Saturday, May 25, 2013

Beethoven - Cello Sonata No. 3 In A Major

Beethoven followed in the footsteps of Mozart and Haydn, the two giants of late 18th century music and composed in most of the forms they used. As with many creative artists, he used forms and conventions as blueprints for his own ideas and transformed  the traditional forms of expression into something very personal. So it is that having a set of guidelines and rules doesn't stifle creativity for those who have the spark of creative genius within them, but can actually enhance their artistry.

Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein
Beethoven was the first major composer to write sonatas for solo cello and piano,  and his 5 sonatas for cello are important additions to the literature. The third cello sonata in A major was written in 1808, a period of intense compositional activity that saw the creation of many of Beethoven's most well-known pieces such as the 5th Symphony and the Violin Concerto.  It was dedicated to Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein, an amateur cellist, close friend of Beethoven, and one of a group of music lovers that paid Beethoven an annual fee to entice him to stay in Vienna.  Beethoven probably dedicated this sonata to him out of gratitude.

The sonata is in three movements:
I. Allegro ma non tanto - The sonata opens with the primary theme stated by the cello alone. The cello holds the final note of the theme as the piano restates it. Beethoven expands the usual number of themes heard in a movement written in sonata form by the addition of two contrasting secondary themes. In the development section, the primary theme is varied and contrasted with the other themes and the mood changes abruptly and often. The recapitulation begins with the original theme played by the cello but unlike the opening it is accompanied by the piano. There is a short coda, and the movement ends forte.

II. Scherzo : Allegro molto - This is the only scherzo found in the cello sonatas, and the theme begins on the upbeat. The syncopated theme continues throughout the scherzo, including the trio section.
Beethoven repeats the trio of this scherzo when the usual form calls for playing it only once. He did this in other scherzos of this period as well.  
III. Adagio cantabile, Allegro vivace - This sonata has no separate slow movement save for the short Adagio cantabile that opens the finale. It acts as a contrast to the previously heard nervous scherzo and the joyous final movement. It is in sonata form with a jaunty first theme and a more lyrical second theme. The development section gives the players the opportunity of lending their virtuosity to musical expression that covers the ranges of both instruments. The themes progress to the end, and after many excursions afield, the work ends solidly in A major.

1 comment:

  1. I really love your blog. I'm learn so much about classical music, thanks.

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