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Allegretto WoO 39

December 4, 2022 – The Sitkovetsky Trio

Beethoven made his final statement in the piano trio genre with this single-movement Allegretto in B-flat major. He inscribed his manuscript score: “Vienna, June 26, 1812: for my little friend Maxe Brentano, to encourage her in her piano playing.” Maximiliane Brentano was the ten-year-old daughter of Beethoven’s dear friends Antonie and Franz Brentano. The composer even included his own suggestions for fingerings to aid his little friend.

If Maynard Solomon’s convincing evidence is accepted, Maxe’s mother Antonie was Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” the woman to whom Beethoven wrote his famous letter less than two weeks after completing the little Trio. With great anguish, Beethoven nobly resolved not to accept the high-society married woman’s offer to leave her husband, thereby preserving—if we adopt Solomon’s reasoning—his friendship with the family. Nine years later he dedicated his wonderful Piano Sonata in E major, op. 109, to Maximiliane, who must have kept up her piano studies.

The sonata-form Allegretto contrasts a busy, cheerful main theme, played by the piano to chordal string accompaniment, with a simple second theme marked by a characteristic dotted rhythm that is echoed alternately by the strings. The development takes an excursion to D major, which Beethoven even notates in the key signature. The slightly varied recapitulation leads to a relatively substantial coda, which comes to a sprightly conclusion.

© Jane Vial Jaffe

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