archbishop as deputy court
organist, 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 for
the purpose of study with Mozart led to nothing, cut short by the illness and
subsequent death of his mother, but in 1792 he was to return to the imperial
capital, again with his patron's encouragement, to take lessons with Haydn.
Beethoven came to Vienna with the highest
recommendations and was quick to establish himself as a pianist and composer.
From Haydn he claimed to have learned nothing, but he was to undertake further
study with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger in counterpoint and with the court
Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri in vocal and dramatic setting. More important he
was to attach himself to a series of noble patrons who were to couple
generosity with forbearance throughout his life.
As a young composer in Bonn Beethoven had
followed the trends of his time; in Vienna he was increasingly to develop his
own unmistakable and original musical idiom, sometimes strange and uncouth by
the standards of the older generation, but suggesting completely new worlds to
others. It was an apparent stroke of fate that played an essential part in this
process. By the turn of the century Beethoven had begun to experience bouts of
deafness. It was this inability to hear that inevitably directed his attention
to composition rather than performance, as the latter activity became
increasingly impossible. Deafness was to isolate him from society and to
accentuate still further his personal eccentricities of behaviour, shown in his
suspicious ingratitude to those who helped him and his treatment of his nephew
Karl and his unfortunate sister-in-law.
In Vienna Beethoven lived through
turbulent times. The armies of Napoleon, once admired by Beethoven as an
enlightened republican, until he had himself crowned as emperor, were to occupy
the imperial capital, and war brought various changes of fortune to the
composer's friends and supporters. The last twelve years of his life were spent
in the relative political tranquillity that followed Napoleon's final defeat, a
period in which the freedom of thought that had characterised the reign of
Joseph II was replaced by the repression of his successors, anxious to prevent
a recurrence of the unfortunate events that had caused such damage in France.
Beethoven survived as an all-licensed eccentric, his bellowed political
indiscretions tolerated, while others, apparently saner, were subject to the
attention of the secret police. He died in March, 1827, his death the occasion
for public mourning in Vienna at the passing of a figure whose like the city
was not to see again.
The three sonatas that form Opus 10
belong to the close of the eighteenth century, part of that group of thirteen
sonatas that remain within the classical tradition that Beethoven was at first
to explore and expand. The Opus 10 sonatas are dedicated to Countess von
Browne, the wife of Count Johann Georg von Browne-Camus, a nobleman of Irish
ancestry in the Russian Imperial service in Vienna. Beethoven had dedicated his
three String Trios, Opus 9, to the Count, to whom he was indebted in
various ways, including the gift of a horse that he had soon abandoned.
The Sonata in C Minor, Opus 10 No.1,
opens with a bright arpeggio, to which there is a gentler answer, as the theme
unfolds, leading to a second theme in E flat major. Further thematic material
appears in the central development, before the final re-appearance of the
original material and the end of the movement.
The A flat major slow movement takes its
shape from the expressive principal theme with which it begins and is followed
by a last movement of tense drama that leads to final resolution in C major.
The second of the Opus 10 sonatas,
the Sonata in F Major, opens with a jaunty melodic figure, leading
almost at once to a further theme in C major, followed by a wider exploration
of the keyboard in a theme that closes the first section of the movement. The
central development is interrupted by the return of the first subject in an
unexpected key, swiftly finding again the necessary tonality for an orthodox
recapitulation. F minor is the key of the scherzo movement, with a D flat trio,
both with a touch of the idiom familiar from the work of Haydn. The final
movement opens, at least, in fugal style, its sonata-form key structure
combined with a strongly contrapuntal element, the secondary theme derived from
the opening figure of the principal subject.
The Sonata in D Major, Opus 10 No.3,
is on a grander scale than its companions. The first subject of the Presto is
briefly developed, before a second thematic element appears, in B minor,
leading to the second subject proper in A major. The development explores
remoter keys and a wide range of the keyboard before the return of the
principal theme in the recapitulation. There is a broadly constructed D minor
slow movement, in music of remarkable expressive power, as it unfolds. The
dramatic tension is delicately broken by the Minuet, with the contrapuntal
imitation of its middle section and answering G Major Trio. The final Rondo
opens with a hesitant interrogative figure before embarking on a stronger
course. The movement ends with a figure that aptly answers the opening.
Sonata No.25 in G Major, Opus 79,
belongs to a much later period in Beethoven's life. 1809 brought a further
occupation of Vienna by the armies of Napoleon, with the departure of the
imperial family and many of the nobility. In May Haydn died, as the city was
under bombardment, from which Beethoven sheltered in his brother's cellar. By
the autumn peace -a dead peace, as Beethoven described it - had been restored.
It was in this year that Beethoven returned to the form of the piano sonata,
after a gap of four years. His last sonata had been the Appassionata,
but now he attempted three works on a much smaller scale. The G Major Sonata is
the second of these three, and opens with a theme that suggests, at least, the
German dance that was the source of the waltz. The relative simplicity and
clarity of texture of this opening movement is followed by a pastoral G minor
Andante, followed by a rapid final movement based on a principal theme and
opening figure appropriate to a work to be described as Sonata facile ou
Jeno Jandó was born at Pécs, in south
Hungary, in 1952. He started to learn the piano when he was seven and later
studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music under Katalin Nemes and Pal
Kadosa, becoming assistant to the latter on his graduation in 1974. Jand6 has
won a number of piano competitions in Hungary and abroad, including first prize
in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a first prize in the chamber music
category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977 .In addition to
his many appearances in Hungary, he has played widely abroad in Eastern and
Western Europe, in Canada and in Japan.
He is currently engaged in a project to
record all of Beethoven's piano solo works for Naxos. Other recordings for the
Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and Schumann as well as
Rachmaninov's 2nd Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody.
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BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 5-7, Op. 10 and No...