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8.550478 - BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonatas Nos. 3-5
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Sonatas for Cello and Piano
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in the Rhineland city of Bonn in 1770, the son of Johann van Beethoven, a singer in the musical establishment of the Archbishop of Cologne, and, more significantly, grandson of his namesake, former Kapellmeister to the same prince. Trained as a musician, he followed his father and grandfather in the archiepiscopal service, and in 1787 was despatched to Vienna for lessons with Mozart. This first journey south came to nothing. Recalled to Bonn by news of his mother's illness, Beethoven remained there after her death, responsible for his younger brothers, as his father's dissolute way of life rendered him increasingly incapable.
In 1792 Beethoven was allowed to travel once again to Vienna, this time for lessons with Haydn. In the imperial capital he benefited from introductions to the discriminating leaders of society and among them found patrons of infinite patience. Lessons with Haydn were unsatisfactory, but he had no complaints about instruction from Albrechtsberger and in Italian word-setting from the old Court Composer Antonio Salieri. At the same time he established himself as a remarkable keyboard-player, his improvisations as significant as his compositions.
The onset of deafness, the first signs of which had become apparent by 1800, led Beethoven into an increasingly isolated existence, his eccentricities augmented by his situation. Remaining in Vienna, he became a dominant figure in the music of his time, exploring new possibilities in a way that was to exercise the strongest influence on his successors. He died in 1827.
Like Mozart before him, Beethoven was trained both as a keyboard-player and as a violinist, although in Vienna the second skill was neglected. For cello and piano he wrote five sonatas and three sets of variations, the first compositions in 1796 and the last in 1815, the year of the battle of Waterloo, the whole period coincident with Napoleon's rise and fall. These twenty years contain Beethoven's development as a composer, from the first piano sonatas under the influence of Haydn to the great Hammerklavier Sonata written for his royal patron, the Archduke Rudolph. The cello sonatas too reflect changes in the composer's style, the increasing fondness for counterpoint and greater freedom in contrapuntal effects, together with innovations, often startling in classical terms, in both form and texture.
Beethoven's A major Cello Sonata, Opus 69, was written in 1808 and dedicated to his intimate friend Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein, an amateur cellist, who helped the composer in business matters, arranging his pension from a group of rich patrons in 1809 and joining with him in the courtship of the sisters Anna and Therese Malfatti, the first of whom married Gleichenstein in 1811, bringing his close friendship with Beethoven to an end. On the dedication copy of the sonata Beethoven wrote the words Inter lacrymas et luctus (Amid tears and sorrows), but there is little sign of this in the music.
The first movement opens with a brief melody that employs the lowest register of the cello. The piano caps this, and roles are reversed, before the introduction of a second subject shared between the two instruments. This material is developed in a central section before the return of the first theme, played by the cello, with a running triplet piano accompaniment. The second movement is in the form of an A minor scherzo, repeated to frame an A major Trio, with its opening cello double-stopping and lower register piano accompanying figure. As in some of the piano sonatas, there is no full slow movement, but a brief E major Adagio which leads directly to a final Allegro vivace, dominated by its first subject, announced by the cello, which later introduces the contrasting second subject, although it is the first that forms the substance of the central development and the closing section of the sonata.
The last two cello sonatas of Beethoven belong in inspiration to his final creative period. Written in 1815, they were published in 1817 and finally both were dedicated to Countess Maria von Erdody, a woman whose patience Beethoven had tried sorely enough, in spite of her efforts to help him. There had been an earlier dedication to the visiting English pianist and cellist Charles Neate, a pupil of John Field, when it seemed possible there might be an English edition of the sonatas. The first of the pair, Opus 102 No.1 in C major, was first performed in 1816 by the cellist of Prince Razumovsky's quartet, Joseph Linke, and the pianist Czerny. It is in two similar parts, the second slow-fast sequence balancing the first. A tranquilly meditative opening Andante leads to an Allegro vivace, in the unexpected key of A minor. Here a fiercely rhythmic statement in octaves is shared by cello and piano, in equal partnership. An E minor second subject follows, before the brusque rhythm of the first subject re-appears to open the brief central development section and the final recapitulation. A melancholy mood informs the Adagio, which leads to a brief Andante return of the material with which the sonata had opened. This constitutes a bridge, in form and mood, to the final C major Allegro vivace, a movement suddenly interrupted in its headlong course by a hushed E flat from the cello, to which the fifth is then added, before the piano comments with the opening figure of the principal theme, a figure that lends itself, as the movement progresses, to contrapuntal treatment.
The Sonata in D major, Opus 102 No.2, also written in August, 1815, opens in full vigour, with a rhythmic figure for the piano and later entrusted to the cello, before its re-appearance as a useful element in the central development. The second movement is a D minor Adagio, its third and final section an elaborated version of the first, framing a serene D major central section. The last movement is introduced hesitantly, a device that Beethoven uses elsewhere. The cello then introduces a fugal subject, answered by the left hand of the pianist, followed by the third voice at a higher register of the keyboard. As in the other sonatas, the sound of the cello is never obscured by the piano texture, which is here characteristic of the final period of the composer's music, exploring the extreme register of the newly developing instrument. The music again has elements of the unexpected, interrupted by the appearance of a brief second subject, accorded its own contrapuntal treatment.
Jeno Jandó, piano and celesta
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