Beethoven around 1815


In connection with the 27th Piano Sonata, Op. 90, we already discussed the following comment by Thayer:  

"Linke's concert took place on the 18th of February [1816] in the hall of "Zum Römischen Kaiser," the programme, except a Rondoletto for the Violoncello by Romberg, being also entirely Beethoven, Stainer von Felsburg played "a new Pianoforte Sonata," (14 Lpz. AMZ op.cit.: "A new pianoforte sonata by this master, heard here for the first time, surprises all of his numerous admirers.  Which sonata was played is unclear; Schindler (Biogr., 1, pp. 240-41) identifies it specifically as Op. 101, but the date on the autograph of this sonata is November, 1816.  In his correspondence Beethoven mentioned it for the first time in a letter to Härtel dated July 19, 1816 (A 542).  Frimmel (FRBH, n, pp. 232-43) believes that the sonata played was Op. 90 (Cf. TDR, III, 480 and 586)" (Thayer: 641).

What is of particular interest to us here is, of course, not Op. 90, but Beethoven's 28th Piano Sonata, Op. 101.  In connection with Schindler's assumption that at the piano sonata performance of February 18, 1816, the work performed must have been Op. 16, Thayer provides us with the comment that this is not very likely, since Beethoven had mentioned this work for the first time to the publisher Breitkopf and Härtel on July 19 of this year.   (We shall return to Beethoven's letter of that date in chronological order). 

However, before we focus on the chronological presentation of the history of the creation of this work, we should also try to paint for ourselves a picture of Beethoven's general life circumstances during this time.  



While in this respect, we can also refer you to the relevant section of our Biographical Pages, we can also provide you with a brief overview of the time leading up to his composition of this sonata, and Beethoven's general life circumstances in it: 

- October 1815 saw the departure of Countess Erdödy from Vienna, while on November 15, Beethoven's brother Caspar Carl died from tuberculosis;  

- We also know that this death plunged Beethoven into the difficulties of his responsibilities as guardian of his nephew Carl; 

- On January 10, 1816, Beethoven swore his oath as Carl's guardian before the Landgericht; 

- Approximately at the time of the Linke concert in Vienna, in February 1816, Beethoven enrolled his nephew in Giannatasio's boarding school; 

- During all of this time, Beethoven also worked on his song cycle, To the Distant Beloved, which he completed in April of 1816. 

However, those who want to find out more about Beethoven's life circumstances during the time of the creation of Op. 101, can also read the section Trials and Tribulations of our Biographical Pages.  

Our introductory remarks brought us up to May, 1816.  With respect to the creation of Beethoven's 28th Piano Sonata, Barry Cooper (p. 250-251) reports that on May 2, 1816, Beethoven sent of two further batches of folk song arrangements to Scotland and then turned to two new works, namely an F-Major piano trio and a piano sonata in A-Major, and that extensive sketches to both works can be found in the so-called Scheide sketchbook.  

With respect to sketches to this sonata, Thayer (p. 655) points out the possibility that early sketches to it might already have been made in the years prior to 1816 and that the actual composition of the work took palce in the summer of 1816.  Unfortunately, so Thayer, there are no sketches preserved for the first movement, but for the second movement, one can find sketches in a sketchbook that previously belonged to Eugen von Miller in Vienna and, at the time of Thayer-Forbes' edition of 1964, had become part of the Koch collection.  Thayer also refers to sketches for the last movement that can ben found in a sketchbook that, at the time of the Thayer-Forbes' edition of 1964, was in the possession of a Berlin library.   

Cooper points out that Beethoven's work on this sonata was interrupted by a commission of a military march (WoO24) and a further Thomson commission for folk song arrangements. 

As Cooper further reports, Beethoven's care for his nephew also had a delaying effect on his work, since on September 18, 1816, the boy had to undergo a hernia operation, and Beethoven also planned to make the boy a member of his own household and have him tutored by a private teacher.  

In about mid-October, 1816, Beethoven became ill and had to stay in bed for a week.  Cooper points out that also after that, he did not leave his house, yet.  

Only in November 1816 had Beethoven's health improved to a degree that allowed him to work on the completion of the sonata that he had begun in May of this year.  Accordingly, the original manuscript of Op. 101 bears as date 'November 1816'.  

Thayer (p. 659) also lists the work as having been completed in 1816. 




Baroness Ertmann

As Barry Cooper reports, after May 2, 1816, Beethoven began with the composition of his 28th Piano Sonata, Op. 101, while Thayer points out that he mentioned it for the first time in his letter of July 19, 1816, to the Leipzig publisher Breitkopf and Härtel.  Let us take a look at the relevant section of this letter, ourselves:


"Aufschneiderei ist meinem Karakter fremd sey es also, daß ich ihnen folgendes antrage:  eine neue Klawier SoloSonata, [3] . . . "

"Boasting is alien to my character, be it thus that I offer you the following:  a new piano solosonata, [3] . . . "

[Quoted and translated from: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 3, Letter No. 950, p. 274 - 275]

[Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [3]: refers to the then unfinished piano sonata, Op. 101, detail taken from p. 275).


Should we conclude from that that he sent this work for publication to Leipzig?  If we read one of Beethoven's letters of this time (from August/September of this year) to his Viennese publisher, Steiner, we are actually more on the right track: 


                                            "[Baden, August/September 1816][1]

   hier übersende ein kleines Feldstück welches sogleich ins Zeughauß abzuführen. -- (als Geschenk[2]  Was den Hr. diabolum anbelangt, so ist dieser wegen seiner übrigen Geschicklichkeit beyzubehalten, Was irgendwo anders seyn soll, kann wie das vorige mal mit der sinfonie in F geschehen[3] -- was eine neue solo Sonate für piano [4] Betrift, so haben sich mir 60 wohlgeharnischste Männer [5] zu presentiren, u. dieselbe kann sogleich erscheinen, ich habe auch Variationen in Vien, welche auf einen besondern Festag paßen, [6] u. eben sogleich auch da seyn könnten bey Erscheinung nur 40 wohl geharnischter Männer. -- denn was die Staatsschuld von 1300 fl. betrifft, so kann selbe noch nicht in Betrachtung gezogen werden, ohnehin würden sich die 1300 fl. [7] betrift, so kann selbe noch nicht in Betrachtung gezogen werden, ohnehin würden sich die 1300 fl. am besten in folgender Gestalt 0000 ausnehmen. -- ich bin erstaunlich hochachtungsvoll gegen das g--l l--t Amt.


                                           ["[Baden, August/September 1816[1]

   hier I send a little field piece which is to be led into the armory immediately. -- [as a present[2]  As far as Hr. diabolum is concerned, he should be retained on account of his other skills, Whatever should be different anywhere, can happen as the last time with the symphony in F [3] -- as far as a new solo sonata for piano [4] is concerned, 60 well-armored men [5] have to present themselves to me, and the same can appear immediately, ich also have variations in Vienna that are suitable for a special holiday, [6] and which could also be there, right away, upon the appearance of 40 well-armored men. -- for, as far as the state debt of 130 fl. is concerned, it can not yet be considered, in any event, the 1300 fl. [7] would best look this way 0000. -- I am, amazingly respectfully towards the g - l l --t's office,


[Quoted and translated from:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 3, Letter no. 964, p. 287]

[Original:  Berlin, Staatsbibliothek; to [1]: refers to the loan Beethoven had taken out on May 4, 1816; to [2]:  refers to a smaller composition by Beethoven, perhaps Op. 99; to [3]: probably refers to Diabelli's work with Steiner as an editor of scores for publication; to [4]: refers to Op. 101; to [5]: refers to Dutch Dukats; to [6]: refers to unfinished piano variations on the theme of the Easter Chorale, "Christ ist erstanden"; to [7]: refers to Beethoven's receipt of May 4, 1816; details taken from p. 287].


Thayer (p. 655), relying on Kinsky-Halm, points out that " . . . The new sonata was Op. 101, the first of the great set of late pianoforte sonatas for which, as we shall see, Beethoven was to ponder as to the best word for hammer-action when printing the title.  . . ".

According to Thayer (p. 667), Beethoven discussed this work in several letters to Steiner who  published it in February 1817, with a dedication to Baroness  Dorothea von Ertmann.   Thayer further reports that Beethoven, in his usual impatience, followed the new motto of the time that German composers should replace Italian tempo indications with German ones, which led to the fact that the title page of this sonata had to be re-printed.  Let us feature the relevant sections of the relevant letters, here:


To Tobias Haslinger: 

                                        "[Wien, kurz vor dem 5. Januar 1817[1]

 Wohlgeborner H[err[ adjuvans

   . . . 

   den Brief von hebenstreit über die Verdeutschung des piano forte bitte ich nicht zu zeigen, sondern mir ihn zurückzuchicken,[5] ich bin schon gewohnt, da ich weder ein geleerter noch ungelehrter bin, mich seines Rathes zu bedienen - . . . "

                                         "[Vienna, shortly before Jan. 5, 1817[1]

Well-born H[err] adjuvans

  . . .

  the letter of hebenstreit on the Germanization of the piano forte I ask you not to show but to return to me,[5] since I am neither a hollow nor an uneducated man, I am used to making use of his advice - . . . "

[Quoted and translated from:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 4, Letter no. 1056, p. 3-4]

[Original: Milwaukee, Public Library, Dr. and Mrs. L.F. Frank Collection; to [1]: the letter was written during the period of the printing of Beethoven's Piano Sonata no. 28, Op. 101, in the winter of 1816/17; to [5]: letter is not known, is referred to in connection with the title to Op. 101; details taken from p. 3-4; translator's note: in 'Geleerter' and 'Ungelehrter', Beethoven was using a pun on the word 'Gelehrter' (academic, scientist].

 To Sigmund Anton Steiner:

               "[Wien, am oder kurz nach dem 9. Januar 1817][1]

Bester Hr. G---ll---t!

   Das Poenale ist hiermit geschloßen, u. zwar zu unsrer Zufriedenheit,[2] welches unserm lieben getreuen g---ll---t zur angenehmen wissenschaft dient. -- wegen dem Titel der neuen sonate[3] brauchts gar nichts anders als den Titel, welche die Sinfonie in A in der Viener M.[usikalischen] Z.[eitung] erhalten, überzutragen, >>Eine die Schwer zu Exeguirende Sonate in A" mein bester g---ll---t wird zwar stuzen u. Meynen, schwer sey ein Relatiwer Begriff, was dem einen schwer sey dem andern leicht, mithin sey gar nichts gesagt, allein der g---n l---t muß wißen, daß mit dem alles gesagt ist, denn was schwer ist, ist auch schön, gut, groß etc, jeder Mensch sieht also ein, daß dies das fetteste Lob ist, was man <sagen>geben kann, denn das schwere macht schwizen . . . "

               ["[Vienna, on or shortly after Jan. 9, 1817[1]

Best Hr. G--ll--t!

   The Poenale is herewith closed, and that to our satisfaction,[2] which serves our dear, faithful g--ll--t to his pleasant knowledge.--with respect to the title of the new sonata[3] nothing else but the title that the symphony in A has received in the Wiener M.[usikalische] Z.[eitung] is needed, >>A Sonata in A that is difficult to execute" my best g---ll---t will be startled, I know, and think that difficult is a relative term, for what is difficult to one may be easy to another, therefore, noting shall be said, alone the g---n l --- t must know that with that, all is said, since what is difficult is also beautiful, good, great, etc, every man thus realizes that this is the fattest praise that one can give, for the difficult makes one sweat . . . "

[Quoted and translated from: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 4, Letter no. 1061, p. 8 - 9]

[Original:  Philadelphia, Historical Society of Pennsylvania; to [1]: refers to a report in the Wiener AMZ 1, no. 2 of Jan. 9, 1817; to [2]: refers to the "Poenale" mentioned in letter no. 1060;  to [3]: refers to Op. 101; details taken from p. 8-9].    

To Sigmund Anton Steiner

                                          "[Wien, nach dem 9. Januar 1817[1]

Bester g---ll---t!

. . . 

   ich bin Dero etc etc etc wünsche die Bergwerke des g---ll---t im Besten Flor.


                                                               L.v.Bthwn m.p.

wie siehts aus wegen der Correcturen der Sonate u. übrigen Zwiebeln[6]

                                       ["[Vienna, after Jan. 9, 1817[1]

Best g---ll---t!

. . .

  I am His etc etc etc wish that the mines of the g---ll---t are flourishing most favorably.

                        [Note sample]

                                                               L.v.Btwn m.p.

how are the Corrections of the Sonata and the rest of the onions doing[6]"

[Quoted and translated from:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 4, Letter no. 1064, p. 10-11]

[Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [1]: refers to the fact that this letter would have been written after letter no. 1063; to [6]: refers to the corrections of the original edition of Op. 101 and very likely to corrections before the final printing of Op. 93].

To Tobias Haslinger

             "[Wien, nach dem 9. und vor dem 23. Januar 1817][1]

Der Zufall macht, daß ich auf folgende Dedication gerathen


                      Für das piano-forte

                 oder --- --- Hämmer-Klawier

                                 Verfaßt u.

                Der Frau Baronin Dorothea Ertmann

                             gebohrne Graumann


                              von L. v. Beethowen"

bey der neuen Sonate[2]; sollte der Titel schon fertig seyn, so habe ich folgende 2 Vorschläge, nemlich entweder ich bezahle den neuen Titel d.h. auf meine Unkosten oder man hebt ihn auf für eine andere Neue Sonate von mir, wozu sich nur die Bergwerke des G---ll---ts insonderlich pleno titulo g---ll---ts u. erste Staatsraths zu öffnen haben, um selbe an's Tags Licht der Welt zu bringen.[3]--

  der Titel ist zuvor einem sprachverständigen zu zeigen Hämmer-Klawier ist sicher Deutsch ohnehin ist die Erfindung auch deutsch, gebt Ehre dem Ehre gebührt -- . . . "

                      ["[Vienna, after Jan. 9 and before Jan. 23, 1817][1]

Coincidence arranged for me to come across the following dedication


                   For the piano-forte

                   or --- --- Hammer-Klawier

                           Written and

                   dedicated to Mme. Baroness

                         Dorothea Ertmann

                         nee Graumann

                           by L.v. Beethowen"

with respect to the new Sonata[2], should the title already be finished, then I have the 2 following suggestions, namely either I pay the new title i.e. at my expense or one sets it aside for another new Sonata by me, wherefore the mines of the G---ll---t have to open themselves particularly pleno titulo g---ll---t and First State Counsel in order to bring the same to the light of day.[3]--

   before, the title has to be shown to a language expert Hämmerklavier is certainly German in any event the invention is also German, give honor to whom honor is due . . . "

[Quoted and translated from:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 4, Letter no. 1065, p. 11 - 12]

[Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [1] refers to the dating of the letter; to [2]: refers to Op. 101; to [3]: refers to the fact that Beethoven began the composition of his next sonata, Op. 106, only in the fall of 1817; details taken from p. 12].

To Tobias Haslinger

                                   "[Wien, nach dem 9. Januar 1817[1]

   Der Adjutant sowohl schuldig als unschuldig ist ersucht, die Correcturen der sinfonie in F [2] u. der Sonate in A [3], indem ich eben jezt zu Hause bleibe, u. die sache eher befördern kann, besonders gibt es Menschen, die mich wegen der Schwer zu Exeguirenden sonate plagen, wer kann für solche Schwer zu Exeguirende


  man wünscht dem sowohl groben als Höflichen adjutanten Beßerung  um endlich vorrüken zu können


An den Adjutanten 2ten l---lt des Reichs"

                                   ["[Vienna, after Jan. 9, 1817[1]

The Adjutant, both guilty as well as innocent is asked to the corrections of the symphony in F [2] and of the Sonata in A [3], in that I am just now staying at home and can rather speed up the matter, particularly there are people who bother me because of the Schwer zu Exequirende sonate (sonata that is difficult to execute], who can for such Schwer zu Exeguirende

                          [Note sample]

  one wishes the both rough and polite adjutant betterment so that he can finally advance


To the adjutant 2nd l---lt of the Empire"

[Quoted and translated from Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 4, Letter no. 1066, p. 12 - 13]

[Original:  Vienna, Stadt- und Landesbibliothek; to [1] refers to the date of the letter; to [2] refers to Op. 93, to [3]: refers to Op. 101; details taken from p. 12-13].

 To Tobias Haslinger

                 "[Wien, nach dem 9. und vor dem 23. Januar 1817][1]

Bester A---l2ter l---nk---l2 des Reichs

  Schuldig u. unschuldig wird aufgetragen, die Korrektur schleunigst zu besorgen, u. mir wieder zu zuschicken -- im lezten Stück wünsche ich, daß bey der Stelle wo das Contra E eintritt[3] bey den 4 accorden die Buchstaben hinzugesezt werden nemlich:   E  E  E    E  E

                               A fis gis  A  h

                               E  E  E     E  E.

außerdem sind die bey einige Orten noch hinzugefügten worte zu beachten u. in Ausführung zu Bringen -- der Unschuldge u. schuldige der Grobe u. Höfli[c]he 2ter l---n K---l des Reichs etc etc etc kann nicht vorrücken.

Für den Adjutanten"

                ["[Vienna, after Jan. 9 and before Jan. 23, 1817[1]

Best A---l2nd l---nk--l2 of the Empire

Guilty and innocent are ordered to take care of the correction most speedily and to send it back to me -- in the last piece I wish that there where the Contra E is setting in [3] in the 4 chords the letters are to be added, namely

                               E        E          E         E  E

                               A f-sharp g-sharp  A  b

                               E        E           E       E  E.

Moreover, the words that have been added in some places have to be paid attention to and executed -- the innocent and the guilty, the rough and the polite 2nd l---n K---l of the Empire etc etc etc can not advance.

For the Adjutant"

[Quoted and translated from:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 4, Letter no. 1067, p. 13]

[Original:  Beethoven-Haus, Bonn; to [1]: refers to the date of the letter; to [2]: refers to "Lumpenkerl" [rascal]; to [3]: refers to Op. 101; details taken from p. 13].

 To Tobias Haslinger

                "[Wien, nach dem 9. und vor dem 23. Januar 1817][1]

Die noch zu machende Korrektur ist mir sogleich zu übersenden -- was Seite 15 im letzten Stück betrifft, so dürfte es gut seyn bey den Takten 18 19 20 21 die Buchstaben zu setzen.[2] -- Es ist solches dem Hr. Adjutanten überlassen -- In Betreff des Titels ist ein sprachkundiger zu befragen, ob Hammer oder Hämmer Klavier oder auch Hämmer-Flügel zu setzen. -- Derselbe Titel ist mir auch vorzuweisen. --


an den Adjutanten"

              ["[Vienna after Jan. 9 and before Jan. 23, 1817[1]

The correction that is still to be made is to be sent to me right away -- as far as Page 15 in the last piece is concerned, it might be good to set the letters at bars 18 19 20 21.[2] -- Such is left to the Hr. Adjutant -- With respect to the title a language expert is to be asked, if Hammer or Hämmer Klavier or also Hämmer-Flügel is to be set. -- The same title is also to be presented to me. --


to the Adjutant"

[Quaoted and translated from Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 4, Letter no. 1068, p. 13 -14]

[Original:  not known, text after the first print in N II, p. 344; to [1] refers to the date of the letter; to [2]: refers to the more precise instruction in Letter no. 1067, of course, with respect to Op. 101; details taken from p. 14].

To Tobias Haslinger

                 "[Wien, nach dem 9. und vor dem 23. Januar 1817][1]

   Der Hr. A.[djutant] hat die einigen Fehler noch vebeßern zu laßen, im letzten Stück, wo das Contra E eintritt mögte ich unterdeßen dieses bey der ersten Note drunter gesezt haben.[2]  wie von mir angezeigt. -- Tasten Flügel ist gut kann nur aber als allgemein angesehn werden für sowohl Feder Flügel Klawier (oder Clavichord) etc ich glaube aber für den Tasten u. HammerFlügel nemlich bey des hierdurch vereinigend entscheiden zu können, will aber auch noch ebenfalls einen Geleerten wollte ich sagen einen gelehrten heute darüber beFragen. --

                                                   L.v. Beeth[oven]*

An den H.[errn] Adjutanten 2ten l---n K---l des Reichs"

                ["[Vienna, after Jan. 9 and before Jan. 23, 1817][1]

  The Hr. A.[djutant] still has to correct a few mistakes, in the last piece, where to Contra E sets in I want to, however, have this set beneath the first note.[2] as indicated by me. -- Tasten Flügel is good however can only be seen as general both for Feder Flügel Klawier [or Clavichord] etc I believe, however, to be able to decide in a unifiying manner for the Tasten u. HammerFlügel, however, I still also want to ask a hollow man, I wanted to say, an expert, today.--


To the H.[err] Adjutant 2nd l--n K---l of the Empire"

[Quoted and translated from: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 4, Letter no. 1069, p. 14]

[Original: Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [1]: refers to the date of the letter; to [2]: refers to Beethoven's instructions for the correction of Op. 101; details taken from p. 14; translator's note: again the pun on "Gelehrter"].

To Sigmund Anton Steiner: 

                                             "[Wien, 23. Januar 1817]

Wir haben nach eigener Prüfung u. nach Anhörung unsers Conseils beschloßen u. beschließen, daß hinführo auf allen unsern Werken, wozu der Titel Deutsch, statt Pianoforte Hammerklavier  gesezt werde, Wornach sich unser bester g--l--l--t Samt adjutanten wie alle anderen die es betrift, sogleich zu richten u. solches in's Werk zu bringen haben.[1]

   statt Piano-forte Hammerklawier. --

Womit es sein Abkommen einmal für allemal hiermit hat. --

gegeben etc.etc. vom

                                                                                g  ----- s

am 23ten Jenner 1817

An den wohlgebornen g --- l l ---- t Von Steiner zu eigenen Händen Publicandum"

                                             ["[Vienna, January 23, 1817]

We have, after our own examination and after hearing our Conseil, resolved and resolve, that from hereon after on all of our works, whereby the title should be set in German, instead of Pianoforte Hammerklawier, to which our best g--l l--t including his aides as well as all others that it concerns, have to immediately adhere and have to incorporate the same into the work.[1]

   instead of Piano-forte Hammerklawier. --

Which covenant stands for once and for all, herewith. --

given etc etc. by the

                                                                              g ---- s

on the 23rd of January 1817

To the well-born g---l l---t Von Steiner to his own hands Publicandum"]

[Quoted and translated from:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 4, Letter Nr. 1071, p. 16 - 17]

[Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [1]: refers to the title page of the Piano Sonata, Op. 101; detail taken from p. 17].


With respect to the dedication, we would have to consider two things:  On the one hand, Barry Cooper, as we already know, is of the opinion that Beethoven's reasons for his dedications were often of a rather "short term" nature or motivation.  On the other hand, nothing would prevent us from considering that Beethoven had already known this friend and former pupil for several years (see also his greeting card to her for the New Year 1804, see our Picture Gallery, Part 4).  With respect to Beethoven's regard for this friend, we may wish to take a look at his letter to her of February 23, 1817:


                            "Vien am 23ten Februar 1816 [recte: 1817][1]

Meine liebe werte Dorothea Cäcilia![2]

  oft haben sie mich verkennen müssen, indem ich Ihnen zuwider scheinen muste, vieles lag in den Umständen besonders in den frühern Zeiten, wo meine Muse weniger als jezt anerkannt wurde,  sie wissen die Deutungen der unberufnen Apostel, die sich <durch>mit ganz anderen Mitteln als mit dem Heilg. Evangelium forthelfen, hierunter habe ich nicht gerechnet wollen seyn,  empfangen sie nun, was ihnen öfters zugedacht war, u. was ihnen einen Beweiß meiner Anhänglichkeit an ihr Kunst Talent wie an ihre Person abgeben möge[3] -- daß ich neulich sie nicht bei Cz.[erny] spielen hören konnte,[4] ist meiner Kränklichkeit[5] zuzuschreiben, die endlich scheint vor meiner Gesundheit's Kraft <scheint> zurück fliehen zu wollen. --

   ich hoffe bald von ihnen zu hören, wie es in St. Pölten mit den Musen -- steht,[6] und ob Sie etwas halten 

auf ihren verehrer u. Freund

                                                              L. v. Beethowen

alles schöne Ihrem werthen Mann und Gemahl von mir

Für die Frau Baronin V. Ertmann."

                  "[Vienna, the 23rd of February, 1816 [recte: 1817][1]

My dear, worthy Dorothea Cäcilia![2]

   often you must have misjudged me, in that I must have appeared contrary to you, much lay in the circumstances, particularly in the earlier times, when my muse was less recognized than now, you know the interpretations of the un-appointed Apostles that help themselves with quite different means than the Holy Gospel, among those, I did not want to be counted, receive now what I have often meant for you to have, and what may serve you as proof of my esteem of your talent ad well as of your person[3] -- that I could not hear you play at Czerny's the other day,[4] is to be attributed to my ill health[5] that finally appears to flee before the strength of my health. --

   I hope to hear soon from you how the muses are faring in St. Pölten,[6] and if you think something 

of your admirer and friend

                                                                     L.v. Beethoven

everything beautiful to your worthy husband from me.

To Mme. Baroness V. Ertmann"

[Quoted and translated from: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 4, Letter no. 1093, p. 36 - 37]

[Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [1]: refers to the date of the letter; to [2]: refers to the name of the patron saint of music with which Beethoven addresses the Baroness, St. Cecilia; to [3]: refers to the dedication to her of the Piano Sonata, Op. 101; to [4]: refers to concerts Carl Czerny held each Sunday in his parents' house, during that time; to [5]: refers to the cold Beethoven had suffered from since October, 1816; to [6]: refers to the fact that the Ertmanns lived in St. Pölten where Baron Ertmann's infantry regiment was stationed; details taken from p. 37].


With respect to the context in which Steiner published this work, Barry Cooper (p. 252) reports that he published it in a series entitled Museum für Klaviermusik, the purpose of which was to 'nur musikalische Produkte anerkannten Wertes, Kompositionen, die sich besonders durch ihren reinen Entwurf (Tonsatz) mit Kunst, Charme und Klarheit, auszeichnen' (single out only musical products of acknowledged value, compositions that particularly excel through their clean writing, and that with art, charm and clarity). According to Cooper, with this series, it was Steiner's and Beethoven's intention to set against the 'usual' lower quality of the works of that time, works of lasting merit.   In this context, Cooper also points out that Beethoven had always had the concept of composing works for posterity that could be preserved like museum artifacts.  

However, the subsequent comments that you will be able to read in our discussion of the musical content of this work appear to show that it is, my no means, a piece that gathered dust in a museum.  



However, let us first take a look at  the original text of the review of this work by the Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung in October, 1817, and our own translation into English of it:

"Musee musical des Clavicinistes.  Museum für Claviermusik, erstes Heft: enthält: Sonate (in A dur) für das Pianoforte (Hammerclavier) von Ludwig van Beethoven.. 101stes Werk. Wien, im Verlage by S. A. Steiner und Comp. (Pr. 1 Thlr.).

Dieses neueste Product, womit uns Beethoven beschenkt, liefert fortgesetzte Beweise seiner unerschöpflichen Vielseitigkeit, seiner tiefen Kunsterfahrung, seiner lebhaften Imagination, seiner universellen Genialität. --- Wahrlich, hier in seinem 101sten Werke ergreift uns Bewunderung und erneute Hochachtung, wenn wir so mit dem grossen Seelenmaler auf fremden, nie betretenen Wegen -- gleichsam an Aridanens Faden durch labyrinthische Krümmungen wandeln, wo uns bald ein frischer Bach zuflüstert, bald ein schroffer Fels anstarrt; hier eine unbekannte, süssduftende Blume uns anzieht, dort ein dorniger Pfad uns abschrecken möchte. Man muss sich Gewalt anthun, diese und andere Bilder, welche sich Einem aufdrängen, nicht weiter auszumalen, folgt man diesem wunderbaren Genius auch in dieser seiner Schöpfung: denn freylich ziemen dergleichen Ergiessungen wol Niemand weniger, als einem Recensenten. Es mag daher, statt ihrer und alles weitern, nur eine kurze Zergliederung dieses Kunstwerkes folgen, das zwar klein an Umfang, aber gross, wirklich gross von Inhalt ist, und dessen zuweilen unscheinbare Schale manchen köstlichen Edelstein birgt. --

Das erste Stück (Allegretto, ma non troppo, oder, wie es der Verfasser auch in deutscher Zunge bezeichnet: "Etwas lebhaft, und mit der innigsten Empfindung, A dur, 6/8) hat einen einfachen, kindlich zarten Charakter, enthält wenig, aber viel sagende Noten, und verlangt einen verständigen, gefühlvollen, recht im Innersten empfundenen Vortrag. Aus folgendem anspruchslosem Thema geht dieser in 102 Takten bestehende Satz hervor: (S.d. mus. Beylage, No. IV, Beyspiel 1.)

Mit möglichster Klarheit, ganz ohne Schmuck und Prunk, gleitet diese süsse Melodie, immer fest gehalten, nur verändert gestellt, ununterbrochen fort, schliesst sich an eine andre, ganz fremdartige, und erscheint sodann als Unterstimme auf diese Weise behandelt: (S. Beyspeil 2.)

Eben so interessant ist die Harmonienfolge, durch welche uns der Verfasser dem Schlusse zuführt: (S. Beyspiel 2.)

Der zweyte Satz, Vivace alla Marcia, (Lebhaft, marschmässig) F dur, C-Takt, weicht gänzlich von dem vorigen ab. Er ist durchaus in punctirten Figuren gehalten, weicht seltsam aus, und ist eben nicht leicht auszuführen. Das Trio, B dur, nach welchem der eigentliche Marsch noch einmal wiederholt wird, ist auf nachstehendes, liebliches Motiv gebaut, und aus den schönsten Nachahmungen zusammengesetzt: (S. Beyspiel 4.)

Auch die folgende Stelle mag hier einen Platz finden: (S. Beyspiel 5.)

Der Kenner wird uns für diese Auszüge Dank wissen, und darin den gewandten Contrapunktisten nicht verkennen.

Das Adagio non troppo, con affetto, (Langsam und sehnsuchtsvoll) A moll, 2/4 Takt, besteht nur aus 20 Takten, in welchen eine einzige Figur vorherrscht. Es soll dabey jene Mutation des Isntrumentes angewendet werden, durch welche die Hämmer nur Eine Saite berühren. Nach einer einleitenden Cadenz zur Dur-Tonart, worin nach und nach mehre Saiten eintreten, lässt der Componist im Zeitmasse des ersten Stückes noch einmal Bruchstücke aus dem Anfange desselben hören, wendet sich aber bald zum letzten Satze, Allegro, (Geschwinde, doch nicht zu sehr, und mit Entschlossenheit) A dur, 2/4 Takt, welcher sich sogleich als ein sonderbarer Gast ankündigt: (S. Beyspiel 6.)

Um alle Schönheiten dieses trefflichen Stückes zu entwickeln, müsste man es zuvor ganz abschreiben. Es ist, so zu sagen, aus einem Gusse hervorgegangen, nichts zu viel, nichts zu wenig gethan; es besteht nur aus ein paar Hauptideen, aber diese sind auch ganz erschöpfend benützt, mit allen contrapunctischen Künsten, die dem echten Meister zu Gebote stehen, ausgestattet, und mit einer, das Studium der alten Klassiker verbürgenden Sicherheit, gründlich und streng durchgeführt. Unsere Leser verzeihen uns gewiss, wenn wir der Versuchung nicht widerstehen können, wenigstens als Belege unserer Behauptung noch einige Beyspiele anzuführen. Man sehe, wie der Componist seinen zweyten Theil bearbeitet: (S. Beyspiel 7.)

Ferner diese herrliche Stelle: (S. Beysp. 8.)

Dann die schöne Behandlung des Thema bey der Rückkehr zum Maggiore: (S. Beysp. 8.)

Endlich diesen schmeichelnden Zwischensatz, der sowol in der Dominante, als in der Tonica erscheint: (S. Beysp. 10.)

Ebenso originell gelangt der Verf. zum Schlusse, indem er sein Motiv bald vereinzelt, bald zweystimmig noch einmal wieder hören l¨sst, wozu der Bass sammt den dumpfen Pedal-Tönen leise murmelt. -- Wenn es uns gelungen ist, durch diese Anzeige die Freunde des wahren Klavierspiels, denen Bachs Schule ewig werth und theuer bleibt, auf den sie erwartenden, hohen, wahrlich seltenen Genuss vorzubereiten, so ist unser Zweck erfüllt, und wir freuen uns auf eine neue Gelegenheit, dem grossen Componisten auf ähnliche Weise den schuldigen Tribut unsrer innigen Hochachtung entrichten zu können. -- d -- " [AMZ: October 1817, Columns 686 - 689; --

"Musee musical des Clavicinistes.  Museum für Claviermusik, first Volume: contains: Sonata (in A major) for the Pianoforte (Hammerclavier) byn Ludwig van Beethoven.. 101st work. Vienna, published by S. A. Steiner and Comp. (Pr. 1 Thlr.).

This latest product which Beethoven presents to us provides us with continued evidence of his inexhaustible versatility, of his profound experience as an artist, of his vivid imagination, of his universal genius. --- Truly, here, in his  101st work, we are filled with admiration and renewed high esteem when we are walking thus with this great painter of the human soul, on strange, never-encountered paths -- led along by Ariadne's thread, through a maze where here, a refreshing brook is beckoning us and there, a precipitous rock is startling us, where here, an unknown, sweet-scented flower is attracting us and there, a thorny path is bound to scare us.   One has to strictly call oneself back to the present in order not to paint further pictures of these impressions if one follows this wonderful genius in this, his latest creation: after all, such outpourings are least suitable to a reviewer.  Therefore, in their stead and instead of anything further, a short outline will follow of this art work that, although small in volume, is great, truly great in content, and whose partly modest exterior hides many a precious jewel. --  

The first piece (Allegretto, ma non troppo, or, as the author describes it in German: "Etwas lebhaft, und mit der innigsten Empfindung", [somewhat lively, and with the innermost feeling]  A major, 6/8) has a simple, childlike and tender character, contains few notes that, nevertheless, say a great deal and requires a skilled, sensitive performance that comes from the player's innermost feeling.  Out of the following, simple theme, this movement emerges that consists of 102 measures: (See musical supplement, No. IV, Sample 1.)

With the utmost clarity, entirely without adornment and glamour, this sweet melody glides along uninterruptedly, always retained and merely presented in a different manner, then connects with another, quite strange one, and then appears as a bass part, treated in the following manner: (See Sample 2.)

Equally interesting is the harmonic sequence with which the author leads us to the end of the movement:  (See Sample 2.)

The second movement, Vivace alla Marcia, (Lebhaft, marschmässig [lively, march-like]) F major, C-time, is entirely different from the previous one.  It is entirely held in dotted figures, seldom escapes or varies and is not easy to perform.  The Trio, B major, after which the actual march is repeated, once more, is built on the following, lovely motif and comprised of the most beautiful imitations: (See Sample 4.) 

Also the following passage should be featured here: (See Sample 5.)

The connoisseur will thank us for these examples and will recognize the skilled contrapuntist in them.  

The Adagio non troppo, con affetto, (Langsam und sehnsuchtsvoll [slow and with longing]) A minor, 2/4 time, only consists of 20 measures in which only one figure is dominating. With respect to it, that mutation of the instrument should be employed in which the hammers only touch one string.   After an introductory cadenza to major, where gradually several strings are added, the composer, in the time of the first piece, lets us hear, once more, fragments from the beginning of the same, but then moves on to the last movement,  Allegro, (Geschwinde, doch nicht zu sehr, und mit Entschlossenheit [Fast, but not too fast, and with resolution]) A major, 2/4 time, which introduces itself as a very strange guest, right away: (See Sample 6.)

In order to unravel all beauties of this marvelous piece, one would have to copy it out in its entirety.  It is, so to say, created from one mold, containing not too much, not too little; it only consists of a few major ideas, but these have been exploited exhaustively, with all contrapuntal artistry that is at the disposal of a true master and with a surety that stems from the study of the old classical masters, executed thoroughly and solidly.  Our readers will certainly forgive us when we can not resist temptation by adding, as proof of our statement, some further samples.  One should take a look at how the composer has treated his second part:   (See Sample 7.)

Further, this wonderful passage: (See Sample 8.)

Then the beautiful treatment of the theme at the return to the Maggiore: (See Sample 8.)

Finally, this flattering interim passage that appears both in the dominant and in the tonic:   (See Sample 10.)

In equally original manner, the author arrives at the finale by letting us hear his motif in one part, and there in two parts, to which the bass quietly murmurs with low pedal tunes. --  If we were successful with this review in preparing friends of true piano music who will continue to cherish Bach's piano school, for the high, truly rare pleasure of this work, then our purpose has been fulfilled and we are looking forward to a new opportunity at which we will be able to pay tribute to the great composer and show him our most sincere respect. --  d -- "].



In our look at the musical content of this sonata we follow the pattern indicated in our introductory comments on music criticism offered here.  This pattern offers you comments in the following sequence: 




Each category can be directly accessed by clicking on the above links.  Therefore, if you prefer one kind of comment(s) over another, you can make your own selection. 



Here, we turn again to William Kinderman and Barry Cooper: 

"As Alfred Brendel has suggested, Beethoven's late music involves a general expansion and synthesis of the means of expression, whereby opposites are often juxtaposed, with every new complexity of style seeming to parallel, as its antithesis, a childlike simplicity.  Normal modes of analysis are inadequate to grasp the tremendous richness of this idiom, which 'embraces equally the past, present, and future, the sublime and the profane'.(11 Music Sounded Out, p. 63)  This expansion in expressive range is often associated with new departures in large-scale formal organization, and especially with a tendency to replace symmetrical forms with a central climax by a progression leading to a final, culminating experience.  Not only does Beethoven avoid the enclosure of literal recapitulation within movements; he also tends to arrange successive movements into a directional sequence leading towards the finale, now usually the most weighty movement of the sonata cycle.

Beethoven now devises new, unique means of linking the movements of his works.  In the C major Cello Sonata op. 102 no. 1 and in An die ferne Geliebte, as we have seen, his later recall of the opening lyrical music assumes unusual importance, going well beyond the most analogous earlier example--his reminiscence of the slow movement in the finale of the first of the fantasy sonatas op. 27 no. 1, of 1801. But Beethoven's most subtle use of this device is found in his next composition, the Piano Sonata in A major op. 101, from 1816.  The crux of this sonata is contained not in the opening Allegretto, ma non troppo, despite its quiet, lyrical beginning in medias res on the domimant.  The suspended quality of the music is enhanced by Beethoven's seamless lyricism, his placement of the exposition in the dominant key, and by his avoidance throughout of strong tonic cadences.  Following this short movement of yearning character, and the brusque, angular, contrapuntal march in F major forming the second movement, a more fundamental level of feeling or state of being is uncovered in the slow introduction to the finale, marked Langsam und sehnsuchtsvoll.  Her the music is drawn progressively lower in pitch, falling through a series of diminished-seventh chords, before it drops still further in register, collapsing  onto a soft sustained chord that is to serve as a turning-point and a new beginning (Ex. 62).  This passage anticipates in striking fashion the Praeludium to the Benedictus of the Missa solemnis, where a low chord reached through a similar descending progression is transposed upwards several octaves to the solo violin and flutes, to symbolize, with astonishing effect, the divine presence.

In the case of the sonata, this soft chord, which represents the end of the descending progression and the termination of the Adagio, also embodies the a priori condition for the first movement, since it presents the exact sonority, in the precise register, out of which the opening of that movement has sprung.  In view of this, the opening of the sonata in medias res assumes a new and deeper significance.  The importance of this original sound--an E major sonority marked by a fermata--is confirmed by its transformation, after a short cadenza-like passage, into the actual beginning of the opening movement.  This reminiscence lasts a few bars before it dissolved into the emphatic beginning of the finale, marked by the first strong tonic cadence (in A major) that has yet been heard in the sonata.

The finale is in sonata form, with its development assigned to a fugato.  Contrapuntal devices have already been prominent in the march, particularly in its transparent canonic trio; but the fugal textures in the finale unfold with an uncompromising determination and virtuosity comparable only with the fugal finale of Beethoven's next sonata, the Hammerklavier.  Op. 101 is among the most difficult of the sonatas, and Beethoven himself once described it as 'hard to play'.  The characteristically ironic context of this remark--which relates to a critique of performance difficulties in the Seventh Symphony--in no way invalidates the comment.

The challenge of this work lies not only in the complex polyphony of the march and finale but in the delicate narrative sequence of the whole.  Twice we pass from spheres of dream-like reflection into the vigorous musical landscapes of the march and finale.  A complex network of tonal and thematic relationships makes clear that these are not merely ruptures in the musical form but moments of transformation.  Especially characteristic is Beethoven's abiding memory, at the end of op. 101, of earlier stages in the artistic process.  It is almost uncanny how this enhanced vision or enlarged perspective nourishes the humorous wit of the conclusion.  Thus, the dolce passage beginning the coda is subtly reminiscent of the slow introduction to the finale; and the continuation not only alludes to the earlier fugal development but recalls harmonic features of the first two movements.  Near the end, Beethoven brings back as a pedal point the low contra E previously used in the climactic cadence to the recapitulation of the finale, and adds above it a long, dissonant trill, both of which are emphatically resolved into the final triadic fanfare--a fanfare that itself ultimately derives from the climactic cadence to the recapitulation.  The depth of synthesis and richness of allusion in passages such as this make special demands on listener and interpreter alike.

Few of Beethoven's pieces exerted such a strong spell on the Romantic composers as this A major Sonata.  Mendelssohn imitated it in his op. 6 Sonata; Wagner found its opening movement the ideal of his 'infinite melody'; Schumann was captivated by its march-like second movement. Along with the cello sonatas op. 102 and the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte, the A major Sonata marks a major transition in Beethoven's style, pointing unmistakably to the unique synthesis achieved in works of his last decade" (Kinderman: 195-197).

"The sonata displays an elevated, somewhat esoteric style typical of Beethoven's final period. continuing the pattern set by the cello sonatas the previous year, with its polyphonic textures and unusual structure.  Indeed it follows the C major cello sonata quite closely in having a short Adagio section, followed by a reminiscence of the opening movement, immediately before the finale proper.  In other respects, however, Op. 101 has no obvious precursors.  The opening movement has the textures of a Bach prelude at the start and in several other passages, and begins on the dominant (like Op. 31, No. 2), producing a sense of tonal ambiguity that is only gradually resolved.  Indeed the first strong tonic chord in root position does not appear until near the end of the recapitulation!  Although the movement is in a fairly regular sonata form, it is on a minute scale--only 102 bars and no repeats--so that the main weight of the whole sonata is placed on the finale, as in so many of Beethoven's later works.

The second movement is, unusually, a march with trio, rather than a minuet or scherzo; then comes the brief Adagio that functions more as an introduction to the final Allegro than a movement in its own right.  The Allegro is even more polyphonic and Bachian than the first movement, and includes an elaborate fugato in the development section.  For a long time this fugato seems almost like a real fugue, with rigorously maintained four-part polphony, but its tonal scheme is highly unorthodox:  the 'fugue theme' is stated in A minor, but the answering voice, which should be in E minor, appears in C major, and the other two voices enter in D minor and A minor respectively.  The incessant polyphony in the rest of the development section creates the impression of a titanic struggle against almost insuperable difficulties; victory, in the form of a long-awaited return to the major and the start of the recapitulation, is achieved only after the addition of unprecedented power in the form of a bottom E--a note that pianomakers had only recently made available.  To avoid any ambiguity, Beethoven adds the words 'Contra E' at this point (originally he proposed inserting the names of all the left-hand notes here); it seems as much a shout of triumph as a warning to pianists unfamiliar with such a low note.  This low E accompanies a double augmentation of the main theme in its lowest register, creating a thunderous discord that marks a thrilling climax to all the preceding counterpoint.

The technical difficulties of the movement are part of its underlying aesthetic, as Beethoven revealed in a half-humorous letter to Steiner, in which he proposed calling the work 'The Difficult-to-play Sonata' (a phrase adapted from a review of his Seventh Symphony), and adds: 'For what is difficult is also beautiful, good, great, etc.  Hence everyone will realize that this is the most lavish praise that can be given, since what is difficult makes one sweat.'(23 A-749)  In this sonata, too, he finally adopted German terminology, referring to the piano as the 'Hammerklavier' as well as using German tempo marks (which had also appeared in Op. 90).  The sonata was dedicated to Dorothea Ertmann, a former pupil and formidable pianist, who was also a noted Bach enthusiast--hence a particularly suitable dedicatee" (Cooper: 252-253).


Let us read what Joachim Kaiser has to say of this work:  

"Die erste der >>letzten fünf<< Klaviersonaten Beethovens.  Heiliger Boden (für alle Musikalischen).

Nur:  Pompöse Spätstil-Spekulationen sind Ausflucht, wenn sie die Verständigungsschwierigkeiten beiseite drängen, die vor allem der letzte Satz von Opus 101 bereitet.  Größere Perspektiven herzustellen macht weniger Mühe:  Zusammenhänge mit den folgenden Sonaten und sogar mit den letzten Streichquartetten -- vor allem dem Streichquartett a-Moll Opus 132 -- sind ebenso unleugbar wie Beziehungen zu Früherem.  Der melodische Gestus des ersten Satzes weitet aus -- Richard Wagner bezeichnete den Kopfsatz der A-Dur-Sonate als Muster einer >>unendlichen<< Melodie--, was schon in den ersten Sätzen von Opus 90 und 78 angelegt war.  Das Finale steigert gleißend hell die Brillanz einiger früherer A-Dur-Werke.  Klaviersonate Opus 2 Nr. 2, Kreutzer-Sonate Opus 47, die Cello-Sonate Opus 69, die 7. Symphonie.

Aber solche Beziehungen zu anderen Werken besagen nichts darüber, auf welche Weise sich die vier Sätze dieser Sonate selber zur sinnvollen Einheit verbinden.  Friedrich Hebbel hat 1850 aus Anlaß einer Wiener Aufführung des Goetheschen >>Faust<< geschrieben:  >>Faust spielt sich teils von selbst und ist zum Teil nicht zu spielen.<<  Mit Opus 101 steht es ähnlich, teils erschließt sich die Sonate überwältigend unmittelbar, teils fast überhaupt nicht.  Sollten hier womöglich diejenigen am besten dran sein, die sich gar nicht erst aufs Grübeln einlassen wollen, sondern den Notentext Stelle für Stelle zu erarbeiten versuchen?

Zweimal zwei Sätze gliedern sich folgendermaßen: dem lebhaft innigen Kopfsatz folgt ein aggressives, polyphon gesteigertes >>Alla Marcia<< mit verhalten kanonischem Mittelteil; dem Sehnsuchts-Adagio sodann ein entschlossenes, Schatten und Schwärzen fast zwanghaft zurückdrängendes Finale.

Wie aber paßt dies alles zusammen?  Was verbirgt der pianistisch höchst anspruchsvolle Schlußsatz, was löst er ein?  Das sind keine von außen hinzugebrachten, nur >>theoretischen<< Scheinprobleme, denn Opus 101 ist die erste große Sonate Beethovens, in deren Finale nicht nur das vorangegangene Adagio zitiert wird wie in Opus 27 Nr. 1, sondern in welcher der Komponist vor Beginn des letzten Satzes einen Blick zurückwirft bis zum äußersten Anfang.  Das gab es bislang bei Beethoven nicht, das wird später in der 9. Symphonie noch programmatischer ausgeführt (>>nicht diese Töne!<<).  Das muß doch etwas meinen.  Und was besagt es, daß im Finale einige empfindsame Fermaten- und Rondo-Stellen nachdrücklich, ja geradezu >>entschlossen<< beantwortet, gleichsam weggeschoben werden?

Große Interpreten -- Arrau, Bishop, Gilels, Kempff, Schnabel, Solomon -- haben den kantablen Sätzen der Sonate lyrische Fülle, den raschen virtuose Entschiedenheit, Schwung, GEspanntheit zukommen lassen.  Alle Einzelheiten scheinen erklärt.  Aber das Ganze ist nicht klar.  .  .  . " (Kaiser: 475-476; --

-- Kaiser refers to this sonata as the first of the >>last five<< of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, and to it being >>hallowed ground<< for all musically inclined.

Yet, argues Kaiser, pompous late-style speculations would be amiss here if they were to merely brush aside difficulties in communication that, above all, the last movement of Op. 101 presents us with, while it might be less difficult to establish larger perspectives:  interconnections to the sonatas that would follow and even to the last string quartets, particularly to the a-minor String Quartet, Op. 132, can be as little denied as interconnections to earlier works.  The melodic gesture of the first movement is epxansive, continues Kaiser and mentions that Richard Wagner described the first movement of this A-Major Sonata as a pattern for an >>infinite melody<<, what also lay already dormant in the first movements of Op. 90 and Op. 78, while the finale brightly increases the brilliance of some of his earlier A-Major works, such as the Piano Sonata, Op. 2, no. 2, the Kreutzer Sonata, Op. 47, the Cello Sonata, Op. 69 and the 7th Symphony.  

However, argues Kaiser, such interconnections to other works say nothing as to in what manner the four movements of this sonata are united to a comprehensive whole.  Kaiser then refers to an 1850 critique of a performance of Goethe's Faust, by Friedrich Hebbel who wrote that,   >>Faust spielt sich teils von selbst und ist zum Teil nicht zu spielen<< [>>Faust<< partly plays itslef and partly it can not be played<<].  With Op. 101, writes Kaiser, it is somewhat similar, in part, this sonata opens itself up in an incredibly immediate fashion, and in part not at all.  Should, asks Kaiser, those be closest to the mark who do not even begin to entertain any reflections on this topic, but rather try to work their way through the score note by note? 

The four movements, writes Kaiser, are designed in this manner:  the lively, intense first movement is followed by an aggressive, polyphonic >>Alla Maria<< with a reserved, canonical middle part, and the longing adagio is followed by a resolute finale that forcefully pushes back any shadows and darkness.  

However, asks Kaiser, how does this fit together?  What is hiding behing the pianistically very sophisticated final movement, what does it reveal?  Kaiser calls these problems real problems and not merely superficially added >>fake, theoretical<< problems, since Op. 101 is the first great Beethoven Piano Sonata in which the Finale does not quote the previous Adagio as this is the case in Op. 27, no. 1, but here, the composer, before the beginning of the last movement, takes a last look back up to the very beginning of the work.  This is new in Beethoven and later, in his 9th Symphony, this would be even more programmatically executed (>>nicht diese Töne!<< [not these sounds!].  Kaiser thinks that this has to mean something.  He then asks what it might mean that in the finale, some sensitive fermata and rondo passages are explicitly, nay, even resolutely, answered, virtually pushed away.   

Great interpreters, continues Kaiser, such as Arrau, Bishop, Gilels, Kempff, Schnabel, Solomon, have endowed the cantabile movements of this sonata with lyrical warmth, the fast movement with virtuoso-style resolution, drive, suspense, all details seem to be clarified.  Yet, the entire matter is not clear.   .  .  . ).

The writer of this page has deliberately taken out of Kaiser's introduction to this sonata his references to Marek's deliberations on Dorothea Ertmann's possibly being the 'Immortal Beloved' since, perhaps, from the viewpoint of today's findings on the various most likely 'candidates' for this 'position', Marek's 'Ertmann' deliberations should best not be interspersed here, in a comment on the musical content of this sonata, as they would have their rightful place in an intelligent discussion of the history of the development of 'Immortal Beloved' research within the scope of Beethoven research.  


The active pianist Anton Kuerti provides us with the following overview of this sonata:  

In his introduction, Kuerti writs that in Op. 101, Beethoven apparently tries to force something into sonata form that could actually be a free fantasy.  In doing so, he runs the risk of letting this sonata burst at its seams, however, concedes Kuerti, it is impossible to write something great without taking a risk, and Beethoven's courage with respect to taking risks was responsible for the creation of some of his most successful musical moments.    

Etwas lebhaft und mit der innigsten Empfindung

Kuerti describes the first movement as utterly informal in character . . . here, writes Kuerti, Beethoven does not create any essential contrasts between the various themes since enough contrast can be found in the development, which, from its incredibly calm and melodious introduction, strives towards a passionate climax immediately before the recapitulation.  The movement, continutes Kuerti, resounds with syncopated chords in such an intense manner, and that sometimes continually, that one appears to be suspended in a musical space without measures or bars.  Kuerti writes that it exudes a flowing, timeless continuity that is heightened by the fact that, until to the very end, it avoids to land on an A-Major tonic chord.  

Lebhaft, Marschmäßig

Kuerti describes the Scherzo [lively] as very contrapuntal, harmonically surprising, pianistically bold and utterly colorful.  It conveys a moving depth of expression that is seldom reached in a Scherzo . . .  here, writes Kuerti, Beethoven combines four disparate elements: the form, serenity and brevity of a Scherzo, the rhythm and the robust strength of a march, the drama of a powerful return to the main theme (5), and in the trio, utterly lyrical writing, full of canonic imitations, treated with a warmth and mastery as we find it in Beethoven's late string quartets.   

The repeated, emphatically dissonant Appoggiaturas, writes Kuerti, lend the playful, jerky rhythms a painful, expressive note.  It (the trio) is full of imitations, and, as Kuerti states, one finds in it also a natural, unforce counterpoint that Beethoven did not reach there where he constantly and consciously tried to create >>counterpoint<< in a fugue.  While the dotted rhythm remains stubbornly unchanged, writes Kuerti, the sudden key changes provide enough color and surprise, as well as also a passage (6) in which the composer asks for a dreamy and radical pedal effect.  

Langsam und sehnsuchtvoll

Considering its length and the number of its musical ideas, continues Kuerti, the mystical Adagio appears to be nothing but an extended, improvisatory introduction to the finale.  However, with respect to its emotional effect--it moves, writes Kuerti, from the sober to the intense, desperate, and finally to resignation--its import is far-reaching and bears brilliant witness to Beethoven's power of compression.  As Kuerti states, is almost exclusively deals with a conventional turn, followed by an eloquently ascending sixth.   

As Kuerti continues, the Adagio (Langsam und sehnsuchtvoll, thus slowly and with longing) moves towards a hesitant, hallucinating echo [7] of the main theme from the first movement.  This reminiscence comes to a halt at a descending motif of three notes that it can not shake off.  Out of despair, it uses a long, ascending trill that introduces the main theme of the finale. 

Geschwinde, doch nicht zu sehr, und mit Entschlossenheit

Almost the entire motivic material of the finale can be related back to these introductory bars, continues Kuerti; the mood is elevated, noble and serene, a wonderful glmpse of paradize... until, at the end of the exposition, a new rhythm is introduced (8) that mysteriously silences all other voices and that warns us of something terrible that we are about to face.  

Up to this point, writes Kuerti, one has hardly heard a single minor chord, but no the music tiredly sinks back into the minor key and is then awakened rudely by the first two notes (9) of the introductory motif.  This, so Kuerti, signifies the beginning of the long fugue, the subject of which is identical with the main motif of the movement.  At first muted and fearful, the fugue turns passionate and bitter and thus creates a threatening intrusion into the serene mood.  While it uses the same material as in the rest of the movement, the fugue stands in complete contrast to it, sparse, threatening and wild.  

Shortly before the recapitulation, continues Kuerti, that appears to us so wonderful and triumphant that it neutralizes the unpleasant effect of the fugue through one single heroic outcry, Beethoven has done something dangerous to music, which is almost unique in his works:  he wrote something that one can see but not hear.  In the right-hand middle registers, there appears a double enlargement of the main theme (which means that it is four times as slow as the theme was).  Kuerti wonders if this passage (10) might have been one of the few miscalculations of the by then entirely deaf Beethoven.   

After the recapitulation Beethoven, writes Kuerti, pretends to start up the fugue again (11), instead, however, to our relief, he moves on with a charming coda.  Kuerti admits that the work is not very long but by throwing us out of paradize and by slowly leading us back into it, a renewed return of the sad regions would prevent another flight from it; and who, so Kuerti, does not prefer a happy ending, particularly when it is so convincing and moving?  (Kuerti: 47-48).

Here, we offer you a chance to listen to a midi file of this sonata, via the following link: 

Kunst der Fuge: Beethoven-Sonatas

We wish you a great deal of listening enjoyment!

For those of you who want to explore this topic further in a serious manner, we can offer you a link to the Beethoven Bibliography Data Base of the Ira Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies in San Jose, California:

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