Archduke Rudolph, the Austrian Emperor's youngest brother, was a prelate. He was also an ardent musician who, at the age of sixteen, had become Beethoven's pupil, at the age of twenty-one, with two other noblemen, had set up a yearly stipend for his teacher in order to make Vienna more attractive to him. The Archduke was not ordinary amateur, he apparently played the piano extremely well and was also a respectable composer. That Beethoven was genuinely attached to this young prince is evidenced, among other things, by the number and - even more important - the quality of the works he dedicated to him : the Fourth and Fifth Piano Concertos, the "Farewell" Sonata, the last violin Sonata, the so-called "Archduke" Trio, the "Hammerklavier" Sonata, as well as the last Piano (Op. 111) Sonata, the Missa Solemnis, the Große Fuge. That Beethoven had the Archduke in mind as he worked on his new sonata "Hammerklavier" in 1817 is demonstrated by the discovery amongst his sketches of the first movement of the words vivat Rudolphus.
And by a letter of June 1819 to the archduke Rudolph, explaining that the first two movements of the new sonata had been composed for Rudolph's name Day in April of the previous year and that two more movements had since been added, the last "Grand Fugato", so that the whole now constitued a Grand Sonata.
The first two movements, were finished by April 1818 ; the others were composed during that summer and autumn at Mödling, a little village in the Brühl valley, ten miles south of Vienna. Many years later, Carl Czerny remembered a walk he had taken there with his former teacher : "He said to me, I am now writing a sonata that will become my greatest." Until then, also according to Czerny, Beethoven had always considered his Op. 57 (the "Appassionata") as his best. It was Czerny who first performed the new work at one of his own Sunday musicales in his home during the spring of 1819. Beethoven was present. The sonata was published in September 1819 by the Viennese firm of Artaria & Co. It came in two styles - with a French title page to satisfy commercial exigences and with a German title page to satisfy Beethoven. The French version read, "Grande Sonate pour le Piano-forte" and listed all the cities where the work could be obtained. The German version read, "Grosse Sonate für das Hammer-Klavier" and mentionned only Vienna, presumably because "Hammer-Klavier" was not intelligible anywhere else...Marcel Marnat, from the booklet
Ludwig Van Beethoven(1770-1827)
Piano Sonata n° 29 in B-flat major, Op. 106
1 I. Allegro 12:08
2 II. Scherzo - Assai vivace 2:31
3 III. Adagio sostenuto 16:22
4 IV. Largo - Allegro 12:19
Piano Sonata n° 31 in A-flat major, Op. 110
5 I. Moderato cantabile molto espressivo - II. Allegro molto 8:31
6 III. Adagio manon troppo - Fuga - Allegro ma non troppo 11:02
*Rudolf Serkin - p
Recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studio, New York ; December 8-10, 1969 & December 14-15, 1970 [Op. 106] ; & January 12, 1971 [Op. 110]
It's all about the finger technique in this recording by Rudolf Serkin of two of Beethoven's late piano sonatas. The opening of the Hammerklavier is a telling example of Serkin's technique. It is forceful, percussive, loud, and grand. The intense pounding is the overwhelming feature of the first two movements. It doesn't leave room for much subtlety, so Serkin's shaping and phrasing of the movements is done in broad gestures. The long Adagio is more refined in expression, allowing his tone to come out, although his touch is still somewhat percussive and there's room for more legato in his melodies. This movement also has noticeable changes in sound, due to the editing of different recording sessions. The final movement starts out similar to the Adagio, but by the end, Serkin resumes the vigor used at the Sonata's opening. Sonata n° 31 does have cantabile melodies, and the slow passages are beautiful and meaningful. The Adagio opening of its final movement is much more nuanced than anything else here, almost as if each finger-stroke is taking on its own significance. As the fugue builds from that quiet opening, Serkin builds back up to the larger gestures and stronger attack, but he takes his time and makes it a logical, triumphant journey. Serkin's head-on, technical approach to Beethoven, with less emotional or psychological exploration of the music, is singular and may not appeal to everyone.Patsy Morita
Source : http://www.allmusic.com/album/release/beethoven-sonata-no-29-hammerklavier-sonata-no-31-mr0002700539