Beethoven: Sparks of Joy — Opus 110 well-known, presents a gamut of settings, much like a great drama.
Opus 110 is the most popular of Beethoven’s late sonatas. The opening is lyrical and warm, and is followed by an exuberant Scherzo, whose themes were borrowed from two folk tunes – “Unsa Kätz häd Katzln ghab” (Our cat has had kittens) and “Ich bin lüderlich, du bist lüderlich” (I’m a dissolute slob, and so are you). The specific force of the allusions may not be felt, but their boisterous, comic character is clear.
However, it is the extraordinary third movement that dominates discussion of this sonata. Its principal elements are an Arioso dolente (lamenting song) and a three-voice fugue, which unexpectedly loses heart and gives way to a second Arioso even more despairing than the first. Suddenly, the fugue is repeated, but this time the theme is turned upside-down, and it ends on a note of triumph with a flourish of arpeggios.
Seong-Jin Cho was just 17 years old when he performed this sonata at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. [Notes by Margaret Scialdone.]