Today's lecture from András Schiff looks at the four sonatas leading up to and including the first pinnacle of Beethoven's middle-period pianism, the Waldstein sonata opus 53. Composed at the end of 1803, shortly after Beethoven had completed the Eroica Symphony, the Waldstein is the work of a man determined to overcome the challenge of his growing deafness.
"If I had any other profession it would be easier," the composer admitted to a friend in 1801, a period of sometimes intense despair. But he later began to face up to his disease with immense conviction: "I will seize Fate by the throat; it shall certainly not crush me completely," he later wrote to the same friend.
And with the Waldstein, fate has been well and truly seized, resulting in a work that completely remoulded the musical expectations of Beethoven's contemporaries.
Before reaching opus 53, Schiff takes us through the three sonatas of opus 31, intended by the composer to announce his departure from pianistic tradition. From the playful G major sonata - in which Beethoven pokes fun at bad piano technique - to the stormy D minor sonata, nicknamed after Shakespeare's Tempest - allegedly (and unusually) after Beethoven's own suggestion.
As before, the lectures are all available to download from the same page at theguardian.com/Schiff. Alternatively, subscribe to the Guardian's Culture feed if you want to receive each lecture automatically as soon as it's published.
Part 1. Piano sonata in G major, opus 31 no 1 Download
Part 2. Piano sonata in D minor, opus 31 no 2 ("Tempest") Download
Part 3. Piano sonata in E flat major, opus 31 no 3 Download
Part 4. Piano sonata in C major, opus 53 ("Waldstein") Download