Beethoven Piano Sonata 26 "Adieux"

Opus 81a

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Beethoven orchestra conductor
Beethoven Piano Sonata 26

Beethoven Piano Sonata 26 "Adieux" –First Edition

Leipzig, 1811.


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Beethoven Piano Sonata 26 "Adieux" –Interesting Facts

Les Adieaux is one of Beethoven's great works of the middle period and stands out for several reasons. To begin with, it is Beethoven's only explicitly programmatic sonata; The three movements are named The Farewell, The Absence and The Return respectively. The first movement is linked to a painful motive; the second is full of painful suspensions and diminished seventh chords, and the last movement is an explosion of joy.

There is also the fact, very little commented, that the last movement is really a Concerto for Piano Solo, with many passages that could well be marked as tutti , virtuous passages that come out straight from the Emperor's Concert, and symphonic layers.

Beethoven Piano Sonata 26 "Adieux" –Novelties

Better known is the use of the Lebewohl motif throughout the first movement, and the two very substantial codas for the external movements, which develop themes already introduced.

Biography of the Sonatas

On May 11 and 12, 1809, Napoleon's army bombards Vienna. Beethoven's hearing, declining but sensitive, was so affected that he took refuge in the basement of his brother's house, covering his ears with pillows. The aftermath of the occupation of the city by Napoleon's army was difficult. The composer wrote to his publisher Breitkopf & Härtel: Lately we have been experiencing misery in a more concentrated form. Let me tell you that since May 4th I have produced very little coherent work…pretty much just a snippet here and there. The whole course of events has affected both body and soul… what a destructive and disorderly life is here around me, nothing but drums, cannons and human misery in all its forms. In the same letter, Beethoven requested that the publisher send him scores by J. S. Bach, C. P. E. Bach, Haydn and Mozart for personal study. Apparently, the composer was unable to hire a cleaning person during this period. To this circumstance was added its usual disorder, described by Louis-Philippe-Joseph-Girod de Vienney, Baron de Trémont (1779– 1852): Imagine for yourself the dirtiest and most disorderly place imaginable... damp spots covering the ceiling, a very old grand piano, the chairs, mostly cane, covered with plates with the remains of last night's dinner, and with clothes, etc.

Information of the facts in the composition of the Sonata

Movement titles were provided by the composer. The title of the first movement, Lebewohl, refers to the departure of Beethoven's friend and patron Archduke Rudolf on May 4, 1809, the day the Viennese aristocracy evacuated the city to escape the advance of Napoleon's army. The German term had a special meaning for Beethoven, as he later wrote to his publisher insisting that German be used in addition to a planned translation: For Lebewohl it means something very different from Les Adieux. The first is said with affection to one person, the other to the entire assembly, to entire towns.

The first movement of the sonata was written at the time of the game; the other two movements were written later. The sonata was published by Breitkopf & Härtel in July 1811 as Op. 81. Beethoven also offered it to Clementi and his associates in London, which firm registered it for publication in late January 1811 with a probable publication date sometime later that year. The autograph of the first movement is in the collection of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. It is believed to be one that the composer gave to Archduke Rudolf. The subsequent subdivision of op. 81 took place in order to avoid confusion, for the Bonn publisher Simrock who released Sextette for String Quartet and Two Horns, a work dating from 1794-1795, as Op. 81 in 1809 or early 1810.


This is the only piano sonata for which Beethoven provided programmatic titles.

Possible relationships between movements

The Lebewohl motif from the first movement is repeated in the main theme of the third movement.

The first and second movements are linked by melodic contours from bars 3 and 4, 1 to 3 respectively, both lines using an ascending dotted rhythmic figure going to E♭.

Both the first and third movements use a trill written in notes in the right hand under a slower-moving soprano, melody as second theme material in a sonata-form structure, in bars 50 to 57 and 53 to 56, and the rest.

First Movement: Les AdieuxE flat major | Adagio-Allegro 2/4-4/4 alla breve | 3/4 | Introduction, sonata form, coda


This introduction is highly original and deeply felt. The first three quarter notes are served by the syllables Le-be-wohl in both the autograph and the first edition. This figure is typical of patterns played at the pole horn, an instrument used by personal security to announce the arrival and departure of coaches. The figure thus became associated with traveling. The use of a deceptive cadence in measure 2 suggests that the occasion was unhappy. The reharmonization of the figure in bars 7 and 8 to resolve to C♭ is surprising.

Measures 17 to 34

An energetic first theme opens in an inversion of the subdominant that descends chromatically to the tonic. Octave jumps lead to a challenging double-note passage in bars 29–33, another example of the composer's penchant for placing challenging technical passages close to the opening of the exposition. Other examples exhibiting such challenges are the sonatas no. 2, 3, 7< /a>, 17 and 23.

Measures 34 to 49

The passage modulates the dominant and plays with major and minor modes, continuing to suggest mixed emotions about the game.

Measures 50 to 68

The melodic line of the opening phrase of the introduction returns accompanied by a trill-type writing and harmonic support that incorporates a reiteration of a flat six before progressing to a dominant resolution, yet another reminder of the mood that attended. to the game

Measures 68 to 89

After enunciating the opening phrase of the first theme in C minor, the development alternates a rise of the opening three notes of the introduction Le-be-wohl with a rhythmic fragment of the first theme in the exposition, playing D♭ minor first, and then moving through a series of major-minor sevenths built on D, C♭, and B♭.

Measures 91 to 109

After enunciating the first theme in G♭ major, the augmented motif becomes a series of full notes accompanied by the rhythmic fragment of the first theme. Its resolution in C minor wavers with repeated keys in a first inversion A♭ major, serving as a deft transition to the opening key of the first theme and the recapitulation.


The recapitulation reiterates all the musical events.

Measures 124 to 126

As noted above, the change occurs in the challenging double note passage, evolving into the second thematic area in the starting tone.

Bars 160 to 180

The Lebewohl theme appears in full notes followed by statements of the first theme of the exposition, as it appeared in the opening of the development section, passing through F minor and E♭ minor.

Measures 181 to 255

The whole note Lebewohl motif appears in various forms, both imitatively and in counterpoint to eighth-note passage work, the combination being interchanged between the right and left hands.

Second Movement: L’AbsenceC minor | Andante espressivo | 2/4 | A|B|A|B

The tempo indications

The tempo mark of this movement is in both traditional Italian and German, the latter being used by Beethoven to indicate tempo for the first time in piano sonatas. It is believed that he felt that the German indication expressed his intentions more precisely.


Although the movement takes place in two parts, the relationships to pitch are unusual.

Measures 1 to 8

The tonic opening immediately moves to a diminished seventh in the first four bars, ending on the dominant, G major, of the opening key. The second four measures present a parallel idea that ends on the tonic, C minor. The tonality and progression of these phrases convey the sense of aimlessness one might associate with loss. The slow eighth notes in the left hand in bars 1–2 and 5–6 might suggest the ticking of a clock counting down the seemingly endless passage of time during solitude.

Measures 9 to 14

Opening in A♭ major, the first phrase of this transitional passage ends in F minor. Then a return to the opening phrase of the movement leads to a passage similar to a G minor cadence.

Measures 15 to 20

A second thematic idea unfolds with a dominant resolving to G major and then G minor, the latter with staccato 1/32 notes from the left hand punctuated by chords from the right hand. The passage closes in C minor.

Measures 21 to 24

At bar 21, the second major section of the movement. It does so with an unexpected transposition and reharmonization of the opening phase that resolves to F minor.

Measures 25 to 26

The transposition of the analogous opening passage continues, this time opening in D♭ major and ending in D♭ minor.

Measures 27 to 42

At bar 27, if the exact transposition were to continue, the resulting passage would be built around C minor. Instead, the composer switches to F minor, the diminished seventh opening being sufficiently ambiguous to allow this change to be made without a hitch. The rest of the movement unfolds regularly. At the end the unprepared change to C minor in bar 37 occurs in the structural place parallel to that in bar 21. In bar 41 the composer lowers the root of VII7 in C minor by a semitone to form the dominant seventh of the opening tone of E♭ major. Beethoven uses the dotted rhythm motif of this movement to set up the V7 opening of the final movement, the voicing assisted by a pedal mark.

Third Movement: Le Retour | E flat major | Live | 6/8 | Sonata Form | coda

Measures 1 to 10

An energetic introduction uses an arpeggio-like dominant seventh passage to lead into the first theme.

Measures 11 to 28

The melodic form and underlying harmony of the first theme are similar to those of the first movement motif, although they are not exact enough to be considered cyclical.

Measures 29 to 52

A striking transition section virtuously features broken arpeggios and fast scales followed by figuration introducing Neapolitan sixth harmonies that resolve to the dominant of the second theme area, itself the dominant of the opening tone. Part of this progression is taken care of by pedal markings.

Measures 53 to 81

The second thematic area opens with melodic fragments accompanied by trills written in bars 53–64 and moving through cadence-like progressions featuring fast scales, figuration, and broken arpeggios.

Measures 82 to 93

The first three notes of the first theme serve as a fragment throughout the development, entering here in E♭ minor and passing to G♭ major. These entries are answered by a lyrical phrase in right-hand octaves.

Measures 94 to 103

The second theme with its written trills returns in B major, also being interrupted by a continuation of the earlier lyrical material.

Measures 104 to 109

He returns the three-note reference to the first theme with brief imitative gestures.

Measures 110 to 176

The recapitulation is regular, it presents all the events of the exhibition with the second theme in the tonic. Only the first theme is slightly rewritten for a more virtuosic effect.

Measures 177 to 196

The recapitulation's brilliant closing cadence often leads audiences to react before the start of the coda, which begins quietly restating the first theme and expanding it at a slower tempo in bars 177 to 190. A burst of energy closes the movement with broken octaves in the right hand.