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Piano Sonata No.27 in E Minor Op.90

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)

Piano Sonata No.27 in E minor, Op.90

Beethoven composed this sonata in 1814, some four years after the preceding work in the series (Op.81a): it was published by Stenier in Vienna in June 1815. He dedicated it to Count Moritz Lichnowsky, partly in gratitude for the Count’s efforts to obtain payment for Beethoven’s dedication of his “Battle Symphony” Wellington’s Victory to the prince Regent, and partly, it seems, in celebration of the Count’s engagement to a singer at the Theater an der Wien. The first movement begins with four statements of one impetuous phrase, landing in B minor, continues with a gentle drooping melody, and culminates, some way further on, in bare ascending octaves and a scurry of descending scales. The second subject is an agitated theme in B minor above a wide-ranging semiquaver accompaniment. The remarkable development section makes use of the first subject’s opening motif and its lyrical continuation, enriched with an embroidery of semiquavers in the right hand.

The second and last movement is cast in E major, and is a sonata rondo, based on one of those effortless flowing melodies occasionally to be found in Beethoven that anticipate Schubert. There are various subsidiary ideas, including a broad descending theme that provides the material for most of the second (development) episode, but it is the essentially cantabile nature of the refrain that dominates the movement and gives it its special quality.

(c) Robin Golding

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