Recorded on 09/27/2000, uploaded on 02/24/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
The Allegretto in B-flat major was found among Beethoven’s work after his death. It had never been published and remained so until 1830. A lighthearted work for violin, cello and piano, Beethoven composed the piece in 1812 for Maximiliane Brentano, the daughter of Antonie and Franz Brentano, as a piece for her to learn and practice on the piano. He presented the piece to her on June 26, when she was only ten years of age, with a note referring to her as his “little friend.” Indeed, Beethoven’s compassion for the child showed that, despite his often stormy and intense nature, the composer yet had a tender side. He would continue to keep in contact with the Brentano’s after they moved from Vienna in that same year, and Maximiliane would later be the dedicatee of the Piano Sonata No. 21 in E major, composed in 1821.
Catering to Maximiliane’s proficiency on the piano, the Allegretto is a rather simple piece. There’s little in the manner of complex contrapuntal writing, and the string parts are kept for the most part in a subordinate position to the piano. By simple means, the pianist is given the spotlight throughout much of the piece. Yet, none of this should mean that the piece lacks substance, or that it was a mere trifle for the composer. Despite its necessary simplicity, it bears the mark of Beethoven at the height of his powers.
Laid out in a straightforward sonata form (indeed the most predictable of the composer’s middle period), the piece’s principal theme, gracefully rising and falling through the tonic scale, is announced first by the piano and then later taken up in fragments by the strings. The subordinate theme, in contrast, is more motivic, growing out of three notes given by the piano and then passed among constituents of the trio. The development section is brief, beginning in the dominant key with a portion of the principal theme before modulating into D major. However, as is typical of Beethoven, the development does not stop with the reprise of the themes. Though the recapitulation adheres more strictly to the expectations of sonata form than any other piece to come from the composer’s middle or late period, he nevertheless finds ways to continue, if only minutely, to transform and develop the themes. A rather lengthy coda, beginning in E-flat, follows the reprise of the second theme and continues to develop fragments of the principal melody up until the work’s conclusion. Joseph DuBose
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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