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Hyperion Records

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Pietrasanta C02.15 by Caio Fonseca (b1959)
Reproduced by kind permission of the artist / www.caiofonseca.com
Track(s) taken from CDA67518
Recording details: September 2005
Das Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel, Dobbiaco, Italy
Produced by Ludger Böckenhoff
Engineered by Ludger Böckenhoff
Release date: October 2006
Total duration: 28 minutes 34 seconds

Piano Sonata in E flat major 'Grande Sonate', Op 7
composer
1796/7; No 4; published 1797

Allegro  [4'49]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
If any proof was needed to show that early Beethoven is not just imitation Haydn or Mozart, then surely the Sonata in E flat major, Op 7 would be the best example. It was published in 1797 with the title ‘Grande Sonate’ which indeed it is, being the longest of his sonatas until the ‘Hammerklavier’, Op 106. Czerny suggested that this sonata, rather than Op 57, should have been called ‘Appassionata’. The key to the opening movement, marked Allegro molto e con brio, is to find a tempo that suits everything and at which you can play the difficult bravura passages. Too fast an opening will give you big problems later on. It is a wild piece, with almost jazzy syncopations and stabbing sforzandos, but is constructed with meticulous care. The colour change to C major for the Largo, con gran espressione startles us but immediately calls our attention to expect something different and exceptional. This noble movement would have been a wonderful vehicle for Beethoven to show off his cantabile playing and generous spirit. The expression opens up when the pizzicato bass is added—a wonderful effect. When the theme appears high up in the keyboard in B flat major, there is a sublime, peaceful radiance that is broken after only a few bars but which can be savoured nevertheless. As in the finale of Op 10 No 3, the silences brought on by the rests must be full of expression and not sound ‘empty’.

The Allegro third movement returns us to playful mood in a less sophisticated manner than Op 10 No 3 but is full of humour and charm. Its middle section, in E flat minor, is made up of rumbling triplets that contrast totally with what has come before. The colour of this passage would probably have sounded very different on Beethoven’s piano than on most modern instruments, and I think we need to keep that in mind when playing it. The fourth pedal on my Fazioli piano which I used for this recording works wonders here, bringing the hammers closer to the strings while at the same time lowering the keys so that the action is much shallower, enabling a swift, clear, and yet quiet execution.

As Tovey has suggested, if the first movement of this sonata looks forward to a new style of writing, the finale, Poco allegretto e grazioso, is one of the last examples of his early style. The Rondo melody is a long, meandering one which lends itself easily to ornamentation. Its charm is broken, however, by the middle section in C minor, which suddenly takes off using what was an accompanying figure to propel it forward (Czerny says this section can be taken a bit faster than the rest). When the Rondo theme returns it is as if nothing has happened, and the movement ends in the most unassuming way. Perhaps if it ended loudly this piece would be performed more often. Beethoven dedicated this sonata to one of his piano students, the Countess Babette von Keglevics, who lived not far away at the time; Beethoven often turned up at her house for lessons still wearing his slippers, dressing gown, and a peaked nightcap.

from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2006

Other albums featuring this work
'Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1' (SACDA67518)
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1
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