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The unfinished Sonata in C, D. 840, nicknamed 'Reliquie', is one of the outstanding works of the composer's middle tears. Started in April 1925, the first two movements are complete, and the suggestion has been made that these two movements should be performed as a kind of 'Unfinished' Sonata, just as the first two movements of the 'Unfinished' symphony are performed.
The epic greatness of the first movement lies in the strenght and magnificient use of the material Schubert devised. The vast scale on which the composer works, the long preparations for his tonal experiments and the astonishingly original harmonic gestures give this work a sculptural quality. The C major Sonata's first movement is notable for its rhythmic unity: the second subject, setting off in the very remote key of B minor, echoes the rhythm of the sonata's beginning, and its gently syncopated accompaniment had been foreshadowed in the forceful restatement of the opening theme.
The development section seizes on the syncopated rhythm, building it up with tremendous force; but although the grandeur of its sonority is matched in the movement's coda, the last word is left to the gentle chordal idea from the work's opening bars, now seemingly stretched out into infinity. Much of the slow movement's haunting pathos arises out of a single small change of harmony in its theme, from minor to major. The slow movement, is more relaxed and melodious, but here also there is the same bigness of conception as in the first movement. He took what was for him the unusual step of writing the slow movement in the home tonality (C minor, rather than major), as though to round the torso off. It could be argued that he abandoned the work on D. 840 in favour of the A minor sonata, D. 845, which was issued the following year as his Premiere grande Sonate, with a dedication to Beethoven's staunchest patron, Archduke Rudolph of Austria.
Certainly, the two works seem to have risen out of the same impulse: both begin with a subdued phrase in bare octaves, answered by a smooth chordal idea. Behind the A minor sonata's finale lurks the shadow of Mozart's great Sonata in the same key, K310. Like Mozart's, Schubert's finale has a subdued theme unfolding in a constant flow of quavers; and it, too, features a central episode in the major that is at once more radiant and more poignant than the music that surrounds it. The Sonata in C, D. 840 was published in 1862 under the title of 'Reliquie', with the claim that it was the composer's last sonata. In fact, it had been wrrtten in the spring of 1825, around the same time as the A minor Sonata, D. 845.
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