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The Sonata in C minor, like the others in the group of three, is strongly influenced by Beethoven, at whose funeral the previous year Schubert had been a pall-bearer. The opening of the Allegro first movement of this sonata is very close to the theme of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Variations on a theme (catalogue WoO80), which is also in C minor. There are also reminiscences of Beethoven’s 'Pathetique' sonata, No 8 Op 13, again in C minor. The second subject is a chorale-like tune in E flat major, the relative major to C minor.
After the repeat of the exposition section, the development continues chromatically, exploring distant keys. At the recapitulation there is a return to the tonic, and the coda dies away in reminiscences of the development section.
The second movement, Adagio, is in A flat major, and structured A-B-A-B-A. Its tranquil opening theme is developed in a way that gives it a darker quality, and in the B sections there is intense chromaticism and forceful, emotion-laden chords. The second appearance of the A and B sections is a semitone higher than before.
The third movement is a menuetto and trio, but far darker and more sombre in mood than the usual classical minuet. The menuetto is in C minor, in two parts, each repeated, the second part containing two bar-long rests that give a disquieting feeling that persists to the end of the movement. The trio is in A flat major, structured A-B-A, with the B section in E flat major.
The sonata-form final movement, Allegro, is again in C minor, and has a rapid, racing 6/8 rhythm reminiscent of a tarantella or a moto perpetuo. The first theme moves from C minor to C major, while the second moves towards C sharp minor. A new theme enters in the development section, progressing to a climax which introduces the recapitulation in which the first theme reappears in shortened form. The wild leaps and bounding arpeggios give the movement a liveliness that is offset by its predominantly minor key colouring, and leave something of the flavour of a dance of death.
from notes by Simon Rees © 2019
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