N0. 9 AND 10, OP. 14

View of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna


After our very engaged enquiry into Beethoven's most popular Piano Sonata, Op. 13, the Pathetique, it might, perhaps, be a challenge for us to carry on in the same style.  In this introduction, we might be well advised not to "come on as strong" with respect to our possible discoveres in connection with the two sonatas to be discussed here.  Rather, we should move on to working on establishin a time frame for their creation.  



In connection with details on the history of the creation of these sonatas, we can note that the traditional standard biography, Thayer's Life of Beethoven in the Forbes edition of 1964,  has, by now, been very meaningfully complemented by Barry Cooper's Beethoven biography that has been published in 2000.  Due to this, both works can serve us as sources for our task of arriving at a time frame to the creation of Beethoven's works, and therefore also for these two sonatas.   Perhaps, we can present details from Thayer and Cooper in table form so that we can also visually focus in on them.    

Thayer's Details

Cooper's Details

Thayer  (p. 214) writes that the precise time of the composition of these works can not be determined.

While there are extensive sketches for the 9th Sonata, Op. 14/1 (published by Nottebohm in his Zweite Beethoveniana), of which some appear before those for Op. 12, No. 3, which, at that time, was close to completion, and some after the sketches to the B-Major Piano Concerto, Op. 19, there are apparently no sketches for the 10th Piano Sonata, Op. 14/2 (Thayer: 214).  

The placing of the sketches to Op. 14/1 before those of Op. 12/3 and after those of Op. 19 caused Nottebohm to assume 1795 as the year of the composition of this sonata, and Thayer reports about this in this maanner (p. 214 und 215).

Thayer further reports that Beethoven published both sonatas immediately after the Sonate pathetique, namely through Mollo in Vienna, and that they were announced on December 21, 1799 (p. 214).


In his discussion of the creation of  Sonate pathetique, Cooper reports that for Op. 14/2, in the year 1798, there are no substantial sketches, while those of Op. 14/2 are fully represented (p. 82).



He further points out that the extensive sketches to Op. 14/1 do not, as had been assumed earlier, originate in the year 1795, but rather in the first half of 1798 (p. 86).




The Burgtheater in Vienna, in Beethoven's Time

With respect to the dedication of the sonatas, Barry Cooper has a great deal to report.  To begin with, he points out that in the winter of 1799 - 1800, Beethoven very likely completed his First Symphony for his benefit concert in the spring of 1800 and that it had not been easy for him to obtain a venue for this event in Vienna.  The Burgtheater or the Kärntertortheater were best suited for such events that could only take place during Holy Week since, at all other times, these theaters were taken up by opera productions.  As Cooper further reports, reservations for both theaters were under the management of Baron Peter von Braun.  Therefore, it might have been to Beethoven's advantage that shortly before, he had dedicated his Piano Sonatas, Op. 14, to Baron von Braun's wife, Josephine von Braun, and that this dedication might have contributed to his obtaining a reservation for April 2, 1800, for his benefit concert (Cooper: 88 and 90). 



Before we turn to the musical content of these sonatas, we can provide you with the text of Beethoven's letter of July 13, 1802, to the Leipzig publisher  Breitkopf and Härtel:

" [ . . . ] 

in Ansehung der arrangirten Sachen bin ich  herzlich froh, daß Sie dieselben von sich gewiesen (1); die  u n n a t ü r l i c h e Wuth, die man hat, sogar K l a v i e r  s a c h e n  auf Geigeninstrumente überpflanzen zu wollen, Instrumente, die so einander in allem entgegengesetzt sind, möchte wohl aufhören können; ich behaupte fest, nur  M o z a r t  könne sich selbst vom Klavier auf andere Instrumente übersetzen, sowie  H a y d n  auch -- und ohne mich an beide große Männer anschließen zu wollen, behaupte ich es von m e i n e n K l a v i e r s o n a t e n  a u c h, da nicht allein ganze Stellen gänzlich webgleiben und umgeändert werden müssen, so muß man -- noch hinzuthun, und hier steckt der mißliche Stein des Anstoßes, den um zu  ü b e r w i n d e n   man entweder selbst der  M e i s t e r   s e i n   muß, oder wenigstens dieselbe  G e w a n d t h e i t   und   E r f i n d u n g   haben muß -- ich habe eine einzige Sonate von mir in ein Quartett für G.[eigen] I.[nstrument] verwandelt (2), warum man mich so sehr bat, und ich weiß gewiß, das macht mir so leicht nicht ein anderer nach -- " 

-- "with regard to arranged pieces I am sincerely glad that you have refused them (1), the unnatural urge that one has to even transplant  p i a n o  p i e c e s onto violins, instruments, that are so different from each other, might well discontinue, I firmly state, only M o z a r t  could translate himself from the piano to other instruments, as well as H a y d n -- and without wanting to add myself to these great men, I also state this of m y  p i a n o  s o n a t a s, since not alone entire passages have to be removed and changes, one also still has to -- add, and therein lies the bone of contention that, in order to  o v e r c o m e it, one either has to be the  m a s t e r,  h i m s e l f  or, at least, have the same s k i l l  and  i n v e n t i v e n e s s -- I have only transposed a single sonata of mine into a quartet for v[iolin] i[instrument(s)] (2), for which one asked me so ardently, and I know for certain that no other [musician] will be able to accomplish this, that easily);

Source:  (Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 1, p. 116, letter no. 97; translation from the text of this edition);

(Original: not known, text after Thayer II, p. 183. to (1): this refers to Karl van Beethoven's offer of June 6, 1802 (letter 90), that the publisher had refused; to (2): refers to Op. 14/1, and the arrangement for string quartet (in F Major) was published in May 1802 by the Kunst-und Industrie-Comptoir in Vienna; details taken from p. 116).


Thayer (p. 301) points out that this arrangement of a Piano Sonata is that of the Sonata in E Major, Op. 14, no. 1 and refers to W. Altmann,  "Ein vergessenes Streichquartett Beethovens" as his source.  Will we encounter this arrangement in our upcoming look at its musical content? 

This question may serve as our indication that it is now time for us to move on to this topic, on our next page of this section.