Composed in 1800. Dedicated to Count Johann Georg von Browne.
The Eleventh Sonata must rank as one of the best sonatas that Beethoven wrote, in fact Beethoven was particularly proud of this work, and almost certainly considered it the best sonata he had written up to this point. The main virtue of this sonata is not its innovative inclinations, as it could be the more conventional sonata that Beethoven wrote, or any particular expressive limb it contains. This sonata is nowhere near Waldstein or Appassionata in terms of sheer expressive power. Its main virtue is the fact that it is perfect. That is to say, it is such a total and astonishing success as a sonata in the alto classical tradition that in a way it ends that tradition. After this sonata it is somewhat impossible to write an old school classical sonata again.
Actually, there is a very unusual feature of this sonata. Beethoven themes are generally very Haydnesque, built from small motifs and tend to be worker-like, designed to become a structure much bigger instead of being beautiful in themselves. But this sonata, and especially the first movement, is extremely Mozartean, there is a feeling of utter naturalness in the way one musical idea slides into another, a kind of incessant sublime brilliance of figuration and movement. theme that is quite shocking to hear in that guy. Who wrote the Hammerklavier, just listen to the first cantabile tune coming in!
The second movement, also in sonata form, is not only a wonderfully rich lyrical movement, its main motif also becomes a key part of the Menuet's texture. And the third movement is cleverly crafted; the transitions between different sections intelligently integrate the material from before, and the hyper-concentrated intermediate episode intensely develops a transition motif, with a very elegant contrapuntal writing and acts as its own sonatina, complete with its own exposition, development and recapitulation.
Beethoven was earning enough from commissions in 1801 to afford a modest but comfortable standard of living: a servant, handwritten paper, and a few books in addition to basic necessities. Czerny's account of his first visit and audition for Beethoven in 1801 was written in 1842, many years later, but nonetheless revealing: I went up to the fifth or sixth floor where a rather untidy-looking servant announced Beethoven and then admitted us. The room had a messy appearance, papers and clothing scattered everywhere, some trunks, bare walls, hardly a chair, except for the wobbly Walter piano, the best piano of the time…. His beard, not shaved in several days, made the lower part of his dark face even darker. I also noticed, with that visual rapidity peculiar to children, that he had cotton wool that seemed to have been impregnated with a yellowish liquid in his ears. At that time, however, he gave no evidence of deafness. Later, when Beethoven accepted Czerny as a student, he told Czerny Sr., The boy has talent…. First, however, get him a copy of On The True Art of Playing the Piano by Emanuel Bach, as he should bring it with him the next time he comes.
Beethoven was apparently proud of this work, since when presenting it to the possible editor Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754-1812), the composer called it first class Hoffmeister had just founded a new publishing house, which in 1814 became C. F. Peters, a firm that has remained one of the most illustrious publishers in music to this day. Hoffmeister published this sonata in mid-January 1801. The work is dedicated to Count Georg von Browne-Camus. See the dedication of Sonata No. 5 for information on counting.
This work is considered by some writers to be the last sonata of the four movements in the sonata pattern No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7. Most of the later four-movement sonatas, the No. 12, 18, 28, 29 and 31, deviate somewhat from the pattern represented by the previous examples. The Sonata No. 15, however, represents a version of this initial pattern.
The four movements in this work present motifs that move towards delays or resolutions similar to appointees: in the first movement in measure 6; in the second movement in bars 2, 3, 5, 8 and 12; in the third movement in bars 4, 8, 12 and 16; and in the fourth movement in bars 2, 4, 8, and so on.
The development sections of the first and second movement. Both contain dominant seventh or ninth progressions that resolve down into fifths in bars 81 to 92 and 34 to 38 respectively.
The exhibition is extended by introducing a variety of thematic material, reminiscent of the first movement of the Sonata No.4.
The second thematic area presents two different themes in the dominant one, as well as a section of passage work. The first consists of a lyric line over a scale accompaniment in the left hand in measures 22 to 30, in the second it introduces chords with dotted rhythms and syncopation in measures 31 to 43, arpeggio passage work and broken octaves in Measures 44 to 56.
The closing section includes a harmonic reference to B♭ minor, the subdominant rendered in F major, an eighth note figure possibly derived from the movement's 16th note opening motif in bars 56 to 61, octave scales opening with dotted rhythm in measures 62 to 66, and a reference to the opening motif just before the final cadence in measures 66 to 68.
The material in the closing section of the exhibition is presented in reverse order: the motif opening in sixteenth note in bars 69 to 70, followed by the octave scales in bars 71 to 74 and the minor inflection, this time settling in a half cadence in G minor in measures 75 to 81.
The dotted rhythm of the octaves now enters sixths and is cleverly extended with the 16th note opening motif combined with scale snippets and arpeggios. This material goes through dominant Ninth progressions in G minor, C minor, and F minor in bars 81 to 92, then quickly moves through F minor, C minor, and D♭ minor in bars 93 to 104.
A long transition presents the octave phrase of the closing section of the exposition in individual notes in the left hand, accompanied by broken chords in the right hand. It opens with a series of diminished seventh sounds that resolve the dominant tone of the house.
All the music in the exhibition is recapitulated in this section, the second subject area on the tonic key without a coda. The movement ends with two fortíssimo chords that follow a dynamic piano level.
This passage is expanded by two measures to serve as the change of course, which opens in C minor and moves through a series of parallel strings descending cadences to the opening pitch.
Two themes in E flat are developed, the second starts at bar 13.
The second theme is in the expected dominant.
The development opens by presenting the first theme with a new harmony that works in C minor, but leads to a sequence that opens with a dominant seventh in G at measure 34 and unfolds with a series of dominant sevenths. Progress in Dominant-tonic relations: C7 to Fa7 to Si ♭ 7 to Mi ♭ 7, the latter resolves to the ♭ minor, then to E ♭ minor and finally the dominant seventh in the opening tone. This progression is presented with two levels of voice in the right hand in imitative phrases.
All the material in the exhibition is occasionally revised with more elaborate decoration in the melodic line. There is a brief change of course in bars 61 to 64 but with no ending.
The minuet and trio pattern is followed without unusual features. The AB sections are rounded. The trio is in G minor, the section C ends in the dominant minor, D minor.
The two B sections are in the expected dominant and tonic. The last two statements by A are accompanied by figurative variations.
An elaborate C section features its own ABA pattern. That opens with new material in F minor. A middle section develops material that was used as a transition material between A and B with imitative snippets creating dissonant crossover fleeting relationships in bars 81 to 94. The opening material from section C returns in B ♭ minor, followed by a transition back to the main theme.
The coda uses the transition material heard in the middle of section C, extending it to a final reference to A. The dynamic contrast heard at the end of the first movement is reflected to end the sonata.