About this work
While Beethoven's Sonata, Op. 27, No. 2, the familiar "Moonlight," may get the publicity and the performances, it's the Op. 27, No. 1, in E flat that represents a radical breakthrough for the composer. It's also fun to listen to. Subtitled "Sonata quasi una Fantasia" like its opusmate, this work's closely connected sections do in fact form something resembling a free fantasia. The opening movement is not a fast movement in sonata form, but a song-like Andante in a playful slow-dance rhythm; this is abruptly interrupted by a free and virtuosic Allegro, which in turn reverts to the original Andante as if nothing had happened. A brief, stormy Scherzo (Allegro molto e vivace), in which the hands play three-note patterns in opposition to each other, is contrasted with a trio in syncopated "hunting" rhythm -- an eccentric movement that would have fit in nicely with the Op. 33 Bagatelles. A lovely, largely chordal Adagio con espressione is in fact an introduction to the Allegro vivace finale, an elaborately worked-out rondo with a good deal of contrapuntal passagework. At its climax, the music comes to a sudden halt, and the Adagio theme returns for a beautiful moment before a Presto coda brings the sonata to a brilliant conclusion.