Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Ludwig van Beethoven

With the Piano Sonata No. 11, Beethoven moves closer to the more far-reaching expressive worlds of the Op. 31 group of sonatas. Cast in four movements: Allegro con brio, Adagio con molto espressione, Menuetto, and Rondo (Allegretto), the sonata starts off almost as if it were beginning in the middle of a passage. A vigorous, but seemingly incomplete, theme is presented. As the material immediately starts to repeat itself, the opening motif is abbreviated and then the vigorous theme is heard again, but fuller now, expanding its range of color and reaching a triumphant chordal passage. Other thematic material sprouts delightfully and the exposition is completed. In the ensuing development section, the opening idea appears in altered form, and a second theme follows. As the themes are developed, a mysterious statement (based on the second theme) is heard in the bass, and its hypnotic fade-out completes the development section in a most imaginative manner. The recapitulation presents the material from the exposition, but with some attractive changes. The opening melody of the second movement has often been viewed as a foreshadowing of Chopin's more intimate rhetoric. Certainly, this theme has a Romantic flavor: accompanied by repeated chords in the left hand, it proceeds with grace, creating an atmosphere of gentle yearning. A second melody intrudes, without breaking the delicate mood. As the main theme is further developed, through original thematic twists and much colorful writing, the listener is tempted to imagine the music as an orchestral or chamber piece. The Menuetto, the shortest movement, features a theme which seemingly lacks substance. However, as the movement progresses, Beethoven substantially enriches this theme by imaginatively adding color. The brief trio section is turbulent and unsettled, providing splendid contrast to the brighter world of the dance melody. The Rondo finale opens with a somewhat long-winded, lively theme that seems in search of a more joyous sonic space. A second, less distinctive, theme appears, maintaining a general atmosphere of joyous haste. After a new idea, based on the opening theme, is presented, the main material reappears, but with several deft alterations and transformations. After many fireworks, including some beguiling rhythmic antics, the sonata closes with a brilliant coda.