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BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 19: Opus 49 No. 1

Though the two sonatas of Opus 49 were composed around 1795, they were not published until 1805 by Beethoven's brother Caspar. These are the shortest of the Beethoven sonatas, ranging around 8 minutes in performance length. They are also considered to be the easiest to play. They also feature only two movements each.Opus 49 No. 1 is in G major, and its movements are titled as such: 'Andante' and 'Rondo: Allegro.'Though the piece is relatively simple, Alfred Brendel makes it shine beautifully.

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 18: Opus 31 No. 3

Finally we arrive at the last of Opus 31. This last instalment in E flat major is often referred to as 'The Hunt' due to its playful nature. As playful as it is, however, like most of Beethoven's middle period works, it contains more serious and profound undertones.This sonata is an odd one due to its form. Unlike all the other sonatas we have seen, this one does not have a slow movement.Wilhelm Backhaus was a German pianist. In 1905 he won the Anton Rubinstein Competition, beating even the famous composer Bela Bartok. He is most famous for his performances of Beethoven.

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 17: Opus 31 No. 2

Opus 31 No. 2 in D minor, composed in 1802, is more commonly known as 'The Tempest.' This name was not given to it by the composer, but by his assistant, Anton Schindler. When Schindler asked Beethoven what this new composition was about, the master simply said, "read 'The Tempest' by Shakespeare and you will know what it is about." Nobody is sure if Beethoven actually based the sonata on the plot of the famous play. Whatever the case, the piece does indeed sound stormy and tumultuous, with moments of sweetness.Daniel Barenboim plays for us again today.

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 15: Opus 28

I have been looking forward to Day 15 because this is my favourite Beethoven sonata ever! The first time I heard it I was completely blown away by its beauty. I performed this entire piece for my very first solo recital in 2014.Sonata Opus 28 in D major, also named 'Pastorale,' was composed in 1801. It is not the most famous Beethoven sonata, but it is still gorgeous and subtly technically challenging. When you listen to it, it will not sound hard at all, but believe me, it is HARD. The reason it is called 'Pastorale' is because of its similarities to Beethoven's Pastorale Symphony. Both pieces describe beautiful nature scenes and are calm and beautiful. The repeated 'D' in the first movement always reminded me of a babbling brook, and the sudden forte in the third movement sounds like a rooster cawing at dawn. This is my favourite recording of this piece by far, it is a live performance by Daniel Barenboim.

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 14: Opus 27, No. 2

Today we experience one of the most famous pieces ever written, Sonata Opus 27 No. 2, 'Moonlight.' It was composed in 1801 and is centred in C# minor. The first movement is the famous one we all know. The second movement, while lesser known, is incredibly sweet and beautiful. The last movement, 'Presto Agitato,' is as it sounds, 'fast as possible and agitated.'Claudio Arrau's magnificent technique makes the terrifyingly difficult last movement seem effortless. Watch his quick and relaxed hands and be amazed!

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 13: Opus 27, No. 1

Sonata Opus 27, No. 1 in E flat major was also named 'Quasi Una Fantasia,' meaning 'somewhat like a fantasy.' Fantasy is a type of formal structure where there are no breaks between sections, and new ideas flow into each other. The ends of the movements in this sonata are marked 'attaca,' meaning 'attack, do not stop between movements.'Our performance today is from Claudio Arrau.

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 12: Opus 26

Opus 26 in A flat major was composed around the same time as Beethoven's very first symphony. This one begins strangely. The first movement is marked 'Andante Con Variazione,' meaning 'leisurely with variations.' The form of the movement, obviously, is theme and variations rather than traditional sonata form. Normally, first movements are marked 'Allegro' or 'Vivace,' and are played quickly.The third movement is meant to be a funeral march. In fact, it was arranged for an orchestra and played at Beethoven's own funeral in 1827. Playing for us once again is Emil Gilels.

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 11: Opus 22

Although composed in 1800, sonata opus 22 in B flat major was published two years later. Beethoven himself considered it one of his best piano sonatas.This piece shows us just how experimental Beethoven was getting in the new century. There are very strange harmonic shifts (using tritones and seventh chords) and unexpected formal arrangements. The opening melody of the second movement is often compared to the melodies of Chopin, which shows how forward thinking Beethoven was at the time.Performing for us today is the great Russian pianist Emil Gilels. Both he and his sister Elizaveta were in fact well known musicians; Elizaveta was a great violinist. Sergei Rachmaninoff, one of the greatest pianists and composers of the 20th century, loved Gilels' playing so much that he gave him his own musical medals and diplomas.Gilels' daughter Elena grew up to be a pianist just like her father, and the two often performed and recorded together.

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 10: Opus 14 No. 2

This sonata is the last one to be composed in the 1700s, being written in 1799. It is a very interesting one: Beethoven seems to be channeling his former teacher Franz Joseph Haydn. Haydn was known for his wit and sneakiness in his compositions. There are many surprising silences, odd rhythmic passages, and unexpected harmonies.Once again we are serenaded by the playing of Richard Goode!

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