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ClassicsOnline Home » BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 4, 13, 22 and 19-20, Op. 49
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Sonata No.4 in E Flat Major, Opus 7
Sonata No.19 in G Minor, Opus 49,
Sonata No.20 in G Major, Opus 49, No.2
Sonata No.22 in F Major, Opus 54
Sonata No.13 in E Fait Major, Opus 27,
No.1 (Sonata quasi una fantasia)
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 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
Christoph Gottlob Neefe, who was appointed court organist in 1781. In 1784
Beethoven 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 coupled generosity with
forbearance throughout his life, the latter quality often much needed.
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 fourth of Beethoven's 32 numbered
piano sonatas, the Sonata in E flat major, Opus 7, is first mentioned in
an advertisement by the publisher Maria on 7th October, 1797. The work was
dedicated to Countess Babette Keglevich, the composer's pupil, who later
married Prince Innocenz Odescalchi and moved to Pressburg (the modern
Bratislava). Countess von Keglevich is among those society ladies of Vienna
whose names have been put forward as possible candidates for the position of
the Immortal Beloved, the anonymous object of Beethoven's affections, and the
present sonata was known as Die Verliebte, The Girl in Love.
The two easy sonatas that form Opus 49
were published in 1805 but seem to have been written, at least in the case of
the second of the pair, before the Septet, which uses the same motive in the
third movement as the second movement of Opus 49, No.2. The sonatas, for
this and obvious stylistic reasons, may be dated to 1799 or earlier.
The Sonata in F major, Opus 54,
appeared for the first time in April, 1806, in numerical order between the Waldstein
Sonata and the massive Appassionata, works which have tended to
overshadow it. Beethoven worked on the sonata during the summer of 1804, when
he was also writing the Appassionata Sonata and his only opera, Fidelio.
The Sonata in E flat major, Opus 27,
No.1, was completed in 1801. Like its companion, Opus 27, No.2, the so- called
Moonlight Sonata, it is described in the title as Sonata quasi una fantasia,
a description that gives the composer a certain licence. The work was dedicated
to Princess Josepha Sophia von Liechtenstein, whose husband was first cousin to
Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, a nobleman to whom Beethoven had been indebted
for introductions to society on his first arrival in Vienna.
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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