Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major ("Waldstein"), Op. 53

    Description by Rovi Staff

    Following the acquisition of an Erard fortepiano in 1803, Beethoven was inspired to write this sonata, one of the finest among his 32. The composer had known for about two years that he was losing his hearing, but he was far from complete deafness. The crisper tones of the new instrument were much more appealing to him than his old Walter piano. This sonata, dedicated to the composer's patron and friend Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, came on the scene as a great challenge for pianists. The first movement, marked Allegro con brio, begins with a rhythmic, driving, obsessive theme that creates an enormous sonic space and a veritable energy field between the hammering chords in the left hand and the right hand's completion of the phrase, several octaves higher. Reiterated, starting from a slightly lower register, the theme seems less energetic, but the effect is deceptive. While the energy level remains high, additional ideas are developed, and the second subject is introduced as each of these ideas strives to dominate the composition's discourse. This second subject, in E major, introduces a moment of tranquillity, but calm quickly dissipates, moving toward a brilliant, triumphant finish with the underlying rhythmic intensity of the main theme. The development section begins with a darker cast to the main theme, which then goes off into a new direction. The previous materials become interlaced and developed, and this process generates considerable tension. In the reprise that follows, Beethoven ingeniously avoids a mere restatement by expanding on the phrase at the end of the main theme's first reappearance. There are many other deft touches here, including the brilliant coda based on the main theme. The second movement, bearing the marking Introduzione (Adagio molto), is short, serious, and introspective, drawing its immense dramatic power from the many figurative transformations of the initial three-note utterance spanning the interval of a sixth. Significantly, the mysterious, contemplative mood of the opening is enriched by the expressive lyricism of the melody appearing in the middle part. This counterpoint of pure lyricism and contemplation constitutes the essence of the movement. Originally, Beethoven wrote what is now known as the Andante favori as the second movement, but decided not to include a movement he considered too long. Without pause, the music emerges from the philosophical atmosphere of the Adagio and blossoms into the brilliant main theme of the finale, marked Rondo (Allegretto moderato). This melody, appearing as seven notes then repeating all but the last, has a pastoral quality in its quieter moments at the beginning. However, Beethoven transforms this tranquil mood into one of ecstatic celebration, spelled out by colorful sprays of notes that establish a harmonic base. As the theme develops and new ideas are introduced, the dramatic intensity of the movement, reinforced by a repetitive octave-figuration in the left hand, yields to moments of fatigue. However, the main theme returns, imposing a triumphant and joyous sense of order, and a scintillating coda completes the composition. With its mighty rhythmic drive, harmonic inventiveness, thematic incandescence, and wealth of ideas, this sonata is one of the great works of the piano repertoire.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro con brio
    2. Introduction. Adagio molto -
    3. Rondo. Allegretto moderato

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Analogue Productions 8313
    2018 Signum Classics SIGCD 527
    2018 SWR Klassik SWR 19057CD
    2018 Audite AUD 21451
    2018 Gramola 99160
    2018 APR (Appian) APR 7310
    2017 Alpha ALPHA 365
    2017 Marfer / Zebralution
    2017 Warner Classics 9029586922
    2017 Nonesuch 7559793638
    2017 APR (Appian) APR 7403
    2017 Hänssler Classic HC 17022
    2017 Albany Records TROY 1661
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4797371
    2016 Warner Classics 557382
    2016 Warner Classics 557382
    2016 ABC Classics
    2016 ABC Classics 4814556
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295975050
    2016 Sony Classical 88843071652
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon B002436502
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon
    2016 Musical Concepts MCS 3201
    2016 Piano Classics PCLM 0104
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 002894794110
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796288
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 Testament SBT3 1509
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 K-Tel 136149
    2015 K-Tel 136440
    2015 Accentus ACC 303551
    2015 Naxos 8573400
    2015 Ondine ODE 12682D
    2015 Avie AV 2320
    2015 AAO Music MCRP 2688212
    2015 Andromeda ANDRCD 9124
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4794120
    2014 Claves
    2014 Claves CD 50130413
    2014 Onyx / Onyx Classics ONYX 4115
    2014 Herisson HRN 10
    2014 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186490
    2014 BIS BIS 2000
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings 3OR 12
    2014 Fabula Classica FAB 12101
    2014 Erato 2564624223
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings 3OR 05
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings
    2013 MSR Classics MS 1466
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Mirare MIR 187
    2013 Alpha / Alpha Productions ALPHA 194
    2013 Alto / Musical Concepts MCSCD 147
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4785695
    2013 Broken Audio BRAU 0951
    2013 Warner Classics
    2013 RCA Red Seal 88725484402
    2013 Sleeveless SLV 1001
    2013 Fondamenta FON 1101007
    2013 RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical 88725462392
    2013 Decca 4785093
    2012 Oehms Classics OC 797
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    2012 Deux-Elles DX 1162
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    2012 Marquis Classics 774718151322
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    2012 Signum Classics SIGDCD 308
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    2011 RCA Red Seal 886919369120
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
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    2011 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099908402
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    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Cambria CD 11751185
    2011 Decca 478 2607
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    2011 Transart Live TR101
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    2011 Bella Musica / Zebralution
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    2011 TransArt / Transart Live TR 113
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    2011 Delphian DCD34090
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 1518
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    2010 Musical Concepts ALN 1901
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    2010 RCA / RCA Red Seal / Sony Music Distribution 54605
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    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4776656
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    2003 Berlin Classics 0021332
    2003 Artemis Classics 1193
    2003 Apex 48994
    2003 Camerata Records 28003
    2003 Sony Classical 90432
    2003 PentaTone Classics PTC5186024
    2003 EMI Classics
    2003 Sony Classical Essential Classics 87993
    2003 Analekta 23172
    2002 Vox Music Group 90107
    2002 Decca 467 487-2
    2002 Music & Arts 4640
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon 471350
    2002 BCI-Eclipse Distribution 524
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    2002 Brilliant 205211
    2001 Tahra 394/400
    2001 Classica d'Oro 9001
    2001 Hungaroton 41003
    2001 Classica d'Oro 3017
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 61012
    2001 Angel Records 67586
    2001 Aura Classics 0152
    2001 Arbiter ARBITER130
    2001 BCI-Eclipse Distribution 40027
    2001 Nimbus 1739
    2001 Rca Red Seal 63033
    2000 Arte Nova 40740
    2000 Teldec 21336
    2000 Testament 1190
    2000 Amadis 7116
    2000 Virgin 61834
    2000 Philips 468140
    2000 GM Recordings 5001
    2000 Eroica Distribution 3015
    2000 APR (Appian) 5566
    1999 Philips 456961
    1999 Biddulph Recordings LHW043
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 463127
    1999 Grammofono 2000 78898
    1999 Brilliant 99093
    1999 Arkadia 78901
    1999 Intersound 3858
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon
    1999 APR (Appian) 5530
    1999 Philips 456709
    1999 Music & Arts 880
    1999 Aura Classics 0112
    1999 Philips 462232
    1999 Philips 454987
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 447398
    1999 Pearl 9139
    1999 RCA Red Seal 63000
    1999 Philips 456790
    1998 Gasparo Records 332
    1998 Hungaroton 31633
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon
    1998 Pro Piano 224516
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 435472
    1998 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243572912
    1998 Philips 462358
    1998 Zephyr 10697
    1998 Marston 52014
    1998 Zephyr 97
    1997 Nimbus 1774
    1997 London 452952
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453724
    1997 Point 265096
    1997 London 443706
    1997 Arte Nova 74321 39106
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    1997 Point Classics 2688472
    1997 VAI Audio 1088
    1996 Arabesque 6677
    1996 Philips 446909
    1996 Capriccio Records 10714
    1996 Virgin 45131
    1996 Koch Discover International 920381
    1996 GM Recordings 2050
    1996 Arte Nova 7432134012
    1996 Reference Recordings 69
    1996 Forlane 16670
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 447404
    1996 Analekta 24010
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    1996 Walsingham 8019
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 67181
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 447914
    1995 IMP Classics 2038
    1995 London 443 012-2DF2
    1995 Nimbus 7707
    1995 Lydian 18116
    1995 Summit Records DCD111
    1995 Nonesuch 79391
    1995 Novalis 150101
    1995 Vox 7514
    1995 ZYX Music 4062
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    1994 Sony Music Distribution 64490
    1994 Philips Classics 4387302
    1994 Naxos 550294
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    1994 Sony Classical 53467
    1994 Virgin 561160-2
    1994 Telarc Distribution 80400
    1993 Bayer Records 200048
    1993 EMI Classics 754896-2
    1993 Philips 438472
    1993 Elecktra Nonsuch 79328
    1993 ASV 6061
    1993 Sony Classical Essential Classics 53456
    1992 Vox 5042
    1992 Decca 433882
    1992 Naxos 550054
    1992 Chandos 9024
    1991 Deutsche Grammophon 429306
    1991 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0777763765
    1991 Philips 432301
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 62901
    1990 London 425838
    1990 Decca
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 413766
    1990 Telarc Distribution 80160
    1990 RCA 60375
    1990 Philips 412575
    1990 Teldec 71719
    1989 Deutsche Grammophon 4276422
    1986 Deutsche Grammophon 419162
    Labor Records
    Dante 107120
    The Piano Library 220
    Grammofono 2000 78598
    Titanic 167
    United Audio Entertainment 005
    Amado Classics 03016
    Cascade Records 2225
    Decca 466145
    Decca 473228
    Erato
    Intersound 3468
    Vox 7106
    Suite Records 6008
    Deutsche Grammophon 435100
    Pilz 160203
    Vivace 546
    Philips 426068
    London 425590
    Philips Classics 412577
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    EMI Music Distribution 49330
    Denon Records 74653
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    Brilliant 93525/50
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    Philips 4161452
    Arkadia 78506
    Pro-Arte Records 108
    Canal Grande 9219
    Legend 143
    As Disc 11017
    Originals 801
    EXL 4206
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    Musique d'Or 1061
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    Vox Allegretto 8152
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 332
    RCA 61280
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    Legend 144
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    The Piano Library 279
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