♫ Beethoven did not die upon completing this sonata; he lived a full five more years. He did not stop writing: two of his greatest orchestral works, and his stupendous five last string quartets were still to come. He didn’t even stop writing for the piano – the Op. 119 and 126 bagatelles, and the great Diabelli Variations were still to come. But there is no music, by him, or by anyone else, that suggests leave-taking in quite this way. Beethoven’s piano sonatas cover more territory than any other body of music ever written. One can reasonably say that they prefer the string quartets, but there are only half as many. With the piano sonata, Beethoven took a genre whose aims had previously been modest, and he made it everything. He first did it within the formal strictures that he had inherited, and when those became too limiting, he cast them aside. He wrote finales that storm heaven, like the Waldstein, and hell, like the Appassionata. He wrote the most expansive slow movement imaginable, in the Hammerklavier, and the most compact sonata movements possible, in Op. 109. He wrote the Hammerklavier finale, which disdains the limitations of the piano, and of pianists, and op. 110’s finale, which is in its own way as euphoric and monumental as anything ever written. But faced with saying goodbye, in op. 111, he could not. This class has focused on Beethoven’s incredible formal rigor and power of invention. But really, ultimately, the reason he means so much to us is the sheer intensity of feeling within the music. Faced with the task of summating this body of music, this immense document of immense feeling, Beethoven does not. Instead, he does something simultaneously smaller and larger, he lets the music simply stop, and in doing so, transforms life’s most universal and profound and mysterious experience – the end of life – into sound. For nearly all of the 39 years I’ve been alive, Beethoven’s music has been with me. It has been a constant, at times horrendously demanding companion – an elephant chained to my ankle, and also the greatest gift imaginable. I feel so lucky to have shared it with you, and I hope that whether you were discovering these pieces for the first time, or just looking at them from a new angle after years of acquaintance, that you will continue to listen to them, again and again. Life without Beethoven is poorer than life with him. Thank you for your devotion to his music, and long may it continue.