Piano Sonata in B-Flat minor

Piano Sonata in B-Flat minor

Piano Sonata in B-Flat minor was written by Julius Reubke from December 1856 to March 1857. Although little known, especially compared to Reubke's Sonata on the 94th Psalm for organ, the work is a masterpiece and brilliantly combines Liszt's then-new technique of thematic transformation, colourful harmonies, virtuosic piano writing and a wide array of characters and sentiments. The work is a masterful unification of a multitude of stylistic features that other Romantic era piano writers employed in their own works.

The work opens Allegro maestoso in Bb minor with a dramatic first subject, marked forte. This rising motive, comprised of a minor semitone and a leap of a third, will be one of the most significant themes of the work, as it returns not only in a variety of guises, but is hidden even in cadenza-like passagework. The harmony, even over the course of the first 7 bars, gives the listener an idea of the harmonic surprises which are yet to come. The chord structure is i, bII6, viio7, i4-3, v, VI6/4, viio7 (spelled enharmonically as a diminished seventh of Abb minor) and finally V. The work employs many sections which have similarly interesting modulations but, rather than being decorated, are actually presented as simply a series of held chords, which produces a very dark and sombre effect. The second theme comes shortly after one of such passages which, characteristic of the work, is marked Quasi Recit. and is written in very free and vocal style. The melancholy second subject is written in E Major (a very interesting choice considereing the home key of the work) and is a beautiful, singing melody which, though in a major key, still does not seem to suggest true happiness, which is probably a reflection of Reubke's own tragically short life. This is another subject which will undergo many transformations and evoke emotions such as terror, mystery, fury and sadness.

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