Piano Sonata No.24

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No.24 in F# major

Op. 78

About this work

Beethoven took a nearly five-year break from piano sonata composition after finishing the earth-shaking "Appassionata" sonata of 1804-1805. He returned to the genre only in May 1809, when the departure of his friend Archduke Rudolph prompted him to begin the "Les Adieux" Sonata No. 26, Op. 81a. Before that piece was finished, however, Beethoven wrote, signed, and affixed opus numbers to two other piano sonatas (both relatively brief works), so that, according to the numbering scheme, the Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major, Op. 78, is the immediate successor to the "Appassionata" Sonata. Op. 78 was a work for which Beethoven had considerable affection; the tendency of posterity to assign nicknames to the works of major composers has resulted in Op. 78 occasionally being called "A Thérèse," by reason of its having been dedicated to Countess Therese von Brunsvik.

This composition seems the work of a man who has finally exorcised all his demons. It is a light piece in two movements. The first bears a serene Andante cantabile introduction, really just a single phrase. The main Allegro ma non troppo material flows effortlessly from the opening in one long, undulating theme that gradually breaks into more fragmentary components, then pulls itself together again. This is a matter of gentle examination rather than disintegration; Beethoven employs all these elements in a mild variation of the theme, then eases into a development section that maintains the same mood except for one fairly agitated passage near the end. Things return to the tranquil norm with the recapitulation.

The compact second movement, Allegro vivace, is a frisky rondo that trades in sudden contrasts in dynamics, major and minor modes, and texture; Beethoven sometimes strips the music down to one-part writing that sounds thick only because of its fleetness.