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About this Piece

Beethoven’s eighth piano-violin duo is the last of a trio of sonatas designated Op. 30, composed in 1802. Following as it did the C-minor storminess of the central Op. 30 Sonata, No. 3 relaxes from the fist-clenched dramatics of its slightly older sibling and revels in sprightly good humor and in vigorous athleticism.

The first movement is a prime example of the 32-year-old Beethoven’s facility for exercising compositional legerdemain, inasmuch as the slender materials consist of the most basic kinds of scale figures and chordal patterns. Instrumental equity is attempted, but the violin is no match for the bravura that is often unleashed by the keyboard in this virtually monothematic movement.

For his middle movement, Beethoven indicates a Tempo di Menuetto for music that has everything to do with graceful lyricism and almost nothing to do with dance. The composer lingers over, and frequently repeats, the main, E-flat-major materials, providing contrast to them through recourse to minor-mode inflection and rhythmic variation.

The rustic Beethoven comes to the fore in a final movement that flaunts a stubborn ground bass, decidedly rakish melodic contours, and all manner of ensemble gymnastics in which both instruments operate with full virtuoso power.