Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No. 4 in E flat major ("Grand Sonata"), Op. 7

    Description by James Reel

    This early piano sonata, his fourth, is the longest example of the genre in Beethoven's catalog except for the massive "Hammerklavier" sonata of 20 years later. Much is made of Beethoven the revolutionary, and it is too easy to claim that this sonata's symphonic scope is another mark of the young man's daring genius. However, this composition, although unusually long, is a fairly straightforward work which observes the conventions of its day. The first movement, Allegro molto e con brio, begins with throbbing chords full of anticipation, but quickly gives way to a bright, confident melody that wanders up and down the scale; it wouldn't be out of place in a Mozart sonata. Beethoven does insert a few brusque chords to introduce the jaunty second subject, and is in the habit of suddenly lightening the mood in mid-tune, but this is nothing compared to the mercurial sonatas Emanuel Bach had written a few decades earlier. Most of the thematic elements closely resemble each other, and they are even harder to differentiate over Beethoven's insistent, energetic 6/8 rhythm. The development section makes much of a strongly syncopated version of the second subject, then drops back to toy a while with the first subject and all the other miscellaneous material Beethoven packed into the exposition. Beethoven's treatment of this theme is a bit too sequential and level-headed for a good development section, but far too free for a serious recapitulation. Leaving this issue undecided, Beethoven eventually draws the movement to a close. The Largo con gran espressione is an early example of the stately slow movements that Beethoven would later bring to extraordinary poetic heights. The measured main theme is as arresting for its pauses as for its arrangement of notes; as the accompaniment becomes more elaborate, these pauses provide the melody with an aura of grandeur. Beethoven never loses sight of this theme during the course of the movement; he merely varies it by filling in the silences with a more legato melodic treatment, even while making the accompaniment (which shifts from bass to treble) more staccato. The Allegro third movement doesn't stray too far from the old minuet style, although Beethoven, characteristically, creates a melody full of hesitations and little deviations from the expected harmonic path. The mood becomes more serious in the central trio section, churning as it does through E flat minor, but the passage is too brief to alter the movement's essentially lighthearted character. A light mood also characterizes the concluding rondo (Poco allegretto e grazioso). This is not the manic sort of finale that Beethoven would later indulge in, but a gentle frolic interrupted by a single stormy episode a quarter of the way through. Admittedly, this is an otherwise uneventful rondo, with the main subject and its variants dominating the remainder of the movement. But it does offer many passages of something rarely found in Beethoven's music: an appealing sweetness.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro molto e con brio
    2. Largo, con gran espressione
    3. Allegro
    4. Rondo. Poco allegretto e grazioso

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Albany Records TROY 1661
    2016 Skylark Music SKY 0901
    2016 TYX Art TXA 15068
    2016 Ondine ODE 12982D
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295975050
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796277
    2016 Doremi / Doremi Records DHR 804446
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon B002436502
    2016 Sony Classical 88875183392
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 Avie AV 2320
    2015 Andromeda ANDRCD 9123
    2014 Claves CD 50130413
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4794120
    2014 Claves
    2014 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186490
    2014 BIS BIS 2000
    2014 Naïve V 5393
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Mirare MIR 187
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon B001909502
    2013 Onyx 4094
    2013 Warner Classics
    2012 Deux-Elles DX 1162
    2012 Decca
    2012 Decca
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099946495228
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 EMI Classics 7300092
    2012 Warner Classics
    2012 Caro Mitis 32010
    2012 Alto ALC 1158
    2012 Chandos CHAN 107203
    2012 ATMA Classique 22489
    2012 Warner Classics
    2012 Marquis Classics 774718151322
    2012 Sony Classical 88691912562
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94399
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Cambria CD 11751185
    2011 Decca 478 2607
    2011 Decca 4782607
    2011 Transart Live TR101
    2011 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2011 Zig Zag Territoires 111101
    2011 Triton EXCL 00052
    2011 RCA Red Seal 88697875102
    2011 Naïve OP 30528
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94075
    2010 Musical Concepts ALN 1901
    2010 Chandos 10616
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Azica Records 71261
    2010 Solal 6
    2010 Orfeo 808109
    2009 Decca 4781821
    2009 Harmonia Mundi 290190211
    2009 Decca 00028947821410
    2009 Document / Documents 223051
    2009 IDI / IDIS / Ital Disc 6573/74
    2009 Colosseum / Zebralution
    2009 Documents Classics / Membran 232670
    2009 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic 98200
    2008 Decca 4657132
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 447966
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon
    2008 Thorofon / Zebralution
    2008 Corona Classic Collection 0001972CCC
    2008 Centaur Records 2894
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 453221
    2008 Berlin Classics 184472
    2008 Edition Klavier-Festival 8553115
    2008 Avi-Music 8553023
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4776656
    2008 Brilliant 93761
    2007 Cascade Records 2200
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93525
    2007 Cascavelle 3100
    2007 Oehms Classics 616
    2007 EMI Classics 87739
    2007 EMI Classics 3777672
    2007 Bluthner 2003MI01
    2007 Harmonia Mundi HMC90 1906/8
    2007 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 4776626
    2007 Parlophone
    2006 Connoisseur Society 4261
    2006 Universal
    2006 BIS 1472
    2006 Melodiya MELCD 1000824
    2006 Haenssler 98203
    2006 Hyperion 67518
    2006 Hyperion 67518SACD
    2006 Bridge 9198
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 002894776360
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon
    2006 Brilliant 99002
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000743502
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000764972
    2006 Classical Records 76
    2006 Decca 4757498
    2006 EMI Classics 347826
    2005 Romeo Entertainment 7233/41
    2005 Real Sound (RS) 83
    2005 Brilliant 92773
    2005 Naïve OP 30420
    2005 Nonesuch
    2005 ECM 476 3054
    2005 Decca 4756835
    2005 Naïve OP 30421
    2005 Music & Arts MACD1162
    2004 Newport Classic 59001
    2004 Stradivarius 33669
    2004 Resonance 101
    2004 EMI Classics 62700
    2004 Newport Classic 60171/3
    2004 Brilliant 92387
    2004 Dynamic 432/1-9
    2004 Brilliant 92229
    2003 Artemis Classics 1237
    2003 PentaTone Classics PTC5186023
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000001602
    2002 BBC Legends / BBC Music 40642
    2002 Naxos 8110694
    2002 Music & Arts 4640
    2002 Brilliant 205211
    2001 Classica d'Oro 9001
    2001 Hungaroton 41003
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 56965
    2000 Arte Nova 40740
    2000 GM Recordings 5001
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 457762
    1999 Aura Records 191
    1999 Philips 456904
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 463127
    1999 Brilliant 99093
    1999 Arkadia 78901
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon
    1999 Decca
    1999 Philips 454987
    1999 Music & Arts 775
    1998 Hungaroton 31633
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon
    1998 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243572912
    1998 Philips 462358
    1998 Zephyr 10297
    1998 Zephyr 97
    1997 Nimbus 1774
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453724
    1997 Arte Nova 7432130459
    1997 London 443706
    1997 Arte Nova Classics 68913
    1996 Philips 446909
    1996 Analekta 24010
    1996 Vox 7532
    1996 Music & Arts 910
    1996 Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 5013
    1995 Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 336
    1995 Philips 446624
    1995 Chandos 9347
    1995 Biddulph Recordings 033
    1995 Pearl 9083
    1994 Naxos 505003
    1994 Naxos 550167
    1994 Telarc Distribution 80363
    1994 Telarc Distribution 80400
    1994 Arabesque 6645
    1993 Elecktra Nonsuch 79328
    1993 ASV 6056
    1992 Erato 45598
    1992 Decca 433882
    1992 Opus 111 3063
    1992 Vox 3017
    1991 Deutsche Grammophon 429306
    1991 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0777763765
    1991 Naxos 550167
    1991 Philips 432301
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 62901
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 413759
    1990 Philips 412575
    1990 Teldec 71719
    Aura Classics 1912
    Dante 107120
    Enterprise 964
    Ades 14133
    Forlane 16597
    Classica d'Oro 3015
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 5010
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 562
    Cascade Records 2221
    Amado Classics 03012
    Deutsche Grammophon 415481
    London 425590
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    Erato
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    Brilliant 92773/2
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    GM Recordings 2053
    IBA [Idil Biret Archives] 571262
    Arkadia 78540
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    EMI Music Distribution 62863
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    Brilliant 205212