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Piano Sonata No.4 in E Flat Major Op.7

Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 4 in E flat major, Op. 7

This sonata probably dates from 1796-7. It was published by Artaria in Vienna in October 1797 with a dedication to Countess Babette von Keglevics, a pupil with whom Beethoven is said to have been in love.

The expansive first movement is rich in thematic material including 'double' second subject (its first half distinguished by an upward leap to a sforzato note of a weak accent, its second a smooth chordal progression), but the short development section makes only partial use of the first subject and is mainly concerned with the syncopated motif of the exposition’s closing bars – as the is the coda.

The eloquent C major Largo is in ternary form, with a middle section (with a staccato semiquaver accompaniment in the left hand) that moves through A flat major, F minor and D flat major. The reprise is varied, and includes a brief reference in the tonic key to the theme of the middle section: there is a short coda based on the first subject.

The next movement is a cross between a minuet and a scherzo: minuet-like in the elegance and urbanity of its music, but scherzo like in the range of its modulation (notably in its long second half, which begins canonically) and the extent of its development: it frames a rumbling ‘trio’ in E flat minor. The finale is an extended sonata rondo, in which the Mozartian shapeliness of the refrain, with its effective passages for crossing hands, is thrown into relief by a turbulent ‘development’ episode in C minor. The beginning of the coda is marked by a characteristic upward slop of a sentence, from B flat to B natural (the dominant of E major), in which remote key the rondo tune is heard once more pianissimo before the tonic is restored for the concluding bars.

Robin Golding

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