BEETHOVEN Ludwig Van, Cello Sonata Op.102 No.1

Beethoven’s two cello sonatas Op.102 (in C major and D major) were composed in 1815 and dedicated to Beethoven’s friend, Countess Anna Maria Erdödy. They were published in Vienna (by Artaria) and Bonn (by Simrock) in 1817. The first of the two sonatas is one of Beethoven’s most unusual structures, consisting of two fast movements, each of them preceded by an extended slow introduction.  


The first movement opens gently, with a lyrical melody in the upper register of the cello, to which the piano responds with an answering phrase, establishing the instrumental dialogue that is so often a feature of this sonata. After subsiding on to a C, the lowest note of the cello, there is an abrupt change of mood and tempo with the arrival of a stern idea in A minor, marked by dotted rhythms. The movement remains in A minor for most of the movement, ending tersely. The second movement begins with an elaborate slow introduction which gives way to a radiant recollection of the first movement – an unusual procedure that Beethoven was to use again in the finale of his Ninth Symphony. The main theme of the Allegro begins strangely, with a four-note rising fragment and a held note, but this idea quickly develops dramatic momentum, interrupted on several occasions by passages where the cello plays sustained notes and the piano is silent. The movement ends by appearing to fizzle out (using the four-note idea), before a triumphant closing flourish. 


© Nigel Simeone


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