Beethoven worked on the Appassionata at a time when French soldiers occupied Vienna. One of Ludwig's patrons - Prince Lichnowsky - befriended some of those soldiers.
Resenting requests to perform for such people, in general, Beethoven exploded one night when Lichnowsky asked for a similar favor. Beethoven stormed out of the house, his Appassionata manuscript in hand.
Rain streaks still mark the original Appassionata score.
One day, during the summer of 1804, Beethoven was walking with one of his piano students, Ferdinand Ries. At the time, Beethoven was writing his famous sonata. Ries later recalled an episode in the life of the sonata's creation:
We went so far astray that we did not get back to Döbling until nearly 8 o'clock. He had been humming, and more often howling, always up and down, without singing any definite notes. When questioned as to what it was he answered, 'A theme for the last movement of the sonata [Op. 57] has occurred to me.' When we entered the room he ran to the pianoforte without taking off his hat. I sat down in the corner and he soon forgot all about me. He stormed for at least an hour with the beautiful finale of the sonata. Finally he got up, was surprised that I was still there and said, 'I cannot give you a lesson today, I must do some work'.
Artur Pizarro (at the BBC) provides more background about Opus 57 (the Appassionata):
The subtitle for the Sonata was the publisher's addition, but Beethoven did not for once see cause to object. It is certainly his most impassioned work and his most violent musical utterance. Although it is unlikely that a specific event inspired it, he had recently quarrelled with one of his closest friends, Stephan von Breuning, so on a local scale the sonata might be seen as Beethoven venting his anger. But the work goes further than that. It is a defiant challenge to the world, or, as the composer Hubert Parry said, "Here the human soul asked mighty questions of its God and had its reply."
Online, courtesy BBC Worldwide Channel at YouTube.
Key Cast Members:
Ludwig van Beethoven
Countess Giulietta Guicciardi
Stephan von Breuning
Johanna van Beethoven
Himself - Presenter