Composed between 1801 and 1802.
The Tempest Sonata is one of those crazy feats of compositional genius whose sheer craft is undetectable because it’s so emotionally compelling from the very first listen. But there is no harm in briefly listing what makes it so extraordinary, I suppose.
In the 1st movement nearly everything is built up from the first line of music – the motifs of a arpeggio, scale, and turn. It’s kind of impossible to unhear once you know they’re there, and it’s a level of motivic integration that represents the perfection of the technique Haydn developed. There’s also the incredibly dramatic use of long, developed, recitative-like passages as contrast to passages of searing intensity, and the introduction of wonderfully dark new material in the recapitulation. The 2nd movement is unreasonably beautiful, and the famous 3rd features some of the most gorgeous modulations ever put to paper. Note also how the dramatic movement happens not in the almost unchanging figuration, but in the harmony, where turbulence and restlessness is often followed by very long periods of total harmonic stasis, usually as a dominant preparation.