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Piano Sonata No.28 in A Major Op.101

Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven: Sonata No. 28 in A major, Op. 101

With this work we enter the last group of Beethoven's 32 published sonatas: the five that belong to his 'third period'. It was composed between 1813 and 1816 and published in February 1817 by Steiner in Vienna, with a dedication to Baroness Dorothea von Ertmann, an amateur pianist whose musicianship was such that Beethoven called her his 'dear Dorothea Cecilia'. This sonata reverts to the style of the first two of Beethoven's early sonatas 'quasi una fantasia', Op. 27, No.1, in using three short movements to preface a full-scale finale, and in the somewhat free nature of the movements themselves.

It opens with a gentle Allegretto in extremely condensed sonata form which, in addition to its Italian tempo-direction, bears Beethoven's instructions in German that it should be played 'in a fairly lively manner, and with deep feeling'. Next comes a scherzo-like movement in F major, in angular march-rhythm, with a contrasting trio section in B-flat major, which is largely in canon.

The A minor Adagio which begins the last movement is marked 'slow and full of longing', but it lasts no more than a score of bars before dissolving in a little cadenza. The Allegro thus introduced is a sonata-form movement, but with a strong vein of counterpoint running through it. The main theme pursues the fondness for canonic imitation already noticed in the first movement, and quickly ousts the second subject. The long development section is almost wholly fugal, and is based on A minor, rising to a tremendous climax in preparation for the recapitulation and the return of the tonic key.

(c) Robin Golding.

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