Recorded on 02/04/2008, uploaded on 12/24/2010
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Ludwig van Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas span nearly his entire career—the first, part of his opus 2 set, appeared in 1795; his last, op. 111, in 1822, only five years before his death. While the earlier years of his career saw an almost constant stream of inspiration that found its proper place as music for the solo piano, Beethoven later began taking hiatuses from the composition of piano sonatas. The first came in 1805, after the completion of the dramatic Waldstein and Appassionata sonatas, two works that eloquently capture the composer’s “heroic” middle period. Four years later, Beethoven was compelled to return to the sonata when his friend and patron, the Archduke Rudolph, left Vienna during the French attack on the Austrian capital. For the occasion, he composed the Les Adieux sonata. However, two smaller sonatas were also composed during the same time, one of which, the Sonata in F-sharp major, was allotted the perhaps prestigious position of following the Appassionata as the twenty-fourth piano sonata.
Like the Appassionata, Beethoven held a particular fondness for the Piano Sonata in F-sharp major, regarding it as one of his finest compositions. He dedicated the work to his student, the Countess Thérèse von Brunswick, whom some scholars believe to be Beethoven’s enigmatic “Immortal Beloved.” Thus, the sonata is often referred to as “À Thérèse.” A brief work, roughly ten minutes in length, the sonata comprises only two movements. The first opens with an Adagio introduction of a single melodic phrase before giving way to graceful sonata form movement. Presided over by a lyrical chief subject, the first movement maintains a certain dignity throughout its discourse, even in its more energetic sections. The usual fire and strenuous development typical of Beethoven’s music is mostly absent. It does, however, return in small degree, along with the composer’s well-known jocularity, in the spirited finale. An animated Allegro vivace, the second and final movement opens with a genial tune which manages to possess some of the grace of the prior movement. It shifts suddenly between forte and piano dynamics, and between major and minor modes, creating a compelling ending to this brief, yet beloved, sonata. Joseph DuBose
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