Piano Sonata No. 32 (Beethoven)

Piano Sonata No. 32 (Beethoven)

The Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Opus 111, is the last of Ludwig van Beethoven's piano sonatas. Along with Beethoven's "33 Variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli", op. 120 (1823) and his two collections of bagatelles—Opus 119 (1822) and Opus 126 (1824), this was one of Beethoven's last compositions for piano. The work was written between 1821 and 1822. Like other "late period" sonatas, it contains fugal elements and is technically very demanding.


The work is in two highly contrasting movements:

#Maestoso; Allegro con brio ed appassionato
#Arietta: Adagio molto, semplice e cantabile

The first movement, like many other works by Beethoven in C minor (see Beethoven and C minor), is stormy and impassioned. It abounds in diminished seventh chords, as in for instance the first full bar of its opening introduction:

The final movement, in C major, is a set of variations on a 16-bar theme, with a brief modulating interlude and final coda. The third variation is remarkably jazzy and often referred to as the "boogie-woogie variation", and the last two are famous for introducing small notes which constantly divide the bar in 36 resp. 27 parts, which is very uncommon. Beethoven eventually introduces a trill which gives the impression of a further step (ie. dividing each bar into 81 parts), though this is extremely technically difficult without slowing down to half-tempo.

Beethoven’s markings indicate that he wished variations 2-4 to be played to the same basic pulse as the theme, first variation and subsequent sections (using the direction "L'istesso tempo" at each change of time signature). Typical performances take 8 to 9 minutes for the first movement, and 15 to 18 minutes for the second.

The work is one of the most famous compositions of the composer's "late period" and is widely performed and recorded. The pianist [http://members.aol.com/CAMartists/taub.html Robert Taub] has called it "a work of unmatched drama and transcendence ... the triumph of order over chaos, of optimism over anguish." [http://web.archive.org/web/20041014030811/http://www.voxcd.com/taub_beethoven.html] .

History of the work

Beethoven conceived of the plan for his final three piano sonatas (op. 109, 110 and 111) during the summer of 1820, while he worked on his "Missa Solemnis". As with many other works of this magnitude, the composition of Opus 111 was long and complex, drawing inspiration much further than one might imagine. Thus, although the work was only seriously outlined by 1819, the famous first theme of the "allegro ed appassionato" was found in a draft book dating from 1801–1802, contemporary to his second Symphony. ["Zwei Skizzenbücher von B. aus den Jahren 1801 bis 1803", Breitkopf, p. 19 and 14 - cited by R. Rolland, in "Beethoven: Les grandes époques créatrices: Le chant de la résurrection" - Sablier editions, Paris, 1937, p. 517] Moreover, the study of these draft books implies that Beethoven initially had plans for a sonata in three movements, quite different from that which we know: it is only thereafter that the initial theme of the first movement became that of the String Quartet No. 13, and that what should have been used as the theme with the adagio—a slow melody in A-flat major—was abandoned. Only the motif planned for the third movement, the famous theme mentioned above, was preserved to become that of the first movement. [Rolland R, "Beethoven: Les grandes époques créatrices: Le chant de la résurrection" - Sablier editions, Paris, 1937, p. 518-520] The "Arietta", too, offers a considerable amount of research on its themes; the drafts found for this movement seem to indicate that as the second movement took form, Beethoven gave up the idea of a third movement, the sonata finally appearing to him as ideal. [Rolland R, "Beethoven: Les grandes époques créatrices: Le chant de la résurrection" - Sablier editions, Paris, 1937, p. 513]


Chopin was known to have greatly admired this sonata. In two of his works - the second piano sonata and the Revolutionary Etude, he alluded to the opening and ending of the sonata's first movement, respectively [for the allusion in Chopin's second piano sonata, see Wayne C. Petty's article, Chopin and the ghost of Beethoven, "19-Century Music" XXII/3, 1999, pp. 281-299.] (compare the opening bars of the two sonatas, and bars 77-81 of Chopin's Etude with bars 150-152 in the first movement of Beethoven's sonata).

Prokofiev based the structure of his Symphony No. 2 on this sonata.


5. Mann Thomas, "Doktor Faustus" - Fischer Verlag GmbH Frankfurt am Main 1947, Chapter VIII

External links

* [http://www.superopera.com/mp3/therecital/therecital.htm Recordings of this Sonata by Alberto Cobo]
* For a public domain recording of this sonata visit [http://musopen.com Musopen]


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