BEETHOVEN'S PIANO SONATAS
N0. 13 AND N0. 14, OP. 27
CREATION HISTORY






View of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna

 

Here, we encounter two Piano Sonatas, of which the second might have been exposed to more harm than good by its being overly romanticized during the 19th century.    Therefore, it would be beneficial if we could stick to facts with respect to it rather than becoming swept up by this romanticizing, as well.   

Unfortunately, not much information has been handed down to us that would allow us to arrive at a precise time frame for the composition of these two sonatas.  

On the one hand, Thayer (p. 267) mentions that Beethoven must surely have begun with his work on his 13th Piano Sonata, Op. 27, No. 1, in the year 1800.  

Later in his biography, however, he points out that "sketches of the first show that they originated in 1801" (p. 296).

As Thayer states, both sonatas were described by Beethoven as "quasi fantasia" and offered a distinct contrast to the classical sonata structure.   

Ultimately, Thayer (p. 298) lists the thirteenth Piano Sonata, Op. 27/1 as having been composed from 1800-1801, and the fourteenth Piano Sonata, Op. 27/2, as having been composed in 1801.  

In order to refrain from establishing any inappropriate connections between these works and the recipients of their dedications, we should first look to Thayer for information on this issue:  

   



Giulietta Guicciardi



Princess Liechtenstein

 

"Of the two Pianoforte Sonatas, Op. 27, the first (in E-flat) was dedicated to the Princess Johanna von Liechtenstein, nee the Landgravine Fürstenberg, the second (in C-sharp minor), to Countess Guilietta Guicciardi" (Thayer: 296).

"Beethoven had given the Countess [Guicciardi] the Rondo in G [Op. 51, N. 2] but begged its return when he had to dedicate something to the Countess Lichnowsky, and then dedicated the Sonata [Op. 27, No. 2] to her" (Thayer: 291).

From the above we can conclude for ourselves that, when Beethoven composed Op. 27/2, he was not thinking of  Giulietta Guicciardi, but also Thayer makes this clear:

"The notes of Jahn's conversations with the Countess in 1852 make it clear that Beethoven did not have her in mind at the time of composition." (S. 297).

 

If we look at the above copies of the printed dedications of both works, it will become clear to us that, as Thayer (p. 291) reports, "they appeared separately at first").  However, Thayer (p. 323) lists both works as having been published by Cappi in Vienna, in the year 1802. 

As is known of 19th century Beethoven biographical research, Anton Schindler assumed that Giulietta Guicciardi was his Immortal Beloved, and his over-emphasizing of the relationship between composer and piano pupil might also be a contributing factor that the importance of the 14th Piano Sonata has been somewhat over-emphasized.   As Thayer relates, Carl Czerny, in his discussion with Otto Jahn, also touched the issue of Beethoven's opinion of this sonata, which is related as follows:   

"Everybody is always talking about the C-sharp minor Sonata!  Surely I have written better things.  There is the Sonata in F-sharp minor--that is something very different" (Thayer: 297).

As Thayer further reports, a few years after the composition of Op. 27/2, Beethoven's friend, Dr. G.C. Grosheim from Kassel, tried to motivate him to arrange the first, slow, movement for piano and voice, to J.G. Seume's poem,  "Die Beterin" (the praying woman), after he had looked for suitable material by Haydn and Mozart, in vain.   




Johann Gottfried Seume


Beethoven is reported as having agreed to this, probably out of his respect for Seume's work, and according to Georg Heinrichs, on whom Thayer relies, Beethoven was supposed to have sent him a likewise reply at the end of 1816 or at the beginning of 1817.  However, in spite of Grosheim's further enquiry, nothing came of the project (Thayer, p. 297).   

With respect to this, we can now feature Grosheim's  1819 letter to Beethoven:

                                                                         "[Kassel, 10. November 1819]

Herr Kapelmeister!

   Eine Zueignung ist das Ernenntniß eines schuldigen Dankes.  Indem ich Ihnen also ein Werk meiner Muse zueigne, [2] will ich damit, vor dem Publiko, meine Achtung und dan damit verknüpften Dank für die mannigfache Wonne aussprechen, welche mir Ihre Arbeiten zubereitet haben.

  Ueber alles lob erhaben, wie Sie Herr Kapellm[ei]st[e]r würde es sich nicht entschuldigen laßen wollt' ich ins Detail gehen, und sie aufzählen die frohen Lebensstunden welche Ihre Muse mir bereitete -- Nehmen Sie indeßen meinen schwachen Dank mit Nachsicht auf: dringend bitt' ich darum. --

   Ihr Brief, welchen ich zu seiner Zeit erhielt, sagte mir, nebst vielem Guten, auch leider! das Traurige, daß Sie nicht so wohl auf wären wie es die Freunde der Tonkunst wünschen. (3) Ich hoffe daß die Uebel, über welche Sie damals klagten, gehoben sind.

   Sie schreiben mir daß Sie an Seumes Grabe sich unter die Zahl seiner Verehrer gestellt haben. (4)  Er verdiente Ihre Achtung.  Es war ein großer Mensch.  Es war ein glücklicher Mensch.  Er durfte sein vitam impendere vero (5) laut aussprechen und -- ward geliebt:  Rousseau wurde über sein Motto - gesteinigt.

   Es ist mir immer noch ein nicht zu unterdrückender Wunsch, es möge Ihnen, Herr Kapellmeister! gefallen Ihre Vermählung mit Seume (ich mein die fantasie in Cis moll und die Beterinn) der Welt mitzutheilen. (6)  

   Unsere beiden Brüder (7) rufen den Toten oft zurück: -- wie würde es uns insgesamt freuen, die Beterinn mit Ihre[r] Musik, und den unvergeßlichen Handschlag den sich Beethoven u Seume, im Geiste gaben -- zu erhalten!

   Ich empfehle mich Ihrer Freundschaft und Liebe --, und bitte Sie die Versicherung meiner tiefen Hochachtung anzunehmen.

                                                                           G.C. Grosheim

                                                                            Doctor der Philosophie

Cassel den 10/11 19

ps

   Der Kurheßische Gesandtschafts Secretair Weissenborn welcher dies überbringt, würde im Falle ich mich einer Antwort von Ihnen erfreuen sollte dieselbe gern besorgen, und Sie dürften selbige nur an ihn schicken der sich beym Kurheßischen Gesandten Baron von Münchhausen (8) aufhält" 

                                                                      [Kassel, 10. November 1819]

Herr Kapelmeister!

   A dedication is the realization of gratitude owed.  By thus dedicating a work of my muse to you, [2] I want, with it, before the public, to express my respect and the gratitude that is connected with the manifold pleasures that your works have given me.  

  Beyond all praise as you, Herr Kapellmeister, it would not be excusalbe if I were to go into detail and recount those happy hours of my life that your muse brought me -- Accept, instead, my weak thanks, with indulgence:  I ask you fervently for this. --

   Your letter, which I received some time ago, told me, in addition to many good thins, unfortunately! also of the sad fact that you are not as well as music friends would wish. [3]  I hope that the evils that you complained about at that time have vanished.

   You wrote to me that you had joined the ranks of Seume's admirers at his grave site.  [4]  He deserved your respect.  He was a great man.  He was a fortunate man.  He was allowed to express his vitam impendere vero [5] loudly -- and he was loved:  Rousseau was -- stoned -- because of his motto.  

   It is still my unextinguishable wish that it may please you, Herr Kapellmeister! to announce to the world [6] your marriage to Seume (I mean the c-sharp minor fantasy and the 'Beterin'). 

   Both of our brothers [7] often call the dead back: -- how would it please us, overall, to receive the Beterin with your music and the unforgettable handshake that Beethoven and Seume exchanged in their thoughts! 

   I recommend myself to you in friendship and love --, and ask you to accept my assurance of my deep respect.  

                                                                           G.C. Grosheim

                                                                            Doctor of Philosophy

Cassel the 10/11 19

ps

   The Electoral Hessian Delegation's Secretary, Weissenborn, who is handing this over, would, in the event that I should be graced with your reply, take it on to bring it back to my, and you would only have to send the same to him who is staying with the Electoral Hessian Delegate,  Baron von Münchhausen (8)).

(Quoted and translated from:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 1, Letter No. 1352, p. 338 - 339; to (2): refers to 10 songs with texts by Ernst Friederich von der Malsburg; to [3]: refers to a possible letter by Beethoven that has not been preserved; to [4]: refers to the writer Johann Gottfried Seume, born 1763, who died on June 13, 1810, at Teplitz, and possibly, Seume's friends Elisa von der Recke and Christoph August Tiedge invited Beethoven to visit his grave during his summer 1811 stay at Teplitz; to [5]: refers to: 'Juvenal, Satire 4, 91, Rosseau's motto; to [6]: refers to Beethoven's obviously delaying his reply until 1823, when he, in his letter to Spohr of July 27, 1823 (Letter No. 1716) announced his long overdue reply to Grosheim, yet the plan of this arrangement never materialized; to [7]: refers to Heinrich's view that the reference to "Brüder" or brothers might be an indication that both Grosheim and Beethoven were members of masonic lodges, but no such proof has ever been found; to [8]: refers to Carl Edmund Friedrich Freiherr von Münchhausen, Extra-Ordinary Delegate and Minister of the Electoral Hessian Delegation at the Viennese Court; details taken from p. 339).

 

As Joachim Kaiser reports, 

"In dem Gedicht des (übrigens originell kritisch-aufklärerischen, antifeudalen, seinerzeit berühmten, heute leider schmählich vergessenen) Autors J.G. Seume bittet eine Betende um Gnade für ihren todkranken Vater" (Kaiser: 257; --

-- Kaiser writes that in the poem "Die Beterin" of the original, critical, anti-feudal Seume who was a friend of enlightenment and famous in his time, yet forgotten today, a praying woman asks for mercy for her fatally ill father).

Beethoven literature and research traces the origin of the nick name "Moonlight Sonata" back to the Berlin writer and journalist  Heinrich Friedrich Rellstab (1799 - 1860).  With respect to this, we feature two comments, of which the first one is from the excellent Dutch online Beethoven biography by Joyce Maier:  

"Rellstab, Heinrich Friedrich, 1799- 1860.  Dichter, schrijver, journalist, muziekcriticus, ontmoette Beethoven in 1825 en heeft menig woord over hem geschreven. Hij verzon de bijnaam voor de sonate opus 27 #2: Mondscheinsonate" (Quoted from: Joyce Maier's Beethoven Biography, cited on: 11. August 2002).

In order that, as a bilingual writer in the German and English langauges, I refrain from misintepreting the Dutch quote, I can only relate my lay impression that in it, Rellstab is referred to as the inventor of this nick name.   

Therefore, I am glad that my 'hunch' can be confirmed by William Kinderman's comment, as follows:  

" . . .  the title 'Moonlight', invented by the poet and critic Ludwig Rellstab, is quite inappropriate .  .  . " (Kinderman: 73).   

With these details, our creation history of these two piano sonatas comes to its conclusion.  While Op. 27/1 appears to lead a shadow existence in it, the following discussion of its musical content aims at remedying this to some extent.