A personal interpretation of Ludwig van Beethoven's last piano sonata, op. 111, from a spiritual viewpoint
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) composed thirty-two piano sonatas during his lifetime, and each of the sonatas has its own characteristics. Among them, the last sonata, Op. 111, has been discussed from many different viewpoints, yet no theory completely fulfills our curiosity even today. The purpose of this treatise is to approach this work in terms of its spiritual aspects to a performer. This treatise will discuss mainly Beethoven’s last piano sonata, Op. 111, interpreting it from a spiritual perspective based on Beethoven’s final years of life. In this treatise, the first part discusses Beethoven’s final years as well as several special features of Op. 111. The second part delineates how I apply a spiritual interpretation to Op. 111 based on Beethoven’s life and his musical world. No one doubts that Beethoven’s music contains certain spiritual aspects, especially in his final period of composition. Without understanding the spiritual element, no one can understand and interpret his music properly. Martin Cooper said in the preface to his book, Beethoven: The Last Decade, “…it was during those ten years that Beethoven finally came to realize the potentialities of both his art and his nature….” I also believe that Beethoven’s music from his last period contains several special and unique features that can be distinguished from his earlier works. In Op. 111, I strove to find Beethoven’s spiritual meaning and apply it to the context of a performer. My main sources have been J. W. N. Sullivan’s Beethoven: His Spiritual Development, and Wilfrid Mellers’ Beethoven and the Voice of God. As these sources also do, I include many spiritual statements with religious substance. Since I strongly believe that Beethoven was a religious person, his spiritual world cannot be separated from the religious matter, even though it still carries controversy.