Barenboim on Beethoven 12: Beethoven’s Last Sonata II

A film by Christopher Nupen

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Daniel Barenboim — Presenter, pianist

Program notes

Of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, the last one, Op. 111, is unique in its makeup, consisting of just two movements. Contemporaries wondered if a copyist had forgotten to send the third movement to the publisher, but no sketches indicate that Beethoven ever even considered such an addition. For Barenboim, this is unsurprising, as the two movements balance each other out with a “prevailing inner logic”: if the first movement, “with its terrifying energy, shows us only one side of Beethoven’s nature… this world with all its struggles,” the second—variations on an Arietta, highlighted in this chapter of Barenboim on Beethoven—presents a vision of “eternity undisturbed,” a spiritual expression of a pure innocence “consciously won, through the lessons of experience.” At once monumental and unadorned, the final movement of the final sonata marks the terminus of one of the most epic journeys in Western art, a profound encounter in which we are liable to learn things "not only about the music, but about ourselves.”

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