Mp3 Blog #94: Some Older Two-Part Compositions

J.S. Bach:
From The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1
Prelude in b flat minor
Fugue in b flat minor

Performed by Glenn Gould

Available on this compact disc

Fryderyk Chopin:
Two Nocturnes, Opus 55
#15 in f minor
#16 in E flat major

Performed by Arthur Rubinstein

Available on this compact disc

Ludwig van Beethoven:
Sonata # 32 in c minor, Opus 111
I. Maestoso; Allegro con brio ed appassionato
II. Arietta: Adagio molto, semplice e cantabile

Performed by Artur Schnabel

Available on this compact disc

* * * * *

Before I post a few more contemporary two-movement works I wanted to post a few older two-part and two-movement compositions.

The first two works not technically two-movement compositions. That said I feel that both are good examples of a work constructed in two parts. For example, the prelude and fugue is arguably one of the archetypal pairs that comprise a whole. I’ve chosen J. S. Bach’s b flat minor prelude and five-voice fugue from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 because it is possibly my favorite prelude and fugue.

Most of Chopin’s nocturnes were published in pairs and to this day are often performed in recitals that way. Opus 55 is probably my favorite of these pairs.

Beethoven struggled with the two-movement form periodically throughout all of his piano sonatas and arguably it wasn’t until the last try that he really got it right. While looking for two-movement compositions I noticed that the form is used far less regularly than three or four-movements. This might be because it is harder to balance multiple movements when there are only two of them. In my opinion it is this attempt at literal balance that makes most of Beethoven’s other two-movement sonatas less remarkable. On the other hand, it seems to be the misbalance between the normal-length tempestuous first movement and extended and almost transcendental second movement that makes Opus 111 so moving and unforgettable.

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