Beethoven’s rebuke of Napoleonic forces; a sonata for Archduke Rudolph.
Napoleon’s forces approached Vienna in April of 1809, forcing the nobility to flee to their country estates, and Beethoven to shelter in his brother’s cellar, with pillows strapped over his ears to preserve what little hearing he still had.
The departure of his friend and patron, the Archduke Rudolph, was the occasion for Beethoven’s next piano sonata, “Das Lebewohl” (The Farewell), Opus 81a. In the first movement (“Das Abschied” – The Parting) he writes the syllables “Le-be-wohl’ over the opening theme, which he returns to throughout. The second movement, called “Abwesenheit” (Absence), is a poignant depiction of longing, and leads directly to the third movement, “Das Wiedersehen” (The Return), in which Beethoven celebrates the anticipated homecoming of his patron with unbounded joy and exuberance.
It is important to note that from this point on Beethoven abandoned the use of both the French and Italian languages in his compositions, instead giving all tempo and other instructions in German, and he was furious when his publisher gave this sonata the name Les Adieux.
András Schiff gives an outstanding interpretation of this marvelous work. [Notes by Margaret Scialdone.]