Composed between 1803 and 1804.
And now we’ve reached the incandescent marvel that is the Waldstein. It’s one of Beethoven’s most expansive and uplifting works, but its instant likability sometimes obscures that fact that it’s a deeply restless and innovative work, structurally and texturally extraordinary in ways that sound natural only because the sonata is so well-put together.
Take the opening of the first move. What kind of sound is this? It's tense without being dramatic, ambiguous without being vague, moving and shapeless, and auditory without any sense of harmony, even though it's just a C major chord in the root position, of all things. There is also the tonal uneasiness of this work: right after the C major chord we get a secondary dominant, followed almost immediately by an unprepared shift towards B flat major, this is one of those moments that is they reproduce as a funny gesture or as something more mysterious. The second group of themes (which has a striking link to the first theme in the form of a 5-note descending motif) is in E major, rather than the more normal G Major | F major | The minor. And the recap is surprisingly fun; there are little scripts of new material and the second thematic group goes into the more frivolous A major, another "wrong" tone. There's more, like this little infinitely flexible modulation idea, but that will be highlighted below.
The second movement, an expanded introduction to the rondo, is one of Beethoven's slow and harmonically deceptive pit movements, and the rondo itself is a flash of wonder. There's theme A, floating in a haze of fuzzy harmonies; a B theme that he builds for the second time in a huge orchestral spiel; a transitional motif, based on theme A, joyful, sad and noble at the same time; and an extended coda that is as evolutionary as it is brilliant. The mere fact that the latest movement carries so much weight was quite novel for the time. Beethoven gradually shifted the heavy lifting from first to last movement in his 32 sonatas.
Between May and November 1803 Beethoven spent most of his time in resorts outside of Vienna working on Symphony No. 3, the Leonore Overture no. 2, and op. 53. This was also the year the composer received a new piano from Sébastian Érard in Paris. It had a range of five and a half octaves, from F to C. Unfortunately, Beethoven was not very fond of the piano, but the extra notes he provided may be why this score incorporates four notes above the typical Viennese piano time signature, F♯, G, G♯, and A.
This sonata was published by the Bureau des arts et l'industrie in May 1805. The existing autograph of the work is not believed to be the source of the first edition due to the number of differences between the two . The sonata derives its nickname from the dedication to Count Ferdinand Ernest Gabriel von Waldstein (1762-1823), a friend and patron of the time when Beethoven resided in Bonn. Sent to Bonn on a diplomatic mission, the Count is believed to have influenced Bonn's electorate, Maximillian Franz (1756-1801), to sponsor Beethoven studies with Haydn > in Vienna. At the time of this dedication, the count had lost his fortune and that of his wife, trying to persuade Austria to declare war against Napoleon. He died in 1823, disgraced and penniless. The original second movement of the work was the Andante favori (WoO 57), removed for being too long. This information was reported by the composer's friend Ferdinand Ries, he himself may have made the suggestion.
In conceptual terms, this sonata is considered by many to have three movements, for although the second section is labeled introduction and joins the rondo, it is in a different key than the outer two movements, F major with a pattern own ABA.
The first movements of this sonata and of No. 23 have dramatic and extended codas, rivaling the development sections.
The pedal marks throughout the final movement are unusually long and mixing tonic and dominant harmonies. Players are challenged on pianos today to create a sonority that emulates what the composer may have had in mind.
The opening theme of the first movement moves from the note mi up to the g; the Rondo's opening theme starts at g and returns to mi.
Bars 22 and 23 of the opening movement feature an augmented sixth harmony built on F that resolves to the dominant of E major/minor, a distinctive progression. The second movement opens with the same transposed progression and in a lower register, but also as it appears in bars 185 and 186 of the first movement.
The sonata opens with a display of virtuosity. The opening phrase in C major ends in the dominant; it is repeated a whole tone below, B♭, moving the final motif to the minor parallel of its dominant, F minor. This sonority also functions as a subdominant in C minor. The third phrase moves to the dominant of C minor, presenting a passage based on its dominant ninth. The resolution to the tonic of C minor ends with a fermata in the fifth of the scale. Then a return to the major parallel, C, marks the beginning of a repeat of the opening theme. This time, however, it moves up a whole tone, using the minor mode, the supertonic of the opening tone.
A surprising augmented sixth leads to a passage in which B major, as the dominant, and E minor, as the tonic, ending with a prolonged key in B major.
The entire second theme area is based on E major, first introducing a chorale-like second theme, and then based on arpeggios, a passage that leads to a climactic cadence in E. An earlier example of a tonic-median relationship in the key of C is the relationship between the tones of the first and second movements of the sonata no. 3.
A closing cadence section in A minor, E minor, and, when the repeat is taken, C major. The second ending leads to a development section that opens in F major.
The development features the exposition's opening theme and the arpeggio-based passage of the second theme, in that order. It presents the exposition themes in the order of their first appearance is a resource also used in the development of the sonatas no. 1, no. 10, no. 19, no. 20, no. 14, third movement and the no. 23.
The opening phrase of the first theme is stated entirely in F major, but then its final figure breaks off and is developed separately, playing in the keys of G minor, C minor and F minor, C♭ major, A♭ major and F minor, forming a final cadence that reaches C major.
The arpeggio-based passage of the second theme extends, then fragments, moving to C major, F major, B♭ major, E♭ minor, B minor, and C minor, finally coming to rest on the dominant seventh of C. .
The transition to the recapitulation is one of the most exciting of all the sonatas, rivaled only by that of the sonata no. 23. A low ostinato built on the dominant is joined by rising figuration in the right hand ultimately based on some notes from the main theme. After this combination it reaches its peak, with figuration marked with sforzandi and a scale in contrary movement introductory to the recapitulation.
A delightfully provocative return opens at the end of a phrase in the exposition on the “wrong” note, A♭ instead of G. Assuming the wrong note to represent the dominant of a new pitch, the phrase repeats in D♭ major, but now ends in B♭. As if to accommodate the "wrong" note a second time, the phrase he repeats is in E♭ major but cleverly modulates back to the starting key, C major.
The transition to the second theme sets the key of A major. The second theme is stated in that key, but in a restatement it opens in parallel minor, A minor, and resolves in C major for the rest of the second theme area of the recapitulation.
The cadence of the closing section in C major moves to F major, then parallel minor, unexpectedly closing the phrase with a tricky cadence that moves to D♭ major.
The coda is a long development, rivaled in emotion only by the coda of the first movement of sonata no. 23. The first theme opens in D♭ and breaks up as it progresses in B♭ minor and C minor.
The opening theme is then set to C major, but fragments as it builds to a keyboard-spanning climax ending in the dominant. The second theme is raised again, closing with prolonged half cadences on the opening tone. Finally, the repeated notes that open the first theme lead to a strong descending scale and the final cadence.
The outer A sections are motivic and improvised, the B section features a seven-bar melody in F major. The mood is one of serene contemplation.
An ascending dotted rhythm motif appears to open in F major but is resolved in E major by moving down to the seventh degree of the scale and treating the harmony as an augmented sixth. The idea is repeated, now opening in the parallel minor, E minor, but resolving as a dominant inverted to B major. A third entry shifts the root down a half step, creates an augmented sixth, and resolves to the dominant of the starting tone, C7. Then a cadence stops in F major. As in the opening of the first movement, Beethoven presents a virtuoso display of harmonic progressions.
A melodic theme in F major lengthens the opening figure of the movement in the first phrase, by two more bars, ending in the dominant, and by the second by two bars, the phrase returns to the tonic. A third statement leads back to section A.
The first two statements of section A above are repeated. The third statement is extended, the opening motif rising to the dominant seventh of the sonata's opening key, C major, then descending to a final half cadence that leads, after a suspenseful fermata, to the beat of the final movement without interruption.
The lyrical opening theme is presented three times. The first entry takes place in a cross-hand presentation in bars 1-23, the second with right-hand octaves accompanied by left-hand arpeggios in bars 31-50, and the third with the right hand trilling. prolonged as the upper voice describes the melody, accompanied by the left hand with sixteenth note scales and scrawls, the combination creating an exciting climax. The first two statements are accompanied by long pedal prompts that mix tonic and dominant harmonies. Players playing them on today's pianos sometimes make adjustments, and many editions change the indications or offer alternatives.
The first section opens with a broken chord figured in C major. A second section in A minor outlines a new motif that opens in ascending staccato octaves in bars 71 to 98. A transitional passage introduces the opening phrase of the A theme em>, again with pedal indications that mix keys in measures 99 to 113.
The section A is repeated in its entirety.
The C section first features a strong theme in octaves, opening in C minor and given alternately to each hand. Its second statement is accompanied by a dizzying and difficult triplet of sixteenth notes in bars 183 to 216. Its momentum is relieved by a series of single octaves in both hands on the note C, at such a pace that the difficulty of bringing this passage to a high level becomes painfully evident, bars 217 to 220.
A development section follows, beginning with the entry of the opening phrase of the A theme in A♭ major, F minor, and D♭ major in bars 221 to 234. After a section of transition consisting of syncopated chords, the two da capo notes of the theme. A theme is laid out with arpeggios and passages, moving through C major, F major, B♭ major, E♭ minor, D♭ major, and C minor, finally resting on long dominant seventh/ninth harmonies in the major key of C. in measures 235 to 312.
The second and third statements of the main topic of section A are repeated.
The first section of the first entry restarts and expands both hands participating in the rapid broken chord, figurations that become increasingly frantic, often punctuated with sforzandi. A later section ends with solid dominant harmony chords rising to incorporate a minor ninth.
An extended coda marked prestissimo opens with statements of the A theme in C major, F major at bar 427, and G major at bar 431, expanding the phrase with passages in each case. Then a passage using the two-note opening of the theme motif moves through A♭ major, F minor, D♭ major, B♭ minor, F minor, and A♭ major, finally coming to rest on a six-part tonic. four outlined with fast octaves in bars 441 to 474. These are fingered 5-1, 5-1, 5-1 in the sources, and are thought to require glissandi octaves, which were easier to play over the action of the vintage pianos. Today's performers sometimes incorporate octave glissandi but also sometimes split octaves between hands in various ways when the piano action is too resistant. The final section of the coda places extended trills in the uppervoiced right hand outlining the A theme moving through C major, C minor, A♭ major and F minor, finally coming to rest at a half cadence incorporating triple trills in bars 477 to 514. Closing statements from the theme A opening phrase and the fast passage bring the movement to a brilliant finish in bars 515 to 545). The extended trills in this coda were performed by the composer in an example at the end of the autograph. Two versions have been offered: a harder one with the trill at 1/128 and an easier one with the trill at 1/64. Both examples start the trill in upper appoggiatura, a fact that has caused much speculation, since it is a relatively late date for the composer to do so.