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Piano Sonata in C major, Op 2 No 3

1794; No 3

The grandest and most brilliant of the Op 2 sonatas is the last, in C major. It is a work whose outer movements seem at times to be conceived in orchestral terms, and it’s not by chance that both pieces contain a written-out cadenza near the close. The opening Allegro’s cadenza is on a large scale, and only once it has run its course does Beethoven reintroduce the figuration in ‘broken’ double octaves—perhaps the most overtly orchestral sonority of the piece—which had earlier rounded off the exposition.

Beethoven follows his dazzling opening bars with an expressive melody in the minor (its theme is borrowed from one of the youthful piano quartets of 1785), before he introduces the equally tender second subject in the major. Even taken together, however, these afford no more than brief respite before the pyrotechnics resume; and the first stage of the central development section, with its fortissimo broken chords sweeping up and down the keyboard, continues the predominantly forceful style.

For his slow movement, Beethoven turns to the radiant key of E major—a change that brings with it a sense of heightened expressiveness. The Adagio’s theme is a distant cousin of the opening movement’s principal subject, and the relationship between the two is highlighted towards the end of the slow movement, where the theme is given out in a dramatic fortissimo which revives the first movement’s key of C major. But the main emphasis of the slow movement is placed on its episode in the minor, whose ‘rocking’ figuration turns out later to form an accompaniment to a wonderfully expressive idea with elongated appoggiaturas which has the pianist’s hands constantly crossing over each other.

The scherzo, with its contrapuntal theme, and the fleeting arpeggios of its shadowy trio, has a sting in its tail, in the shape of a surprise coda taking its point of departure from the dropping octave of the scherzo’s last bar. The coda ends with a composed fade-out which provides a transition to the finale—a virtuoso rondo in whose closing bars Beethoven indulges in a witticism which was to become something of a hallmark in the works of his early maturity: the rondo theme suddenly appears as if from afar, and in the ‘wrong’ key, before the mistake is abruptly corrected in an explosive flurry of activity which brings the curtain down.

from notes by Misha Donat © 2018


Beethoven: Beethoven Unbound
Studio Master: SIGCD527Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Opp 2/3, 13 & 28
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Opp 2/3, 13 & 28
This album is not yet available for downloadSACDA67605Super-Audio CD


Movement 1: Allegro con brio
Track 8 on CDA67605 [10'38]
Track 8 on SACDA67605 [10'38] Super-Audio CD
Track 9 on SIGCD527 CD1 [10'16] Download only
Movement 2: Adagio
Track 9 on CDA67605 [7'55]
Track 9 on SACDA67605 [7'55] Super-Audio CD
Track 10 on SIGCD527 CD1 [8'54] Download only
Movement 3: Scherzo: Allegro
Track 10 on CDA67605 [3'33]
Track 10 on SACDA67605 [3'33] Super-Audio CD
Track 11 on SIGCD527 CD1 [3'10] Download only
Movement 4: Allegro assai
Track 11 on CDA67605 [5'36]
Track 11 on SACDA67605 [5'36] Super-Audio CD
Track 12 on SIGCD527 CD1 [5'23] Download only

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