Beethoven

Flickr user Jochen Spalding (b_lumenkraft) / cc

After his mighty "Hammerklavier Sonata," Ludwig van Beethoven continued with writing sonatas, but on a smaller and more intimate scale.

The "Sonata No. 30 in E" is a rare combination of nostalgia, youthful vigor and an antiquarian's love of baroque musical forms.

In the first movement, the music swims out of the void into being and the composer weaves passages that simultaneously project them forward and fall back into reminiscence.

My piano teacher told me about the story of Ludwig van Beethoven's creation of his biggest Piano Sonata the "Hammerklavier."

It goes back to John Broadwood sending him his best and biggest piano, and Beethoven's reply was this groundbreaking work. When I looked up to confirm what I was told, I found out the story was even more amazing.

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What is a musical genius to do? Ludwig van Beethoven had been composing piano sonatas with his own technical prowess in mind since he was eleven years old, and thirty five years later he hits a brick wall.

The new ideas and experimentation that stimulated so much of his music wasn't happening. This was the situation Beethoven found himself in 1816. The composer was a crotchety and difficult man at the best of times and after 1815 his physical problems and lack of energy brought his compositional growth to a standstill.

Context is everything. Ludwig van Beethoven dedicated his 26th piano sonata to Archduke Rudolph of Austria. The nickname of the sonata is "Les Adieux" or "Farewell," and I've heard speculation on the supposed relationship between the composer and his patron and friend.

Just knowing the title page on the first edition helps clarify some facts: "On the departure of his imperial highness, for the Archduke Rudolph, in admiration."

Why was his highness leaving? War.

Flickr user southtyrolean / cc

What a difference there was between Mozart and Beethoven. Where the former was often forced to wear livery and eat with the servants, Beethoven hobnobbed with nobility and taught some of them music and piano.

When he didn't feel he was getting what he deserved, the composer, in 1808, put out the rumor that he was considering a position with a Napoleon brother and would leave for Westphalia.

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