Recorded on 10/05/2005, uploaded on 02/26/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
- Allegro; Adagio; Allegretto
"Tempest" Sonata, Op. 31 #2, was composed around 1801, when the composer was
already showing signs of deafness. The
"Tempest" (a title not given by Beethoven - he himself titled only one of his
sonatas, the "Hammerklavier", Op. 106) refers mainly to the first and third
movements, which capture the dichotomy of emotions so characteristic of
Beethoven's music. The constant shift
between the storm and calm is a defining characteristic, and in fact, when
Beethoven was asked by a friend what the piece symbolized for him, he said
simply, "Read The Tempest of Shakespeare". In the sonata, through elements such as pedal techniques and rich
textures, we clearly hear the composer well on his way to bridging the gap
between the classical style and the romantic style which would take over in the
following decades of the 19th Century. Spencer Myer
Ludwig van Beethoven composed the Piano Sonata No. 17 in D
minor during 1801 and 1802. It remains one of his well-known piano sonatas,
however it is somewhat eclipsed by the Waldstein
and Appassionata sonatas that were
soon to follow. For both for analysts and performers alike, it is a one of the
more difficult piece in the late Classical and early Romantic piano repertoire.
The sonata is often referred to as "The Tempest" or "Der
Sturm" in German. However, like all of Beethoven's other piano sonatas,
with the sole exception of the Hammerklavier,
this title was not given by the composer. Instead, the origin of this title
comes from Beethoven's close associate and friend, Anton Schindler. Schindler,
in his biography of the great composer, claimed that the sonata was inspired by
the Shakespeare play of the same name. However, much of Schindler's information
is widely regarded as inaccurate by classical music scholars. The prominent
writer, Donald Tovey, even went so far as to call the story one of many of
Schindler's "inventions." Regardless of whether Schindler's claim has
any merit, the title has stuck and is a fair description of the stormy nature
of the work.
The sonata is in the key of D minor, which it shares with one of Beethoven's
greatest works. While Beethoven was particularly fond of the key of C minor for
the portrayal of epic struggle, it was the key of D minor that he chose for the
Ninth Symphony and the greatest portrayal of man's struggle for joy. However,
there is no joyful triumph in the Tempest
sonata. As is expected of a late Classical piano sonata, the work is in three
movements. The outer movements are in the usual sonata form while the middle
movement is a sonatina (i.e., a sonata form without development).
The first movement begins with a brief Largo not even a full two bars in length. It consists merely of an
arpeggiated first inversion of the dominant triad before halting on a fermata.
From there the music plunges into the "tempest"-a brisk Allegro in which the performer is required to show great variety in
playing between the "storm" and all to brief moments of peacefulness. The Largo sections return throughout the
movement and greatly extended in the recapitulation exhibiting recitative-like melodies.
The second movement is in the key of B flat major-a subtle foreshadowing, like
the dominant harmony introduction to the first movement, of the Ninth Symphony.
It begins similar to first movement with its opening rolled chord. This Adagio borrows several motivic elements
from the previous movement but recasts them in a nobler manner. The "tempest"
however does make its appearance briefly during the thirty-second note
arpeggios near the middle of the movement.
The last movement returns to the tonic key of D minor. It
begins more gracefully than tempestuous; however, the opening melody becomes
more thunderous on its first repetition. If the first movement was the artist
facing the whole of Fate's fury, then the last movement is his wild joy of
riding out the remainder of the storm knowing that he has won the battle. With
a title like the Tempest, the sonata
ends rather deceptively with quiet D minor arpeggios. Perhaps, it is not really
the end, but merely leaving the artist on his fateful journey.
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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