The Kutná Hora International Music Festival - 2021


The complete 32 Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) – Programme IV


All events



8:30 PM

Chrám sv. Barbory

Kutná Hora

300 CZK



Regardless of the two-and-a-half century that will have elapsed later this year, in December, from the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, his music sounds very much as if it was written a couple of days ago. The essential instrument to him was the piano. This is amply evidenced by his output of five concertos for piano and orchestra, dozens of chamber compositions with piano and, apart from a plethora of variations, bagatelles and smaller-scale pieces, above all his thirty-two sonatas for the instrument. They will be presented here in their completeness, offering the audience a listening experience tracing the fascinating journey from early works by Haydn´s young, ambitious pupil, all the way to products of the final years in the life of a composer deprived of hearing. No two of these sonatas resemble each other. In their sum, they encompass the full scale of human emotions. Attached to the titles of some of them are attributes relating to their character or inspirational impulse: Pathétique, Les Adieux, The Tempest, and the like.

Beethoven was himself one of the most brilliant virtuoso pianists of his time. So long as he was able to, he performed his works, manifesting improvisational skills that were deemed peerless by his contemporaries. Beyond all this, he deserves a similarly high merit for influencing the development of piano as an instrument: he kept abreast of all the innovations introduced by leading makers, and took due account of newly invented features in his own compositions. He took advantage of the full range of the keyboard, getting as close as possible to the magnificence of the orchestral sound.

A listener doesn´t need to be formally trained in music to appreciate with the utmost immediacy the communicative power of Beethoven´s music. You are welcome here to fall under the spell of of music by one of the most passionate composers, in the brilliant interpretation of Konstantin Lifschitz.

The time came when Beethoven found the confines of sonata form much too narrow. For the opening movement of his Sonata in A flat major, Op. 26, he chose the form of variations. In the place of the standard slow movement, he opted for a marche funèbre. In fact, not one of the work´s four movements adheres to sonata form in the strict sense of the term. By way of elaboration, the composer already chose to attach to the two sonatas of Opus 27 a subtitle forewarning the listener of this music´s closeness to the fantasia genre. There, he embarked on an endeavour which was yet to yield its ripest fruits in his late sonatas.

The Sonata in E flat major comes with all parts entwined in a single whole, linked together attacca. In terms of form, it may actually seem to be turned upside down: it opens on a slow part, with the sonata movement shifted to the very end. Its sister from the same Opus in the key of C sharp minor was later dubbed “Moonlight” by its publisher. Romanticizing though the attribute might seem, it did eventually contribute in heightening the sonata´s popularity. Once again, the opening movement is slow and largely monotonous all along its course, as though in reminiscence of Beethoven´s dreamlike improvisation. A very short second movement is followed by a tumultuous finale. Indeed, it is hard to believe that the emotionally scintillating music of the Sonata in C sharp minor  would have been written at the same time as that of the Sonata in D major which will top off tonight´s programme. Its strict four-movement sonata form, immaculately balanced and finely honed, brings out music exuding the glitter of a sunlit idyll, doing full justice to its “Pastoral” moniker.


Sonata for Piano No. 12 in A flat major, Op. 26

I. Andante con variazioni
II. Scherzo. Allegro molto
III. Marcia funebre sulla morte d’un Eroe
IV. Allegro

Sonata for Piano “Quasi una fantasia” No. 13 in E flat major, Op. 27, No. 1

I. Andante – Allegro – Tempo I
II. Allegro molto e vivace
III. Adagio con espressione
IV. Allegro vivace – Tempo I – Presto


Sonata for Piano “Quasi una fantasia” No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 “Moonlight”

I. Adagio sostenuto
II. Allegretto
III. Presto agitato

Sonata for Piano No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 “Pastoral”

I. Allegro
II. Andante
III. Scherzo. Allegro assai
IV. Rondo. Allegro ma non troppo


Konstantin Lifschitz – piano

Length 90 minutes
Ludwig van Beethoven