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Monday 6th June, 1700-1930
Stephen Kovacevich

Allegro con brio
Adagio con molta espressione
Rondo: Allegretto

Of all his early sonatas, Beethoven was most proud of this work in B flat, though it has perhaps never had the popularity of some of its companions in the cycle. It was completed in 1800 and published two years later, Beethoven assuring his prospective Leipzig-based publisher in colloquial German that 'Die Sonate hat sich gewaschen' - 'The Sonata has washed itself', which the great musical analyst Donald Tovey likened to the English phrase 'takes the cake'. (Incidentally, as an indication of the composer's sometimes hazy connection with everyday life, he dated this letter '15 January, or thereabouts'.)

Like a much later Sonata in B flat, the 'Hammerklavier', it is a large-scale work - indeed Beethoven labels it a 'Grande Sonate' - and effectively brings his period of high Classicism to a close. From here on experimentalism would rule. That said, the first movement manages to hold its own while rarely presenting us with something as recognisable as a melody. For that we have to wait until the slow movement, which presents a florid line over a throbbing accompaniment. The last two movements are more conservative: a regular minuet and a typical Viennese rondo.

Matthew Rye

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