Beethoven – Piano Sonata 32 – Op. 111

Maestoso – Allegro con brio ed appassionato

Very heavy opening phrases offset by lighter chords seems to be the modus operandi in this notably darker work. After proposing and confirming the subject Beethoven sets off in a whirl of scalar phrases moving the now familiar phrases to the bass.

The left hand seems to be working in a much more obviously supportive role here, frequently just providing chords for the top line to work over and often doubling up on the notes given on the upper stave, serving very deep, robust chords.

The composer is spending a lot more time at the very bottom end of the keyboard, the result often being a confusion of tones that might take a bar or two to resolve.

The overall “feel” of the movement is aggressive, possibly because the primary phrase (Tonic, up a minor third, down a third) feels so weighty and pulls the rest of the piece with it.

Aside from some hints of light showing around the third minute, the whole is an “angsty” movement with the action below Middle C demanding a lot from the listener. This must be the type of music that gives Beethoven the aura and reputation of the “Angry Deaf Bloke”.

Arietta – Adagio molto, semplice e cantabile

The second movement opens with waves of gentle chords that still use the rich, deep bass but overall sounds a lot more positive. Beethoven seems almost contrite and offers a hand of friendship after the row that we had in Maestoso. There are fewer direct motifs available here and the composer seems more intent on leading us on a meandering path containing several phrases that never quite resolve.

The path takes us to a middle section which arrives in crashes of descending lines and syncopated bass at around the 6:30 mark, temporarily sounding almost like a music hall interlude. This whirls around and doesn’t fade but drops within one bar and the next to a light but multi-layered intermission of smooth chords and approachable melodies, building again as we approach the conclusion over five or six minutes. A selection of trills and gentle pushes toward the satisfactory and complete end allow a final resolution.

This movement and sonata isn’t as directly structured as Op.2 and as such is less directly accessible.

This is heavy music.

Hear it here.

One thought on “Beethoven – Piano Sonata 32 – Op. 111

  1. Pingback: Classical and Romantic | Music From The Present To The Past

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