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PIANO SONATA NO. 31 IN A FLAT, OP. 110

Sunday 5th June, 2130-2400
Alfred Brendel

Moderato cantabile molto espressivo
Allegro molto
Adagio, ma non troppo - Fuga: Allegro, ma non troppo

The 'disintegration' of accepted sonata norms continues in Op. 110. It is ostensibly in three movements, but the last incorporates both slow movement and finale in alternation. The first movement is in sonata form, opening with a deceptively simple idea (marked - unusually for Beethoven, at this stage of his life - con amabilità), a theme that forms the basis for much of the motivic working of the whole Sonata. The second subject group is an amalgam of short ideas in E flat, one in the extreme high register of the instrument, another a brief alternation of rising scales and falling fifths, and the last a more gentle codetta idea that leads into a reprise of the first subject - which is in effect the brief, 16-bar development. The scherzo turns to F major, and is again remarkably simple in its outline and almost joky ideas. Its trio is in D flat major.

The real heart of this Sonata is its finale. It opens with a recitative, full of changes of tempo and figuration, before the Adagio proper gets under way - a klagender Gesang (tearful song) over incessant semiquaver chords. This leads straight into a three-voice Allegro fugue, and the genius of Beethoven's scheme becomes clear when the fugue subject recalls the outline of the opening melody of the first movement - a subtle association by suggestion rather than outright imitation. The fugue dissolves into the Arioso and returns with the fugue subject turned upside down, leading into a triumphant coda.

Matthew Rye

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