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Beethoven: “Tempest” sonata

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: drenched in Romantic perspiration…

Beethoven frequently paid musical homage to Shakespeare, with his overture to Coriolanus, and with a planned (but ultimately abandoned opera on Macbeth. For a stormy guy like as Beethoven, in what was certainly the stormiest period in his life, it’s no surprise that he was also fan of “The Tempest.” Beethoven’s op. 31 sonatas were composed around the time the composer was coming to grips with his deafness. According to one story, when asked about the “meaning” of this sonata (perhaps a composer’s least favorite question) Beethoven curtly and simply told the friend to go read The Tempest! While we should probably take this anecdote with a grain of nice, dry salt, it’s not hard to believe that this sonata could be a passionate, romanticized reaction to Shakespeare’s stormy play.

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