Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

Today I started an eight week class that will survey the piano sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven. The first session considered the first three sonatas, Op. 2, 1-3, that followed his Op. 1 Trios. Beethoven was bold from the start with a direct reference to the finale of Mozart's g minor Symphony (K. 550) in the first subject of the first of these sonatas. At the time he wrote these he was a pupil of Haydn (thus the Trios of Op. 1) to whom he dedicated the Op. 2 Sonatas.
This sonata is in f minor, another indication of self-confidence in the young Beethoven, for minor keys were not that common (only five of Haydn's sixty-two sonatas) at that time. This would not be the last minor key sonata for Beethoven as he would use minor keys (particularly c minor) for several more sonatas. At the opening of the first movement there is further evidence of his unique approach with the rapid change in loudness from piano to forte in the first two lines. Already mature in his compositional style, with the first movement of Op. 2, #1 is we have both elegance and a demonstration of the creative genius that Beethoven would continue to display in his subsequent sonatas. The slow movements of these sonatas, in particular demonstrate a variety that continued to be evidenced throughout his other sonatas.
Listening and studying these sonatas, even though they are early works of the master, provide continual suggestions of techniques and hints of what would reappear in his later works making his musical world unique. I am looking forward to studying the remaining sonatas as they display the breadth and depth of Beethoven's musical world.

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