The sonata is a perfectly honed form with a whole hierarchy of movements, and of themes and secondary episodes within them. Textbook descriptions clearly define all the norms that govern it. In Beethoven, however, we find serious departures from those strict regulations. In his Sonata in A major, Op. 101, he seeks expression, directs the listener’s attention to poetry, emphasises the unnameable. That lead was followed by Schumann a quarter of a century later in his Humoreske, over the composing of which ‘he laughed and cried for a week’. Here the music, in thousands of varieties of motifs, flows unhindered. The Sonata, Op. 5 by the young Brahms – despite its ‘Classical’ form – displays a desire to convey what arises in people’s hearts under moonlight.
Simply... Philharmonic! Project 3:
The search for new means of expression, a sensitivity to nuances of timbre and colour, has fascinated composers of different eras. Yet there are moments in the history of music when that sensitivity comes decidedly to the fore, and the desire to polish nuances reaches a peak. And it might be worth occasionally dwelling on such moments and emphasising them. Ravel and Szymanowski juxtaposing images and mixing colours in their quartets, Beethoven emancipating the sound material of the sonata from its rigid form, Schumann playing with motifs in his Humoreske or Chopin crafting a new space out of miniatures in his Preludes – all sensitive composers who have created new qualities.