Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No. 16 in G major, Op. 31/1

    Description by James Reel

    After completing his Op. 28 Piano Sonata, Beethoven told his friend Krumpholz that he was dissatisfied with what he had written and was setting out to compose in a new way. However, the Op. 31 sonatas don't seem to indicate any radical changes. In the first of the three sonatas, one gesture really stands out: in the first movement's recapitulation, where traditional sonata form requires the music to appear in the dominant key (in this case, D major), Beethoven slips instead into the submediant, a vaguely unsettling place, suggesting that the music still has some distance to travel before it reaches its harmonic home. Beethoven would often employ this trick later in life. The opening Allegro vivace begins in a flurry of notes, which gives way to a theme consisting of curt, impatient chords. A longer version of the flurry is followed by the quick chordal theme again. Then a new, impetuous subject bursts in, briefly venturing into the minor mode. The succinct development is devoted entirely to the "flurry" material, and barely before it's begun, the opening section is recapitulated. Near the end it loses melodic direction and, as mentioned, drifts into the "wrong" key before lurching into an abrupt G major conclusion. The Adagio grazioso is based on a trilling melody that rumbles when it moves to the keyboard's lower register. The tune flies about capriciously before offering a leaner, plainer version of itself. The initial version returns, seeming more than ever like a self-centered ballerina twirling over a clumsy Ländler rhythm. Throbbing chords dominate the next section and allow the music to descend into a hazy minor-mode region. The opening melody returns focus to the movement and is shortly displaced by a gently pealing, bell-like section. The principal subject comes back in one of its most frivolously ornamented guises yet and surrenders to a section that is little more than trills competing with a hypnotic repetition of chords, before flitting up toward the top of the keyboard and away. Beethoven displayed subtlety in the concluding rondo, a good-natured Allegretto whose first contrasting section alludes to the previous movement's penchant for trills. By and large, this rondo is really a series of short variations on the primary theme, almost all of them turning the left hand into a perpetual motion machine; the right-hand material, in contrast, is quite easy-going. The theme becomes slow and coy as the coda arrives, but ultimately whirls toward a conclusion that turns out to be a string of muttered little afterthoughts.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro vivace
    2. Adagio grazioso
    3. Rondo. Allegretto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Hyperion CDA 68131
    2016 Ondine ODE 12902
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295975050
    2016 Praga / Praga Digitals PRD 250322
    2016 DG Deutsche Grammophon B002436502
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 Avie AV 2320
    2015 Sony Classical 88875032222
    2015 Testament SBT 21505
    2015 Andromeda ANDRCD 9124
    2014 Naïve V 5385
    2014 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4794120
    2014 Claves
    2014 Claves CD 50130413
    2014 Azica Records ACD 71295
    2014 Onyx / Onyx Classics ONYX 4115
    2014 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4794325
    2014 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186490
    2014 BIS BIS 2000
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Mirare MIR 187
    2013 ATMA Classique ACD 22490
    2013 Orfeo C 883132B
    2013 Warner Classics
    2012 Decca
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099946495228
    2012 Decca
    2012 EMI Classics 3275022
    2012 Zig Zag Territoires ZIG 304
    2012 Marquis Classics 774718151322
    2012 Warner Classics
    2012 Sony Classical 88725412862
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Cambria CD 11751185
    2011 Decca 478 2607
    2011 Decca 4782607
    2011 Transart Live TR101
    2011 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2011 RCA Red Seal 88697875102
    2011 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186500
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94291
    2010 Musical Concepts ALN 1901
    2010 Chandos 10616
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94075
    2010 EMI Classics 6483092
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 MSR Classics 1284
    2010 IDIS 6585/86
    2010 Oehms Classics 620
    2010 IBA [Idil Biret Archives] / Naxos 8571267
    2010 Solal 6
    2010 Orfeo 808109
    2009 Decca 00028947821410
    2009 Decca 4781821
    2009 Harmonia Mundi 290190211
    2009 Document / Documents 223051
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic 98200
    2008 Bridge 9262
    2008 Decca 4657132
    2008 DG Deutsche Grammophon 447966
    2008 Thorofon / Zebralution
    2008 DG Deutsche Grammophon 453221
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    2008 Berlin Classics 184472
    2008 Brilliant 93761
    2007 Connoisseur Society 4263/2
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    2007 Cascade Records 2200
    2007 BIS 1572
    2007 Cascavelle 3100
    2007 Sony BMG / Sony Classical 88697148292
    2007 Ivory Classics 77004
    2007 EMI Classics 87739
    2007 EMI Classics 3777672
    2007 ECM New Series 0009660
    2007 ECM / ECM New Series ECM 1945-46
    2007 Melodiya 1001130
    2007 Vista Vera 81
    2007 Parlophone
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    2006 PentaTone Classics PTC5186063
    2006 Haenssler 98205
    2006 DG Deutsche Grammophon
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    2006 Brilliant 99002
    2006 BBC Legends / BBC Music 41992
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    2004 Newport Classic 59001
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    2004 Resonance 101
    2004 EMI Classics 62700
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    2004 Brilliant 92387
    2004 Dynamic 432/1-9
    2004 Brilliant 92132
    2003 Naxos 8110759
    2003 Sony Classical Essential Classics 87993
    2002 Music & Arts 4640
    2002 Brilliant 205211
    2001 Tahra 394/400
    2001 Classica d'Oro 9001
    2001 Hungaroton 41003
    2001 Classica d'Oro 3017
    2001 Claves 502004
    2000 Arte Nova 40740
    2000 Arabesque 6737
    2000 Arkadia 78562
    2000 Chandos 9842
    2000 Arkadia 78533
    2000 GM Recordings 5001
    2000 Doremi Records 7765
    1999 Bongiovanni 5587
    1999 DG Deutsche Grammophon 463127
    1999 Brilliant 99093
    1999 Arkadia 78901
    1999 The Piano Library 268
    1999 DG Deutsche Grammophon
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    1999 Music & Arts 4743
    1998 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    1998 Hungaroton 31632
    1998 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243572912
    1998 Philips 462358
    1998 Zephyr 10597
    1998 Brioso Recordings 115
    1998 Zephyr 97
    1997 Nimbus 1774
    1997 DG Deutsche Grammophon 453724
    1997 London 443706
    1996 Forlane 16663
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    1996 Vox 7529
    1996 GM Recordings 2050
    1996 Analekta 24010
    1995 EMI Classics 55226
    1995 Globe 5136
    1995 Channel Classics 7195
    1995 Aca Digital 20001
    1995 VAI Audio 1028
    1994 Sony Music Distribution 64490
    1994 Naxos 505002
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    1994 Naxos 550166
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    1993 Philips 438134
    1993 Decca
    1993 ASV 6060
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    1991 DG Deutsche Grammophon 429306
    1991 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0777763765
    1991 CBS Records 45822
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    1991 Book-of-the-Month 79212
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 62901
    1990 DG Deutsche Grammophon 413766
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    Dante 107120
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 5010
    Amado Classics 03015
    Cascade Records 2224
    Brilliant 92132/3
    London 425590
    Philips Classics 412577
    Brilliant 93525/49
    Brilliant 92773/5
    Sony Classical 88697130942-49
    CBS Records Masterworks 45822
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    Brilliant 99008
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    Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 331
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    EMI Music Distribution 62863
    Music & Arts 1070
    Brilliant 205214