Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 26 (Daniel Barenboim)

Daniel Barenboim plays Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 26 in E-flat major, Op. 81a, also known as the Les Adieux sonata.

The piece was was written during the years 1809 and 1810. The French attack on Vienna, led by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1809, forced Beethoven’s patron, Archduke Rudolph (8 January 1788 – 24 July 1831, a Cardinal, an Archbishop of Olmütz), to leave the city. Yet, there is some uncertainty about this nature of the piece — or at least, about the degree to which Beethoven wished this programmatic nature would be known. He titled the three movements “Lebewohl,” “Abwesenheit,” and “Wiedersehen,” and reportedly regarded the French “Adieux” (said to whole assemblies or cities) as a poor translation of the feeling of the German “Lebewohl” (said heartfully to a single person) (Kolodin, 1975). Indeed, Beethoven wrote the syllables “Le-be-wohl” over the first three chords.

On the first 1811 publication, a dedication was added reading “On the departure of his Imperial Highness, for the Archduke Rudolph in admiration”.

Three movements of this sonata originally written in German and French, and the last two movements are described in German because of the unusual tempo.

  1. Das Lebewohl (Les Adieux – The Farewell): Adagio – Allegro
  2. Abwesenheit (L’Absence – The Absence): Andante espressivo (In gehender Bewegung, doch mit viel Ausdruck – In walking motion, but with much expression)
  3. Das Wiedersehen (Le Retour – The Return): Vivacissimamente (Im lebhaftesten Zeitmaße – The liveliest time measurements)

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