Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major ("Hammerklavier"), Op. 106

    Description by James Reel

    To English speakers, the term "Hammerklavier" suggests pounding at the keyboard. Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata may have its percussive moments, but this title is simply the German word for pianoforte. In other words, the composer was simply specifying that this work absolutely had to be played on the modern keyboard with hammered strings, and that the old plucked-string harpsichord was not an option. In fact, Beethoven's last five piano sonatas all had this designation, but it became the nickname only for the mighty Op. 106. The first movement, Allegro, bursts in with a heroic proclamation, a series of grand, double-dotted chords in the manner of a Baroque overture. Soon, light cascades of notes attempt a resolution into a pretty music-box figure before the openings chords are evoked again. Beethoven lays out his basic material for this large movement in just the first couple of minutes. Almost immediately he runs through it all again with greater harmonic displacement. What follows is a contrapuntal treatment of the opening theme, prefiguring the massive fugue that will end the sonata. Beethoven's further development of his subjects runs through episodes that are alternately sparkling and pounding, punctuated by an increasingly fearsome motto of those opening chords. Halfway through the recapitulation the harmonic framework melts, and the music lands in the distant key of B minor. The sonata requires another half-hour to recover from this jolt. The ensuing Scherzo is a miniature; starting with a hunting-call figure, it falls into a minor-mode whirlpool of a trio, the effect of which the A section can't quite shake off upon its return. The gargantuan slow movement, Adagio sostenuto, drifts through a haze of harmonic instability. Beethoven marks it Appassionato e con molto sentimento, requiring an intense emotional connection between the pianist and the score. The themes, as in many of Beethoven's late slow movements, suffer from smudged outlines; rather than following a tune, one has the impression of deep stillness, a few moments of flowing but aimless movement, stillness again, and so forth. Beethoven carefully alternates fuller-sounding sections with passages marked una corda, indicating the use of the soft pedal to produce shadowy, distant musical scenes. Although the movement is officially in F sharp minor, the music wanders through the keys, placing the subsidiary idea in D major. This is the key Beethoven generally reserved for religious sentiment, and here it implies the possibility of spiritual enlightenment even in the most confusing circumstances. The last movement grows out of a Largo, a gradual return to life that slowly pulls fragmentary phrases together before erupting into a dramatic three-voice fugue. Earlier generations of pianists dismissed the fugue as unplayable (not just because of the tempo), but that is clearly an unfair assessment. True, the counterpoint is exceedingly complex, but Beethoven's mastery of the texture of supreme. At times, the music is dense and angry, even threatening (twice) to dissolve into wrathful trills. Uneven, the forward motion thins out and slightly relaxes, without, however, really flagging. When the fugue suddenly turns into a quiet, meditative canon, the contrast is tremendous. Nevertheless, it regains the original momentum, and the movement concludes with an imposing series of grand, resounding chords.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro
    2. Scherzo. Assai vivace
    3. Adagio sostenuto - Appassionato e on molto sentimento
    4. Largo -
    5. Fuga. Allegro risoluto

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2020
    Alpha
    ALPHA 584
    2020
    Warner Classics
    9029538024
    2020
    Steinway & Sons
    STNS 30150
    2020
    Orchid Classics
    ORC 100117
    2020
    Deutsche Grammophon
    UCCG-40116/28
    2020
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4839320
    2019
    Sony Classical
    19075843182
    2019
    Warner Classics
    9029539882
    2019
    SWR Music
    SWR 19081CD
    2018
    Signum Classics
    SIGCD 527
    2018
    SWR Klassik
    SWR 19057CD
    2018
    Audite
    AUD 21451
    2018
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4798353
    2018
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2018
    Fontenay Classics
    FCI 012
    2018
    MDG Gold
    MDG 3072072
    2018
    Gramola
    99160
    2018
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 18038
    2017
    JB Recordings
    MM 17034
    2017
    Claudio
    CB 55792
    2017
    Warner Classics
    9029586922
    2017
    Nonesuch
    7559793638
    2017
    Albany Records
    TROY 1661
    2017
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4797371
    2016
    Marquis / Marquis Classics
    MQS 81523
    2016
    Hyperion
    CDA 68073
    2016
    Chandos
    CHAN 109253
    2016
    Alpha
    Alpha 239
    2016
    Warner Classics
    0190295975050
    2016
    Deutsche Grammophon
    B002436502
    2016
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2016
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4795426
    2016
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4796018
    2015
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2015
    Accentus
    ACC 303551
    2015
    Avie
    AV 2320
    2015
    Piano Classics
    PCL 0075
    2015
    APR (Appian)
    APR 7701
    2015
    Andromeda
    ANDRCD 9124
    2014
    Signum Classics
    SIGCD 397
    2014
    Claves
    2014
    Claves
    CD 50130413
    2014
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4794120
    2014
    Stradivarius
    STR 33989
    2014
    Genuin
    GEN 14331
    2014
    Ondine
    ODE 12482D
    2014
    Calliope
    CAL 9416
    2014
    PentaTone Classics
    PTC 5186490
    2014
    BIS
    BIS 2000
    2014
    Sony Classical
    G010003220427W
    2014
    First Hand Records
    FHR 33
    2014
    Sony Classical
    G010003220357S
    2014
    Albany Music Distribution
    TROY 1492
    2014
    Telos Music
    TLS 193
    2014
    Sony Classical
    888430147621
    2014
    Three Oranges Recordings
    2014
    Three Oranges Recordings
    3OR 13
    2014
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2013
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    94630
    2013
    Mirare
    MIR 187
    2013
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4785695
    2013
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2013
    PentaTone Classics
    PTC 5186391
    2013
    Tacet
    TACET 206
    2013
    Zig Zag Territoires
    ZZT 318
    2013
    Warner Classics
    2013
    Sony Classical
    88883703872
    2013
    Tahra / TAHRA
    TAH 751
    2013
    IDIS
    IDIS 6690
    2013
    Harmonia Mundi
    HMU 907607
    2013
    Decca
    4785093
    2012
    Camerata Records
    CAM 28132
    2012
    Entertainment Group
    11804
    2012
    Decca
    2012
    Warner Classics
    2012
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099946495228
    2012
    EMI Classics
    2012
    Decca
    2012
    EMI Classics
    7300092
    2012
    Warner Classics
    2012
    Piano Classics
    PCL 0027
    2012
    ICA Classics
    ICAC 5084
    2012
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099962308
    2012
    EMI Classics
    2012
    Praga
    PRD 350065
    2012
    CAvi-music
    AVI 8553256
    2012
    Oehms Classics
    OC 663
    2012
    Warner Classics
    2012
    Marquis Classics
    774718151322
    2012
    Steinway & Sons
    30007
    2012
    Entertainment Group
    1144
    2012
    Honens
    200001
    2012
    Cembal d'amour
    169
    2012
    ICA Classics
    ICAC 5055
    2011
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    94052
    2011
    Cambria
    CD 11751185
    2011
    Decca
    4782607
    2011
    Decca
    478 2607
    2011
    Transart Live
    TR101
    2011
    Brilliant Classics
    94282
    2011
    Finlandia
    2011
    Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2011
    Denon Records
    2011
    Alto
    ALC 1135
    2011
    San Francisco Fortepiano Society
    CD 08113
    2011
    Denon Records
    2011
    RCA Red Seal
    88697875102
    2011
    Brilliant Classics
    9189
    2011
    IBA [Idil Biret Archives]
    8.571269
    2011
    Avie
    AV 2239
    2011
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4779527
    2011
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2010
    Decca
    4782638
    2010
    Brilliant Classics
    94075
    2010
    Musical Concepts
    ALN 1901
    2010
    Chandos
    10616
    2010
    EMI Classics
    6483092
    2010
    Telos
    110
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2010
    Solo Musica
    141
    2010
    Decca
    4801304
    2010
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099996592
    2010
    Cascavelle
    3131
    2010
    Nimbus
    2561
    2010
    IDIS
    6585/86
    2010
    IBA [Idil Biret Archives]
    8571283
    2010
    Solal
    6
    2010
    Marquis Classics
    MARQUIS81507
    2010
    Orfeo
    808109
    2009
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099926506
    2009
    Decca
    4781821
    2009
    Decca
    00028947821410
    2009
    Harmonia Mundi
    290190211
    2009
    BIS
    1612
    2009
    Document / Documents
    223051
    2009
    Fleur de Son Classics
    57986
    2009
    ATMA Classique
    2487
    2009
    EMI Classics
    2009
    Colosseum / Zebralution
    2009
    Documents / Documents Classics / Membran
    232669
    2009
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    9014
    2009
    Haenssler / Hänssler Classic
    98200
    2009
    Azica Records
    71253
    2009
    Harmonia Mundi
    907505
    2009
    APR (Appian)
    5670
    2009
    Pierian
    0037
    2008
    Connoisseur Society
    4264
    2008
    Bridge
    9262
    2008
    Decca
    4657132
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    447966
    2008
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099921531
    2008
    Warner Classics
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    463639
    2008
    Thorofon / Zebralution
    2008
    BBC Legends
    42412
    2008
    Live Classics
    805
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    453221
    2008
    Berlin Classics
    184472
    2008
    ECM New Series
    001190602
    2008
    ECM / ECM New Series
    ECM 1948
    2008
    Initiativkreis Ruhrgebiet
    8553119
    2008
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099920610
    2008
    Brilliant
    93761
    2007
    Harmonia Mundi
    901903/05
    2007
    Cascade Records
    2200
    2007
    Brilliant Classics
    93525
    2007
    Cascavelle
    3100
    2007
    Philips / Universal
    2007
    Melodiya
    MELCD 1000830
    2007
    Philips
    0009419
    2007
    Haenssler
    98207
    2007
    CPO
    CPO777 239-2
    2007
    EMI Classics
    87739
    2007
    EMI Classics
    3777672
    2007
    Musical Concepts
    122
    2007
    Melodiya
    1001133
    2007
    Vista Vera
    72
    2007
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    7006
    2007
    Parlophone
    2006
    Ivory Records
    IC76001
    2006
    Universal
    2006
    Berlin Classics
    0013672
    2006
    Naïve
    5023
    2006
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2006
    Deutsche Grammophon
    002894776360
    2006
    Brilliant
    99002
    2006
    Decca
    4757498
    2006
    Edel Records
    2822
    2006
    EMI Classics
    347826
    2005
    Romeo Entertainment
    7233/41
    2005
    Sony Music Distribution
    5164962
    2005
    Brilliant
    92773
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    EMI Music Distribution
    76866
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    Nonesuch
    2005
    Nonesuch
    2005
    Decca
    4756835
    2004
    Newport Classic
    59001
    2004
    Stradivarius
    33669
    2004
    Analekta
    23187
    2004
    Berlin Classics
    0092792
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4748602
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2004
    EMI Classics
    85499
    2004
    Naxos
    8110913
    2004
    Resonance
    101
    2004
    EMI Classics
    62700
    2004
    Newport Classic
    60173/3
    2004
    Various Artists
    Brilliant
    92387
    2004
    Dynamic
    432/1-9
    2004
    Brilliant
    92132
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution
    57520
    2003
    Sony Classical Essential Classics
    87993
    2003
    Archipel
    58
    2002
    Forlane
    16685
    2002
    Music & Arts
    4640
    2002
    Deutsche Grammophon
    471350
    2002
    Brilliant
    205211
    2002
    Praga
    356020-34
    2001
    Tahra
    394/400
    2001
    Classica d'Oro
    9001
    2001
    Hungaroton
    41003
    2001
    Classica d'Oro
    3018
    2001
    Musicians Showcase
    1034
    2000
    Arte Nova
    40740
    2000
    Arabesque
    6737
    2000
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz)
    568
    2000
    Bongiovanni
    5600
    2000
    Teldec
    21336
    2000
    Arkadia
    78562
    2000
    Testament
    1191
    2000
    Vox
    5500
    2000
    GM Recordings
    2068
    2000
    BBC Music
    4052
    2000
    GM Recordings
    5001
    1999
    Deutsche Grammophon
    463127
    1999
    Erato
    3984234222
    1999
    Brilliant
    99093
    1999
    Arkadia
    78901
    1999
    Deutsche Grammophon
    1999
    Music & Arts
    743
    1999
    Music & Arts
    4743
    1999
    Philips
    456730
    1999
    Philips
    462232
    1999
    Philips
    454987
    1999
    Philips
    456973
    1998
    Deutsche Grammophon
    1998
    Deutsche Grammophon
    459023
    1998
    Harmonia Mundi
    911639
    1998
    MusicMasters
    MM67107
    1998
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243572912
    1998
    Philips
    462358
    1998
    Zephyr
    10897
    1998
    Deutsche Grammophon
    459 068-2GCC10
    1998
    Marston
    52007
    1998
    Zephyr
    97
    1997
    Nimbus
    1774
    1997
    Hungaroton
    31629
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    449740
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    453724
    1997
    MusicMasters
    67183-2
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    453010
    1997
    London
    443706
    1997
    Vox
    7544
    1997
    Harmonia Mundi
    354022
    1996
    Philips
    446909
    1996
    Philips
    446093
    1996
    Analekta
    24010
    1996
    London
    452 176-2DF2
    1996
    Chandos
    9435
    1996
    Melodiya
    40116
    1996
    Music & Arts
    946
    1996
    Praga
    354001.15
    1996
    Philips
    446920
    1995
    Pavane
    7071
    1995
    Stradivarius
    33313
    1995
    Pearl
    9142
    1994
    Naxos
    505002
    1994
    Praga
    254022
    1994
    Naxos
    550234
    1994
    Telarc Distribution
    80400
    1994
    Sony Music Distribution
    53531
    1993
    Sony Classical
    52645
    1993
    EMI Music Distribution
    64708
    1993
    Telarc Distribution
    80335
    1993
    Elecktra Nonsuch
    79328
    1993
    Philips
    1993
    Philips
    438374
    1993
    Dorian
    90143
    1993
    ASV
    6063
    1992
    Sony Music Distribution
    47666
    1992
    Decca
    433882
    1992
    Vox
    5028
    1992
    Nonesuch
    79211
    1991
    Deutsche Grammophon
    429306
    1991
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    0777763765
    1991
    Philips
    432301
    1990
    EMI Music Distribution
    62901
    1990
    Deutsche Grammophon
    413766
    1990
    Deutsche Grammophon
    429569
    1990
    Philips
    412575
    1990
    Teldec
    71719
    Supraphon
    112194
    Dante
    107120
    Grammofono 2000
    78549
    Imhotep Records
    Fleurs de Lys
    3007
    Phonographe
    5022
    Cascade Records
    2226
    Amado Classics
    03017
    Downstage
    Nuova Era
    6797
    Classic Art
    Tuxedo Music
    TUXCD 1084
    Deutsche Grammophon
    410527
    CBS Records
    44838
    RCA
    7720
    Brilliant
    92132/4
    London
    425590
    Omniclassic
    1001
    Philips
    412578
    Deutsche Grammophon
    419199
    Cedar & Weiss
    903983
    Erato
    Erato
    Deutsche Grammophon
    471355
    Brilliant Classics
    93525/52
    Brilliant
    92773/8
    Agora Musica
    047
    Relief
    911021
    BBC Music Magazine
    119
    London
    436735
    Arkadia
    78507
    Arte Nova
    7432137851
    Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
    922
    Arkadia
    917
    Pro-Arte Records
    270
    Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
    922
    Music & Arts
    734
    Philips
    412723
    Dante
    15
    The Piano Library
    205
    London
    417150
    Music & Arts
    640
    Brilliant
    99111
    Brilliant
    92387/18
    Brilliant
    99011
    RFCM Symphony Orchestra
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz)
    5011
    EMI Music Distribution
    62863
    Enterprise
    205
    Melodiya
    40121
    Pearl
    9358
    Hirata, Makiko
    884501155632
    Lys
    131
    Tuxedo Music
    9001
    Pearl
    9480
    Classical Records
    061
    Pearl
    0004
    Brilliant
    205216
    Enterprise
    913