[music] So today’s lecture will be about the strange and staggering Sonata Opus 101, the 28th of the 32, the work that, more than any other, announces that Beethoven is leaving behind the middle period, and searching for a new way, a new language, a new world. As I mentioned in one of the earliest lectures, the boundaries between Beethoven’s periods are indistinct, and both the bloody-mindedness and the spirituality one associates with Beethoven’s last years can really be found in many much earlier works. But Opus 101 has many characteristics which truly herald the arrival of the late period: an absolute fixation with counterpoint, a willingness to be harmonically vague at times, a form which grows weightier, rather than lighter, as the sonata moves towards its conclusion. Opus 101 opens in a way which makes it seem intimately related to the end of the previous Sonata, Opus 90; they have a similarly ambiguous character, and at first glance, they seem to share a tonality – more on that later. But in fact, Opus 101 was written in 1816, more than two full years after Opus 90. When you consider that Beethoven’s first 23 sonatas were written in no more than a decade, you realize how much more deliberate the pace of composition had become. Still, Beethoven was by no means idle in those years: Opus 90 is one of a series of great, boldly experimental works, each of which is distinctive, and each of which seems to suggest a possible road to the future. The “serioso” quartet, Opus 95, is probably the single most terse work Beethoven ever wrote. It's a masterpiece of economy, which – intentionally – feels extremely airless. The Violin Sonata Opus 96 and the “Archduke” Trio Opus 97, by contrast, are marvels of spaciousness; the slower music in each seems to suspend time. The Opus 98 is something else yet again: a cycle of six songs, called “An die ferne Geliebte” – to the distant beloved. I’ll get into the significance of that work shortly; for now, it’ll suffice to say that formally, it has no precedent. Now, I won't say that the Sonata Opus 101 is greater than any of those other pieces – their general level is so extraordinarily high, that would be a deeply subjective statement. But compared to all of those other works – certainly the instrumental ones – the sonata is more forward-looking. It has moments that are slightly ungainly, and much of it is deeply introspective, but its strangeness always serves a structural purpose. As I’ve said: Beethoven was always willing to tweak the structure of the sonata to suit the personality of the work at hand. Beginning with the Sonata Opus 101, that becomes exponentially more the case. While they do share certain preoccupations, these last five sonatas are all deeply dissimilar, from their overall architecture down to their smallest details. The will to invent, and to create a unique work of art, that can be heard in their every phrase. This new level of individuality in the sonata begins with Opus 101. It may be an elusive work, but it is exquisite, and exquisitely wrought. Given this elusiveness, I find it amazing that this sonata – unlike any of the other 31 – received a public performance in Beethoven’s lifetime. The pianist was not a professional musician, and I feel fairly confident in my assumption that the performance was atrocious. Many of the Beethoven sonatas are highly technically demanding, but Opus 101 is unusually awkward; there’s the sense that Beethoven is really fighting with the instrument. More significantly, if it’s a piece that seems elusive even now, nearly 200 years after it was written, when it was new, it must have been an enormous challenge to make head or tail out of. Ignaz Schuppanzigh, the highly trained first violinist of the Razumovsky Quartet, which is the first-ever professional string quartet – and therefore one of the original performers of many of the late Beethoven string quartets – he complained bitterly about the difficulty of that music. (Beethoven, incidentally, wasn’t terribly interested.) In light of all that, when you think of an amateur attempting the brand new Opus 101, in a rare public outing for a piano sonata, you can only be highly suspicious as to the outcome. But what makes it most surprising that this was the first Beethoven sonata to be performed publicly is not the technical or interpretive difficulties it poses, but rather, its deeply introverted character. To a greater extent than is true of any earlier sonata, much of Opus 101 feels like a private, internal monologue. This is one of the first works to which Beethoven gave performance directions not only in Italian, but in his native German. The Sonata Opus 90 does so, as well – actually, in that case, the markings are exclusively in German – but with Opus 101, for the first time, he even titles the piece in German: “Sonata für das Hammerklavier.” (This is precisely the same title he gave the next sonata, the massive Opus 106, but for some reason, only that work has become known as “the Hammerklavier.” Perhaps it’s because the latter sonata has a percussive, “hammered” edge, unlike Opus 101, which is more soft-spoken, especially at its outset. “Hammerklavier” is simply the German word for “fortepiano,” so if that is indeed the reason, it’s a silly one.) In any case, with Opus 101, Beethoven was thinking, and addressing the listener, in his native language, not a foreign one. It's likely not a coincidence that this change coincided with the creation of a work that moved away from the rhetorical, and towards a more personal expression. After all, Beethoven’s feeling for the German language was much more refined – his Italian, as we’ll see in a little bit, could be wonky. Already in the first movement, Beethoven uses a word which is indeed untranslatable: “inngesten.” “Innermost” isn’t too far off, which explains why Schumann also loved the word so much, but really, there is no precise equivalent in English or, I’d imagine, in Italian.