Dystopia and Utopia in Beethoven: From the "Appassionata" to the Final Sonata in C minor, Opus 111

William Kinderman, University of California Los Angeles

How to base an artwork on reality without creating a "Glass Bead Game"? An engagement with utopian/dystopian symbols is evident in Beethoven's music, whose political character often reflects the influence of Schiller. Vladimir Lenin admired the Appassionata Sonata op. 57 as "marvelous superhuman music" while distrusting its impact; Otto von Bismarck reportedly said that if he "listened often" to the piece "he would always be very brave." The tragic or dystopian world of the Appassionata owes much to correspondences with Beethoven's highly political opera, Fidelio. This lecture recital concludes by commentary and performance of another Beethovenian work that begins in a tragic mode but unlike the Appassionata, embodies a path of self-determination leading to a utopian outcome: the final Sonata in C minor, op. 111.