Piano Sonata No.25

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No.25 in G major

Op. 79 • “Cuckoo”

About this work

Like the Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major, Op. 78, Beethoven's little G major Piano Sonata, Op. 79, was written in 1809. Both works share several instantly discernible features. Firstly, both sonatas are surprisingly undemonstrative in tone, revealing a pronounced avoidance of bravura showiness, unwarranted rhetoric, and above all, extravagant emotionalism. Where they differ markedly, however, is in their respective number of movements, since the G major Sonata has three self-contained movements, conforming to established architectural principles, whereas in the earlier opus, sonata allegro and slow movements are effectively linked together thanks to the substantial Adagio cantabile preface offered before, and leading, without a break, to the main first allegro.

The G major Sonata No. 25contains an opening Presto, an Andante slow movement, and a finale marked Vivace. The first movement also has the qualifying term alla Tedesca, or "in the German style." From the outset, the work arouses a strong and positive impression, as a result of its sharply chiselled rhythmic formulae and a certain direct (if not to say at times abrupt) candor and spontaneity. That feeling of directness and clarity of expression also informs the following movement, a brief but eloquent Andante in 9/8 meter and simple ternary form. This not only re-affirms Viennese tastes, both in terms of the directness already referred to, but also in the pronounced feeling of "naturalness," at times approaching pastoral straightforwardness that is an unmistakable characteristic here. Simplicity and directness are also crucial in the brief and witty finale, a fully formed Vivace rondo, lasting fractionally under two minutes. This sonata is sometimes given the nickname "The Cuckoo," because of the distinctive pattern of falling intervals and repeated note groupings that permeate the score at various points, never more obviously than during the final movement.

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