Composed in 1801, dedicated to Joseph von Sonnenfels.
Beethoven's Sonata No. 15 is at its most beautiful, a work of soulful and generous serenity that is nevertheless combined with great skill and subtlety.
The first movement is notable for its timpani-like bass buzz, first pretending to be in the dominant, G, murmuring like a heartbeat, and for the development, which increases fury by radically compressing the first theme of the sonata and presents 38 bars of immutable harmony that does not lead to recapitulation.
The second movement begins with a majestic and deep sadness, and only grows in complexity as it goes on, honestly, it is one of the most beautiful things that Beethoven has ever written.
The third movement is based on the contrast between long and short notes, and its trio is the same melody 8 times, although you wouldn't even notice it, so cunning and subtle it transforms each time.
The fourth movement is a gently rolling rondo, warmly whimsical in a naive way. It is also the first time that Beethoven has written ma non troppo in a work.
In April 1802, Beethoven moved to the town of Heiligenstadt, two miles north of Vienna, and stayed there until October. The retreat was taken on the advice of his doctor, who thought that the country air might alleviate the pervasive deafness. The composer rarely went to Vienna during this period, and the isolation only served to intensify his depression. On October 6, he wrote a letter to his brothers in which he contemplated suicide. This document was found among his belongings after his death. The well-known Heiligenstadt Testament is a moving and highly personal book. expression that reveals the depth of the composer's struggle to overcome his affliction and move on with his life.
The publication of this sonata was announced on August 4, 1802 by the Bureau d'arts et d'industriestrong, a publishing house established earlier that year. The firm published several works by Beethoven between 1802 and 1808 where S. A. Steiner & Co. in 1823. Sketches and the autograph of this work survive, and a facsimile of this material was published by the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn in 1996. The work is dedicated to Joseph Edlen von Sonnenfels (1732 –1817), an enlightened figure in government affairs, philanthropist, and confidant of Emperor Joseph II. Apparently, the dedication was not inspired by personal friendship or the result of patronage, but rather was a tribute to Sonnenfels' ideals as a public figure. The designation Sonate pastorale first appeared in a publication by the London firm Broderip & Wilkinson, probably around 1805. It is therefore quite possible that the composer knew of the nickname. The use of the nickname was reinforced in an 1838 publication by the Hamburg publisher August Cranz.
The first and fourth movements begin with an accompaniment pattern of repeated tonic notes in the bass, although the fourth movement incorporates an ascending line into the pattern. The opening melodic lines of both movements begin on the fifth of the scale and work their way down. A closely related pattern can also be observed in the second movement, where the opening melody jumps to the fifth of the scale and moves down. Likewise, the B minor trio theme of the third movement enters the fifth of its scale and moves down.
This sonata is the first of five that open with a non-tonic sonority. Here a secondary A dominant moves to the subdominant of the starting tone, G major, then to the starting tone D major. Other sonatas in which there are no tonic openings are 17, 18, 28 and 32.
Similarly, the second theme opens with the secondary dominant of the expected tone, this time moving to the submediant, F♯ minor, resolving to the supertonic B minor, and then to a cadence in the expected dominant of the sonata, A major. A second phrase returns to the secondary dominant sonority, C♯ major and delays the movement to A major until bars 87 to 91, at which point phrases in that tone.
A closing ländler section in A major.
The first theme is stated in G major, then, with slight variations, in G minor.
The first theme is fragmented, its final four bars unfolding in G and D minor against the accompaniment of eighth-note scales.
The first theme fragments further, this time just the rhythmic figure of the last two bars unfolding kaleidoscopically in D minor, A minor, E minor and B minor, finally resting after descending chords in F♯ major. The prominence of F♯ major and its relation to the recapitulation on the return to D major is parallel to the prominence of C♯ major in the second thematic area of the exposition, where her relationship is with A mayor, the dominant one.
A brief return of the closing section of the exposition in B major, then in B minor, acts as a retransition to the recapitulation.
The musical materials are consistent with their appearance in the exhibition, the second theme of progressions settling on the tonic.
A short coda introduces the opening phrase of the first theme with its final two bars fragmented, recalling the fragmentation of the development section, but now remains in D major.
The opening theme features staccato left-hand accompaniment with sixteenth notes, a pizzicato effect previously used in the sonata no. 2, second movement and the middle section sonata no. 5, third movement. The first section ends in minor.
The trio section is in D major, its first part also ending in dominant. It picks up the tone of the main theme and builds on it, adding triplet figures in the right hand. There is a text problem in bars 26, 30 and 30a in the second sixteenth note of the second beat of each bar. Beethoven's autograph shows marks that are probably accent marks, but because they are somewhat large, the engraver of the first edition interpreted them as decrescendo marks. Current editions vary.
The written repeats of sections A and B include the transformation of the opening theme material into thirty-second passages.
The coda recalls elements of both the first theme and the theme of the trio. The turn at bar 98 shows both a natural and sharp sign below it. Publishers have handled this ambiguity in different ways.
The repeat is written in the first section A to effect a change in texture and dynamics.
The repeat is written in the section D to effect a different dynamic pattern.
The B sections are in the dominant and tonic respectively. The final occurrence of the A section opens in G major and is shortened and varied to set the tempo change for the final section.
The character of the opening theme may be the source of Pastorale's nickname due to its buzzing bass and relaxed ländler melody. A transition made up of arpeggios leads to the first B section.
The section B is imitative, featuring a short motif at different voice levels. It closes with an eighth ravine in transition.
The section C consists of an opening idea that extends the rhythmic pattern of the theme A and a more lyrical section written at different voice levels that becomes thicker in texture with each repetition. The section closes with a reminder of the closure of the eighth ravine of section B.
A section marked più allegro quasi presto marks the dazzling beginning of the right-hand passage over the buzzing bass of theme A, now in octaves. This section acts as a coda to this movement, providing a brilliant finale to the work, as well as a technical challenge for the performer.