Beethoven – Piano Sonata 29 in B♭, Op. 106 (1818)

This work, with its firm and certain compound of optimism, tenderness, melancholy, and assertion, was a favourite of mine when I moved to Peace River in 2011. It must have been the river, which I saw from my windows, and its northern power, which I gained inestimable respect for through my work as chief administrative officer of the municipality, for it would not have been the town itself. The astonishing impact of the late addition by Beethoven of the opening bar of rising thirds to the beginning of the adagio struck me forcefully as long ago as May, 1978, in Ottawa, and is referred to in the poem “Soloist within the Imprints of Time” in my book, Caravaggio’s Dagger. I had returned from residing in Vienna, also referred to in the poem, somewhat earlier, and had a year or two before, stood in the house in Bonn where Beethoven was born. It was quite an extraordinary experience, and induced a very special frame of mind.

The Peace River, from 99th Street, 16 December 2011, Beethoven's birthday. (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

The Peace River, from 99th Street, 16 December 2011, Beethoven’s birthday. (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

András Schiff’s exceptional analysis of this monumental work is here. His remarks on the relationship of the metronome markings to tempi, especially the alle breve of the first movement and the adagio sostenuto of the third movement, are convincing. There is extensive analysis of the sonata’s use of thirds and of the three-part fugue of the final movement. Franz Liszt was the first pianist to perform this work publicly.

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4 thoughts on “Beethoven – Piano Sonata 29 in B♭, Op. 106 (1818)

  1. Just like in the final movement of Mahler’s Ninth. I head Robert Silverman play the Hammerklavier once at the Chan Centre in Vancouver; it seemed as if in the opening allegro the universe began and in the adagio it found its timeless self; and, in the final fugue, discovered how to speak to and for itself.

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