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Encyclopedia > Piano Sonata No. 29 (Beethoven)

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, opus 106, known as the Große Sonate für das Hammerklavier, or more simply as the Hammerklavier, is widely considered to be one of the most important works of the composer's third period and one of the great piano sonatas. It is considered Beethoven's single most difficult composition for the piano, with the possible exception of the Diabelli Variations, and it remains one of the most challenging solo works in the entire piano repertoire to this day. A portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820 Ludwig van Beethoven (IPA: ), (baptized December 17, 1770[1] – March 26, 1827) was a German composer and one of the pillars of European classical music. ... Opus, from the Latin word opus meaning work, is usually used in the sense of a work of art. In this sense the plural of opus, opera, is used to refer to the genre of music drama. ... A piano sonata is a sonata written for unaccompanied piano. ... The 33 Variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli Op. ...



The sonata was written primarily from the summer of 1817 to the late autumn of 1818, towards the end of a fallow period in Beethoven's compositional career, and represents the spectacular emergence of many of the themes that were to recur in Beethoven's late period: the reinvention of traditional forms, such as sonata form; a brusque humor; and a return to pre-classical compositional traditions, including an exploration of modal harmony and reinventions of the fugue within classical forms. It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Ludwig van Beethoven. ... This article includes a list of works cited or a list of external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ... In music, a scale is an ordered series of musical intervals, which, along with the key or tonic, define the pitches. ... In music, a fugue (IPA: ) is a type of contrapuntal composition or technique of composition for a fixed number of parts, normally referred to as voices, irrespective of whether the work is vocal or instrumental. ... This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ...

The Hammerklavier also set precedents for the length of solo compositions (it runs for approximately 37 minutes, if the tempo is adhered to exactly); while orchestral works such as symphonies and concerti had often contained movements of 15 or even 20 minutes for many years, few single movements in solo literature had such a span before the Hammerklavier's Adagio sostenuto.

The sonata's name comes from Beethoven's insistence on using German rather than Italian words for musical terminology (Hammerklavier literally means "hammer-keyboard" while pianoforte means "soft-loud") . It comes from the title page of the work, which says "Große Sonate für das Hammerklavier", i.e. "Grand sonata for piano". While it does not represent Beethoven's own title (the more sedate Sonata Op. 101 in A has the same description), the name has remained in common use. A short grand piano, with the top up. ... Ludwig van Beethovens Piano Sonata No. ...


The piece contains a rather unconventional four movements for a typical piano sonata (most sonatas had three) and plays for an average of 45 minutes. In addition to the thematic connections within the movements and the use of traditional Romantic formal structures, Charles Rosen has described how much of the piece is organized around the motif of a descending third (major or minor). It is perhaps the first major piano work (if not work of any instrumentation) to so thoroughly incorporate a baroque contrapuntal style (the fugue) within an originally Classical structure (the sonata form) (see fourth movement). In music, a movement is a large division of a larger composition or musical form. ... The era of Romantic music is defined as the period of European classical music that runs roughly from the early 1800s to the first decade of the 20th century, as well as music written according to the norms and styles of that period. ... Charles Rosen (born May 5, 1927) is an American pianist and music theorist. ... Baroque music describes an era and a set of styles of European classical music which were in widespread use between approximately 1600 and 1750 (see Dates of classical music eras for a discussion of the problems inherent in defining the beginning and end points). ... In music, a fugue (IPA: ) is a type of contrapuntal composition or technique of composition for a fixed number of parts, normally referred to as voices, irrespective of whether the work is vocal or instrumental. ... This article includes a list of works cited or a list of external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ...


The opening bars of the Hammerklavier sonata
The opening bars of the Hammerklavier sonata

Duration of roughly 10 minutes. Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ...

The first movement opens with a series of fortissimo B-flat major chords, which form much of the basis of the first subject. Another series of the same chords ushers in the more lyrical second subject, in the submediant (that is, a minor third below the tonic), G Major. The development section opens with a fughetta subject that descends continuously by thirds. The recapitulation, in keeping with Beethoven's exploration of the potentials of sonata form, avoids a full harmonic return to B-flat until long after the return to the first theme. The movement ends with a coda, the final notes one of the rare fortississimo passages in Beethoven's work. Typical fingering for a second inversion C major chord on a guitar. ... Coda sign Coda (Italian for tail; from the Latin cauda), in music, is a passage which brings a movement or a separate piece to a conclusion through prolongation. ...

Scherzo: Assai vivace

Duration of nearly 3 minutes.

The brief second movement includes a great variety of harmonic and thematic material. The scherzo's theme - which has been described as a parody of the first movement's first subject - is at once playful, lively, and pleasant. The trio, marked "semplice", visits the minor, but the effect is more shadowy than dramatic. Following this dark interlude, Beethoven inserts a more intense presto section in 2/4 meter, which eventually segues back to the scherzo. This time around, it is followed by a coda (with another meter change), before dying away into the third movement. A scherzo (plural scherzi) is a name given to a piece of music or a movement from a larger piece such as a symphony. ...

Adagio sostenuto

Duration of between 14 and 20 minutes.

The sonata-form slow movement, centred on F-sharp minor, has been called, among other things, a "mausoleum of collective sorrow" and is notable for its ethereality and great length as a slow movement. Paul Bekker called the movement "the apotheosis of pain, of that deep sorrow for which there is no remedy... the immeasurable stillness of utter woe".[citation needed] Paul Bekker (September 11, 1882 – March 7, 1937) was one of the most articulate and influential German music critics of the 19th century. ...

Structurally, it follows traditional classical-era sonata form, but the recapitulation of the main theme is varied to include extensive figurations in the right hand that anticipate some of the techniques of romantic piano music; in "The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection"[1], Ted Libbey writes, "An entire line of development...springs from this music."

Introduzione - Fuga: Allegro risoluto

Duration of roughly 12 minutes.

The movement begins with a slow introduction that serves to transition from the third movement; to do so, it modulates from D Minor to B Major to A Major, which modulates to B-flat major for the fugue. Dominated by falling thirds in the baseline, the music three times pauses on a pedal and engages in speculative contrapuntal experimentations, in a manner somewhat similar to the quotations from the first three movements of the ninth symphony in the opening of the fourth movement of that work. After a final modulation to B-flat major, the main substance of the movement appears: a titanic three-voice fugue in triple meter. The subject of the fugue can be divided itself into three parts: (i) a tenth leap followed by a trill to the tonic, (ii) a 7-note scale figure descending by a third, and (iii) a tail semiquaver passage marked by many chromatic passing tones, whose development becomes the main source for the movement's unique dissonance. Marked "with occasional license" ("con alcune licenze"), the fugue, one of Beethoven's greatest contrapuntal achievements, as well as making incredible demands on the performer, moves through a number of contrasting sections and includes a number of "learned" contrapuntal devices, often, and significantly, wielded with a dramatic fury and dissonance inimical to their conservative and academic associations. Some examples: augmentation of the fugue theme and countersubject in a sforzando marcato at bars 96--117, the massive stretto of the tenth leap and trill which follows, a contemplative episode beginning at bar 152 featuring the subject in retrograde, leading to an exploration of the theme in inversion at bar 209. A second, contrasting idyllic subject is introduced at bar 250, which becomes a terrifying bass cantus firmus, heard against parts of the first theme. The penultimate episode investigates the implications of sounding the main subject, countersubject and their inversions simultaneously in stretto. A lengthy coda in B-flat ends the work, the tenth leap and trill rising up the B-flat scale to arrive at two conventional dominant-tonic cadences which sound nevertheless strangely unstable.

This fugue, which Stravinsky called both inexhaustible and exhausting, ranks alongside the "Große Fuge" for string quartet, Op. 133, and the "Et Vitam Venturi" fugue in the Missa Solemnis as Beethoven's most daring and extensive late explorations of the contrapuntal art. The Große Fuge is a single-movement composition for string quartet by Ludwig van Beethoven famous for its extreme technical demands on the players as well as for its unrelentingly introspective nature, even by the standards of his late period. ... Ludwig van Beethovens Missa Solemnis in D Major, Op. ...


The work, particularly the last movement, had more or less to wait until the twentieth century before its significance was realised (possibly due to the difficulty of gaining a technically competent performance). Even as progressive a musician as Wagner, who appreciated the work and fully admired the late string quartets, held reservations for what he perceived as a lack of succinctness in its composition.

In the 20th-century, Pierre Boulez's Piano Sonata No. 2 applies a serial syntax to the playing style of Beethoven's piano sonata. Pierre Boulez Pierre Boulez (IPA: /pjɛʁ.buˈlɛz/) (born March 26, 1925) is a conductor and composer of classical music. ... Pierre Boulez composed three piano sonatas. ...


  1. ^ The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection. Ted Libbey. ISBN 0-7611-0487-9

Further reading

Extensive discussion and analysis is given in Charles Rosen's book The Classical Style (2nd ed., 1997, New York: Norton): ISBN 0-393-31712-9). Charles Rosen (born May 5, 1927) is an American pianist and music theorist. ...

External links



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