PIANO SONATA #11 IN B-FLAT MAJOR, OPUS 22
RICHARD GOODE, PIANO
Beethoven himself gave the label “grand” to any of his sonatas which were four movements in length—as opposed to the more customary three. The ebullient Opus 22 sonata is the 11th of the 32 Beethoven sonatas. It is comprised of four movements, so therefore it is “grand.” Composed in 1800, when Beethoven was thirty, it is the last of the sonatas regarded as “early” Beethoven, and is regarded by many pianists and music historians as the crowning achievement of these early sonatas. It is the last of the four movement sonatas that uses a particular format: first movement in sonata form, a second slow movement, a light-hearted minuet third movement, and a rondo fourth movement.
I learned this sonata with Ania Dorfmann in my sophomore year, long ago. Although Mme. Dorfmann had a long performing history of Beethoven—she had recorded the First Concerto with Toscanini (they were rumored to have been lovers, but who knows–I certainly never asked)—I think she would have said her real expertise was in Schumann and Mendelssohn. Nevertheless, I’ll always remember her demonstrating lengthy stretches of this Beethoven sonata, playing it only as someone who has played a piece their entire life can play. She knew ALL the Beethoven sonatas in the same way that an English literature lover would know all the Shakespeare plays.
The expressive Adagio second movement is the “heart” of Opus 22, as is true of so many Beethoven sonatas. And the finger dexterity required in the outer movements, particularly the fourth movement, is really quite impressive.
Strangely—especially in light of Beethoven’s own high opinion of this sonata, and its being the peak of the mountain for the early sonatas—I do not think this sonata gets played enough. At least I don’t hear it that much. Which makes me feel that much luckier to have yet another Richard Goode interpretation of the work so readily available on YouTube.
I hope you will enjoy the B-flat Major sonata. If you’ve made it thus far in our listening to all the Beethoven sonatas, this should feel like both a landmark and a (temporary) resting place to you.