Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No. 27 in E minor, Op. 90

    Description by James Reel

    The Piano Sonata No. 27 in E minor, Op. 90 (1814) is one of Beethoven's shorter sonatas, but its relatively modest proportions belie an emotional complexity that looks forward to his imminent valedictory works in the genre. By this time Beethoven had begun to provide tempo indications in German rather than Italian, perhaps acknowledging that his music had come to represent an especially personal, Romantic form of expression. The composer had for a time considered titling this work "Struggle Between Head and Heart" or "Conversation with the Beloved," the latter alluding to a love affair between Count Moritz Lichnowsky, the sonata's dedicatee, and an opera singer he later married.

    The first movement's marking, "Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus mit Empfindung und Ausdruck," calls for "Vivacity and continuous sentiment and expressivity." It begins with powerful chords that could be a muscular updating of a Renaissance dance; these are answered by more subdued material. The music alternates between fast, impulsive gestures and gentle, bereft sighs, almost always in the minor mode. All this falls into two rather similar theme groups, each a mixture of emotions. Oddly, Beethoven bases the movement's curt development section on a tiny lyrical idea from the first group, building it into music restless and declamatory as that in the opening bars.

    The count's future wife would seem to be a bad match, judging from the first movement, but with the Rondo the affair seems to have settled into naive, mutual submissiveness. Marked "Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen" (Not too fast, and highly songful), the music revolves around themes constructed from repeated notes, an idea echoed in the quite literal repetitions of the cantabile main subject. The music is not quite as simple as it seems; contrasting episodes introduce fleeting minor-mode shadows, and even some subtle polyphony. Unlike the count's marriage, the sonata ends peacefully.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus mit Empfindung und Ausdruck (Con vivacita e sempre con sentimento ed espressione)
    2. Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen (Non troppo vivace e cantabile assai)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Signum Classics SIGCD 527
    2018 Audite AUD 21451
    2018 ABC Classics
    2018 Signum Classics SIGCD 525
    2018 Fontenay Classics FCI 012
    2018 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 17065
    2018 Nimbus Records NI 8820
    2017 Warner Classics 9029586922
    2017 Nonesuch 7559793638
    2017 Albany Records TROY 1661
    2017 Divine Art DDA 25140
    2017 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 16030
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4797371
    2016 Ars Produktion ARS 38200
    2016 Hyperion CDA 68073
    2016 Ondine ODE 12902
    2016 Chandos CHAN 109253
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295975050
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon B002436502
    2016 Eurodisc 88875199912
    2015 MSR Classics MS 1468
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 Musica Omnia MO 0510
    2015 Avie AV 2320
    2015 Arbiter ARB 163
    2015 APR (Appian) APR 7701
    2015 Andromeda ANDRCD 9124
    2014 Claves CD 50130413
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4794120
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    2014 CAvi-music 8553299
    2014 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186490
    2014 BIS BIS 2000
    2014 Sony Classical G010003220427W
    2014 Melodiya MELCD 1002240
    2014 Sony Classical 888430147621
    2014 Broken Audio BRAU 1160
    2013 Entertainment Group 1052
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
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    2012 Maestro Music MMDC 04
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