Today’s lecture is, in a sense, review. We’re going to delve into the sonatas written in 1809 and 1810, the years that were the subject of the lecture from the first installment of this course, the lecture entitled “crisis”. Back then, when the course was still only five lectures, and was only ever going to be five lectures, we really just looked at these sonatas in broad strokes– as representatives of a point in Beethoven’s life when the “clutch” was in, while he was finding his way towards his late style. Now that we’ve opened up the course, I want to circle back, and really look at these three individual sonatas – opp. 78, 79 and 81a – as, well, as individual sonatas, which they decidedly are. They are all very much products of the period in which they were written in that they are smaller, or at least shorter, than the massive middle period sonatas that precede them. But otherwise, they really share very little. So, of the three sonatas, I think op. 78 is the one we’ll spend the least time on, in spite of it being a great favorite of Beethoven’s, and in spite of it being a work of rare beauty. I devoted a good chunk of that earlier lecture to it, so today I'll restrict myself to some major points. First though, let me play a bit of it. This is the brief, glorious introduction, and then the exposition, of the first movement. (MUSIC) Maybe it’s a shame that this sonata has to share a lecture with two others – it’s so beautiful! I think I might be perfectly content spending the rest of my life playing it, to the exclusion of all else. So, let’s put it in a bit of context. Op.78 is written in 1809, and it is the first sonata Beethoven wrote after completing the Appassionata five whole years earlier. So, it’s safe to say that the wheels had been turning very slowly for Beethoven, certainly in this genre. Beethoven wrote his 32 sonatas in a period of less than 30 years, meaning that on average, he was writing more than one sonata a year. Therefore, a gap of five years between sonatas is most unusual. It’s interesting that when Beethoven did return to the genre five years after the Appassionata, he did so with op. 78, which really could hardly be more different from it. The hell-storming Appassionata is an absolutely titanic piece. Opus 78 has both a modesty and a warmth that are totally absent in the Appassionata. And so it’s really interesting that Beethoven loved both of these sonatas. He at one point identified them as his two favorites among the 32. He said so prior to writing the late sonatas, but still, it’s quite a statement. That, for Beethoven, op. 78 trumped the Waldstein, the “new paths” sonatas of op. 31, and so many other “statement” pieces. It’s quite possible that op. 78 was a comfort to him in a difficult point in his life. It is comforting. That, in fact, is one of its central characteristics. Given that Beethoven had temporarily turned away from the piano sonata, it’s natural to contemplate the question of what brought him back. This is speculative, but it seems likely that op. 78 was conceived as a companion piece to the mysterious Fantasy, Op. 77. In writing a Fantasy and Sonata, if that is indeed what Beethoven was doing, he was following in Mozart’s footsteps, but there are other reasons to think these pieces might belong together. The manuscript of op. 78 has the words “no. 2” written on it. Could it be that the Fantasy is the missing no. 1? There’s no other, more compelling answer. And then there is the issue of the keys. The fantasy ends in B Major, which dovetails very nicely with F# Major, its dominant. (MUSIC) Given that both of those keys were very infrequently used by Beethoven, it would be quite a coincidence if there were truly no connection between the two works. Actually, “infrequent” is an understatement here. I could be mistaken, but I don’t believe Beethoven wrote another piece, or even another movement, in F sharp major. In fact, I can’t think of many passages in his entire output that are in that key. To me, this topic is absolutely fascinating. Why did this tonality, which Beethoven avoided his whole life, suddenly hold an appeal to him? Why this piece in this key? F# major is, by reputation, quite a gnarly key. Its key signature has 6 sharps in it – the more accidentals, the gnarlier the key, really – and played on the piano, five of the seven scale notes are on black keys. But the piece really doesn’t betray so much as a trace of that. One of the most distinctive features of this sonata, certainly of its first movement, is how smooth it is. How totally lacking in angles and rough edges. In choosing F sharp major for this piece, Beethoven was definitely casting against type, and it worked.