A deeply personal confession

250th anniversary

Ludwig van Beethoven


A deeply personal confession

Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor Op. 57 "Appassionata"
Interpreter: Claudio Arrau

Teatro Colón, August 17, 1964.

The piano sonata N° 23 in F minor Op. 57, known as "Appassionata", is one of the most important works of Beethoven's middle period, and one of the favorites of the public and the composer (at least until the moment of its creation). The process of composing the work began in 1804 and lasted until 1806. Its "nickname" -which exalts its character- was not attributed by the composer but by the publisher in the first Viennese publication.

This work has had a special place in the public's taste since its very beginning, and historical events such as Clara Wieck's performance only increased the fame of this sonata, whose unquestionable technical difficulty can only be compared to its dramatic nature. The three movements of the "Appassionata" have a profoundly tragic character, and show the composer's dedication to creating works of great dimensions in narrative and structural terms, always focusing on the cohesion of discourse.

The spark of genius in this work lies in the economy of materials, elaborated with unparalleled ingenuity. The materials that in other composers can be considered gestures, or directly ornaments, in Beethoven can be turned into structural pillars. A clear example of his economy is his famous "fixed idea": the motif of the fifth symphony, quoted at the beginning of the first movement. The composer also applies the principle of austerity in harmonic relations: the connections that in other contexts would become ephemeral, in Beethoven's hands are discursive axes, as in this work is the use of the Neapolitan chord. This resource gives a forceful synthesis to the work. The great Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau knew how to understand the keys of this work and shaped one of the most exalted interpretations of the 20th century.

The "Appassionata" was composed in a complex period of Beethoven's life, marked not only by his complex interpersonal relationships, but also by the chaotic political situation of the territory and the blow that meant the coronation of Napoleon to his revolutionary ideals. But in his music always runs, as a subway river, the spirit of human overcoming. Sir Donald Tovey, English pianist and composer, said of the "Appassionata": "In all Beethoven's passionate outbursts there is a moral element, a conquest of self, an ethical victory. And this is a certainty, of course, in Op. 57: it is a deeply personal confession, and one of the most moving documents of a great and ardent soul that humanity possesses".

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