At a Glance
Beethoven wrote 32 piano sonatas over the course of his career; other than his string quartets, perhaps no genre so manifestly traces the evolution of his compositional style. Piano Sonata No. 11 in B-flat Major, Op. 22—the first work on this evening's program—represents the culmination of his first period of piano music, achieving what is often thought of as the apotheosis of the "normal" sonata. The Op. 101 Sonata is a characteristic late-period work in its end-weighted structure, its fragmentation of form, and its incorporation of fugal counterpoint; and Op. 57, the "Appassionata," resounds with the confidence and emotional bravura of his middle period. Though undeniably more understated than the "Appassionata," the Op. 34 Variations—the only non-sonata contribution tonight—likewise demonstrate the ambitious character of Beethoven's middle period, as he self-consciously wrote them in "quite a new style."