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Artur Pizarro - The Beethoven Sonata Cycle
Piano Sonata No. 4 in E flat, Op. 7
Allegro molto e con brio
Largo, con gran espressione
Allegro
Rondo: Poco allegretto e grazioso

With each new sonata written in the 1790s, Beethoven pushed further against the received bounds of the medium. Op. 7, his seventh, if one includes three works written at the age of 12 (catalogued as WoO 47 and not generally included in the 'canon'), was the largest to date, lasting half an hour and thus longer even than the Appassionata. It was written in 1796-7 for one of his most gifted piano pupils, the young Countess Babette von Keglevics. She lived so close to the composer in Vienna that he is said to have turned up to her lessons quite often in his slippers.

But there is nothing so laid-back about his E flat major Sonata. The use of repeated notes as a feature in three of the four movements gives the music a momentum of its own, as well as a unifying feel. The opening Allegro molto e con brio is one of Beethoven's broadest sonata structures, yet also one of his most virtuosic. Its mood-changes are perfectly placed and its themes make memorable use of the 6/8 metre, particularly when he affects to ignore the bar line in the coda.

The slow movement provides a change of mood, in key (C major) as much as in texture, with, after the swift, action-filled Allegro, a dramatic use of silence. The third movement is not designated as a minuet, but with its trio in the unusual key of E flat minor it performs very much the same function as the traditional dance-music interlude. The finale is one of Beethoven's most songful - an unusual characteristic for a rondo, admittedly, but the composer provides plenty of contrast, particularly in the stormy episodes, while ending the work in a shimmering pianissimo.

Artur Pizarro
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