Beethoven Op.30/2, bars 107–112

Beethoven Op.30/2, bars 107–112 (2014) is written for piano with violin accompaniment, as a prelude to Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in C minor, Op.30 No.2.  It was commissioned by Krysia Osostowicz and Daniel Tong for the Beethoven Plus project, to be performed in a UK tour of all the Beethoven Violin Sonatas with a new companion piece to each.  However, it was never performed by them, and is still open for anyone who would like to premiere it.

When Krysia asked me to write this piece, I asked her why she had paired me with the seventh sonata, and her reply was something along the lines of “it’s dramatic and you’re dramatic”. Delighted with this appropriate description, I set to work. In most of the response pieces I’ve written (including Beethoven, Schubert, Dowland, Mozart and Bach), I try to tease out a quality of the gesture and form of the original, without actually emulating it. I also don’t want to attempt to compete with it, but rather simply lay the ground for it.

In this instance, I remembered back to my teenage years being bored with practising actual Beethoven piano sonatas and instead getting carried away improvising big chords and cadences and fancying myself as something of a Liszt or Rachmaninov. This ostentatious gesture is still very much part of my musical taste, and it is certainly a feature of Beethoven, including this Sonata,. So I thought I’d try ’19th-century piano drama on steroids’. We all like a bit of drama, and I think this is the perfect cadence into the master of musical drama, Beethoven.

NB: This piece should always be performed immediately and seamlessly before the Beethoven sonata Op.30/2, as indicated in the score.  Ideally the pianist should perform from memory, as if extemporising.