Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No. 12 in A flat major ("Funeral March"), Op. 26

    Description by James Reel

    Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 12 in A flat major, Op. 26 (1800-1801), was especially popular among the Romantics; even Chopin, who rarely performed Beethoven's music in public, included it in his repertoire. The work reflects Beethoven's ongoing experimentation with the form of the piano sonata; in place of the more conventional sonata-allegro movement, he begins the sonata with a theme and variations, a still-novel innovation that Mozart had introduced a few decades earlier. The opening Andante theme is faintly ceremonial, decorated with a few well-placed turns. The first variation merely uses arpeggios to fill in the spaces between the notes of the theme. The second is more of a surprise, the melody falling to the left hand for a bumptious treatment while the right hand provides accompaniment with rapid syncopated chords. The third variation is almost a minor-mode inversion of the second, slowing down considerably and moving the syncopated accompaniment into the bass. The fourth variation is a capricious treatment of theme with a sputtering accompaniment; the fifth compensates by smoothing out the melody, though it retains a busy triplet rhythm in the left hand. The movement closes with a brief, dignified restatement of the melody. With its surging theme, the short Allegro molto Scherzo is a near-twin to the corresponding movement in the composer's slightly earlier Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21 (1799-1800). The abbreviated Trio has something of the character of a chorale, but Beethoven sweeps all this away so he can get on with the movement that lends the sonata its familiar moniker. The full title of the "Funeral March" movement is "Marcia funebre sulla morte d'un Eroe"; the dead hero is never identified and is likely a mere literary device. Here, the obvious symphonic parallel is the second movement of the composer's not-too-distant "Eroica" Symphony (1803), right down to the irregularly palpitating rhythmic figure. Left-hand drum rolls dominate the contrasting middle section, but the more subdued march proper returns for another statement. This leads unexpectedly and almost without pause into the brisk, bright Allegro, an impetuous little ABA movement with the middle section offering a taste of drama but steering clear of anything too serious. With its perpetual-motion left-hand figures, the music can do little else than simply wind down at the end.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Andante con variazoni
    2. Scherzo. Allegro molto
    3. Marcia funebre sulla morte d'un Eroe. Maestoso andante
    4. Allegro

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Urania WS 121226
    2017 Albany Records TROY 1661
    2016 Claudio / Claudio Bohema CR 5575-2
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295975050
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon B002436502
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 Ondine ODE 12802D
    2015 Avie AV 2320
    2015 Sony Classical 88875032222
    2015 Sony Classical 88843014702
    2015 Andromeda ANDRCD 9123
    2014 Claves
    2014 Claves CD 50130413
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4794120
    2014 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186490
    2014 BIS BIS 2000
    2014 Azica Records ACD 71288
    2014 Broken Audio BRAU 1160
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Mirare MIR 187
    2013 Praga / Praga Digitals PRDDSD 350079
    2013 Deux-Elles DXL 1164
    2013 Orfeo C 883132B
    2013 Warner Classics
    2013 Regis Records RRC 1398
    2012 Entertainment Group 11803
    2012 Decca
    2012 Decca
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099946495228
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 EMI Classics 5099932750720
    2012 Harmonia Mundi HMC 902138
    2012 Onyx / Onyx Classics ONYX 4082
    2012 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186390
    2012 Warner Classics
    2012 Marquis Classics 774718151322
    2012 Sony Classical 88725412862
    2012 Sony Classical 88691912562
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Cambria CD 11751185
    2011 Decca 478 2607
    2011 Decca 4782607
    2011 Transart Live TR101
    2011 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2011 Supraphon 40452
    2011 Zig Zag Territoires 111101
    2011 RCA Red Seal 88697875102
    2011 Elite Special / Zebralution
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94291
    2011 Parnassus Records PACD96046/7
    2010 Musical Concepts ALN 1901
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94075
    2010 Chandos 10616
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Hyperion 67797
    2010 IBA [Idil Biret Archives] / Naxos 8571266
    2010 Solal 6
    2010 Orfeo 808109
    2010 Sony Classical 88697685272
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Decca 4781821
    2009 Harmonia Mundi 290190211
    2009 Decca 00028947821410
    2009 Document / Documents 223051
    2009 IDIS 657879
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    2009 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic 98200
    2009 APR (Appian) 5670
    2008 Decca 4657132
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 447966
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    2008 Sony Classical Essential Classics 732646
    2008 ATMA Classique 22486
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 453221
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    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4776656
    2008 Brilliant 93761
    2007 Aura Music 223042
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    2007 BIS 1473
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    2007 EMI Classics 3777672
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    2007 Melodiya 1001130
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    2001 Hungaroton 41003
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    1998 Philips 462358
    1998 Zephyr 10497
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    1997 Point Classics 267124
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    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453724
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    1997 Arbiter 109
    1996 Philips 446909
    1996 Live Classics 491
    1996 EMI Music Distribution 56148
    1996 Capriccio Records 10714
    1996 Hungaroton 31626
    1996 Analekta 24010
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    1995 Arte Nova 7432127764
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    1994 Sony Music Distribution 64490
    1994 BIS 353
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    6w 14
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    BBC Legends 5002
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    Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 564
    Melodiya 25178
    Brilliant 205213
    Rca Red Seal 88697573732
    Melodiya 25172