Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Beethoven is generally considered one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. Beethoven's major output consists of 9 symphonies, 7 concertos (5 for piano), 16 string quartets, 32 piano sonatas, 10 sonatas for violin and piano, 5 sonatas for cello and piano, an opera, 2 masses, several overtures, and numerous sets of piano variations.
He has traditionally been referred to as the "bridge to Romanticism". Today most scholars view him as the last great representative of the Viennese Classical style, a composer who at important junctures in his life turned away from the aesthetic of the emerging Romantic period in favour of renewed exploration of the legacy of Haydn and Mozart.
Beethoven's fame reached its zenith during the first decade of the 19th century, but the steadily worsening hearing impairment that he had first noted in 1798 led to an increasing sense of social isolation. By 1818 Beethoven had become virtually deaf and relied on small "conversation books", in which visitors wrote their remarks to him. He withdrew from all but a steadily shrinking circle of friends.

Sonata No 30 in E Major, opus 109 Sonata No 30 (MPEG3, 24 kbps) Sonata No 30 in E Major, opus 109 (RealAudio 3.0, 16 kbps)

This sonata is one of Beethoven's last ones - he wrote it in 1820, when he was 50.
The first two movements of the Sonata are effectively a pair of preparatory meditations which establish the right setting for the variation-form finale.
The first movement seeks yet never finds a resolution between the gentle flow of the opening Vivace ma non troppo and a contrasting, dramatic adagio passage which creates the impression of being extemporised as if at will.
The central Prestissimo of the second movement forms a driving interlude, releasing various forms of pent-up energy before the idyllic calm and elysian grace of the finale, possibly Beethoven's single greatest movement for solo piano.

Acknowledgments: Julian Haylock, Beethoven, The Late Piano Sonatas, 1993 Philips Classics Productions; Microsoft® Encarta® 96 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1995 Microsoft Corporation. Picture from The Great Composers.

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