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ClassicsOnline Home » BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 9, 10, 24, 27 and 28
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Sonata No.9 in E Major, Opus 14 No.1
Sonata No.10 in G Major, Opus 14 No.2
Sonata No.24 in F Sharp Major, Opus 78
Sonata No.27 in E Minor, Opus 90
Sonata No. 28 in A Major, Opus 101
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
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 two piano sonatas that make up
Beethoven's Opus 14, dedicated to Baroness von Braun, belong to the
close of the eighteenth century both in date of composition and in musical content.
The first of the pair, the Sonata in E
Major, makes no great dramatic attempt, with a charming and unpretentious
first subject, followed by a subsidiary theme, introduced contrapuntally, and a
central development that allows a certain tension before the gently elaborated
return of the first subject in the recapitulation. The second movement, in E
minor, with a contrasting C major trio section, has the double function of
Minuet and slow movement, and is capped by a
final Rondo of transparent texture. The composer arranged the sonata for string
quartet, a form in which it has never proved particularly acceptable.
The Sonata in G Major, Opus 14 No 2,
again makes no demand for virtuosity, with the straightforward clarity of its
first movement and the miniature drama of its central development, followed by
a march-like slow movement in C major, a theme and variations. The last
movement earns its title, Scherzo, rather from the nature of its principal
theme than from its form. It provides a brilliant enough conclusion, couched in
terms of classical lucidity.
The Sonata in F Sharp Major, Opus 78,
was the first of the three piano sonatas written in 1809, the year of Haydn's
death and of a further occupation of Vienna by the armies of Napoleon. It
marked a return to the sonata alter a gap of some four years and a change of
mood alter the Appassionata Sonata, its immediate predecessor. The first
movement opens with a brief introduction, leading to the first subject. The
second of the two movements allows the principal theme, variously treated, to
frame intervening episodes of pianistic excitement. The sonata is dedicated to
Therese von Brunsvik, once wrongly proposed as a candidate for the role of
Immortal Beloved, the object of Beethovens apparently undeclared love.
A period of six years was to elapse before
Beethoven returned once more to the sonata in 1815 with the Sonata in E Minor,
dedicated to Count Moritz von Lichnowsky brother of his friend and patron
Prince Karl German now replaces Italian. In the marking of the movements, the
first of which opens with a theme of dynamic contrast and sober cast answered
by a more dramatic second subject. The second of the two movements is dominated
by its lyrical Viennese principal melody, of which Beethoven makes much.
Beethoven completed his Sonata in A
Major, Opus 101, in November, 1816. It was published early the following
year with a dedication to Beroness Dorotnea von Ertmann. The sonata starts with
a them, to be played mit der innigsten Empfindung, the sentiment demanded also
for the first movement of the preceding sonata, the form defying contemporary
expectations. There follows a lively march in F major with a B flat trio
section and a brief slow movement, to be played using single strings of the
piano, gradually increased, as was possible on instruments of the time. A
snatch of the main them, of the first movement intervenes to introduce a
movement that turns into a fugue of proper formal complexity, making full use
of the extended range of the newly enlarged keyboard of the time, a foretaste
of the still more remarkable treatment of the piano sonata that was to follow.
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. Jandó 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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