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Beethoven: Piano Sonata 32 in C minor, op. 111 on Fortepiano

Played excellently by Penelope Crawford. This awesome piano sonata sounds far more powerful on the superior tones of the fortepiano.

The pianist John Lill has described this piano sonata thus:

Beethoven’s last piano sonata has only two movements (i. Maestoso, ii. Arietta) rather than the more typical three. Lill likens it to Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony; both are utterly complete and substantial, particularly the second and final movement in theme and variations form. ‘What can you follow that by?’ Lill asks. ‘Nothing. As Schubert said, what else is there left to write?’

Beethoven ends his last piano sonata in an incredible state of mind says Lill. Interestingly, Beethoven ends the work with a quaver followed by a rest. Whilst this might be the equivalent of a long pause in performance, he is effectively writing in a musical question mark; a bold statement for the end of his entire piano sonata oeuvre.

There is a colossal sense of purpose in this piece. After years of writing struggle into his works, ‘the finale of op. 111 is where this physical struggle ends up if handled correctly: in spiritual exultation and profundity; tremendous peace and serenity; something which is very mystical and which one cannot define, going long beyond words’.

It is for this reason that Lill says he would chose this sonata of Beethoven’s above all others, for it encapsulates his whole ethos and life of serenity following struggle and strife.