BEETHOVEN'S PIANO SONATAS
SONATA N0. 9, OP. 14/1
ON ITS MUSICAL CONTENT




At the conclusion of our creation history of this work group, we asked ourselves the question as to whether we would come across Beethoven's arrangement of the first of these Sonatas, for String Quartet. In what section of our music-critical page will we encounter it?  Although this is not the central theme of this page, it still sheds a light on the different views critics may hold with respect to this sonata.  Let us, therefore, try to become acquainted with some of these views.  In doing so we again follow our usual pattern.  It offers you comments in this sequence:   


 MUSICOLOGISTS AND BEETHOVEN RESEARCHERS

ACTIVE MUSIC CRITICS

ACTIVE, PERFORMING ARTISTS


Each category can be reached directly by clicking at the above link(s).  In this way you can deal with the musical content of this sonata in any way that you prefer. 


MUSICOLOCISTS AND BEETHOVEN RESEARCHERS


In his look at the musical content of this work, the Beethoven researcher William Kinderman is trying to follow Mozart's possible influence on it:

"In the opening Allegro of the E major Sonata op. 14 no. 1 the Mozartian influence is reflected in the skilful arrangement of distinct yet related musical figures.  Beethoven's familiar technique of using a single dominating rhythmic motif is not in evidence.  Instead, he devises the three phrases of the main theme as a network of thematic variations stressing the interval of a rising fourth.  There is a Mozartian flavour as well to the chromatic touches in the main subsidiary theme, and perhaps also to the transpartent contrapuntal textures so evocative of chamber music.  Op. 14 no. 1 is the only sonata Beethoven ever arranged for string quartet, and his decision to undertake the transcription in 1802 was surely motivated by the special affinity of this sonata with the quartet medium" (Kinderman: 58).

Barry Cooper has this to say with respect to its content: 

"The two other piano sonatas (Op. 14) published in the same month as the Pathetique are less strikingly original, but show many characteristic features.  The first .  .  .   is in E major.  Curiously, in all Beethoven's multi-movement works in which E is the keynote, every movement is in E major or minor, a pattern first encountered in this sonata.  Here the middle movement is in E minor and, as in the F major Sonata, Op. 10 No. 2, Beethoven cleverly gives it the function of both slow movement and minuet, it being a slowish Allegretto in minuet-and-trio form)" (Cooper:  86).

 

ACTIVE MUSIC CRITICS

While, in our first section, we were able to observe that Kinderman and Cooper directed their attention to different aspects of the musical content of this sonata, Joachim Kaiser offers us a very comprehensive discussion of this sonata and its characteristics, whereby he also discusses Beethoven's arrangement of it as an integral part of his deliberations:

"Sonate kammermusikalisch-polyphonen und empfindsam-verhaltenen, auf jeden Fall nichtvirtuosen Ausdrucks.  Hier haben die kompnierten Spannungen keinerlei expansive, leidenschaftlich ausgreifende Folgen:  sie wirken eher zart, nach innen gekehrt -- ob man an das meditative, durch Vorhalte und Dur-Moll-Wechsel bereicherte F-Dur des Kopfsatzes denkt, an die herb-untröstliche Unruhe des zweiten Satzes (Allegretto -- nicht Andant oder gar Adagio!) oder an das Linien- und Farbenspiel des Rondos, dessen vermeintliche >>Allegro comodo<<-Behäbigkeit einige pianistische Schwierigkeiten einschließt.  Beethoven sleber hat diese E-Dur-Sonate offenbar besonders geschätzt, sonst hätte er sie nicht einer sorgfältigen, zahlreiche neue Einfälle hinzufügenden Umarbeitung für Streichquartett gewürdigt.  Daß Beethoven im Hinblick auf die beiden Sonaten Opus 14, wie auch auf die e-Moll-Sonate Opus 90, vom Streit >>zwischen zwi Prinzipien in dialogischer Form<<, beziehungsweise (beim ersten Staz von Opus 90) vom >>Kampf zwischen Kopf und Herz<< gesprochen habe, ist zwar überliefert, hilft jedoch dem Interpreten nicht allzuviel.

Von dieser Sonate kann man überall lesen, sie sei nicht so schwach wie man überall über sie lesen könne.  Für mich -- und ich biete diese allzu private Reminiszenz zu entschuldigen, die immerhin belegt, welche Folgen Sekundärliteratur haben kann -- verbindet sich mit dieser Sonate eine Lese-Erinnerung:  Als ich, elf- oder zwölfjährig, an der E-Dur-Sonate übte und natürlich lieber gleich eine von den >>größeren<< Sonaten gespielt hätte, fil mir Willibald Nagels zweibändiges Werk >>Beethoven und seine Klaviersonaten<< in die Hand.  Dort wurde meine Überheblichkeit bestätigt.  Ich las, wie harmlos und unbedeutend die Themen des ersten Satzes eigentlich seien.  Triumphierend trug ich das meinem Vater -- kein Musiker, sondern Arzt -- vor.  Der gab mir zur Antwort, woran verärgerte Leser auch heute denken dürfen, wenn Analytiker-Hochmut Kunstwerke abkanzelt:  >>Die Sonate wird seit über hundert Jahren immer wieder gepsielt.  Jetzt hat dein Professor Nagel sie negativ beurteilt.  Aber sie wird noch gespielt werden, wenn kein Mensch mehr von Willibald Nagel spricht.<<  Das leuchtete mir ein.  Es ist gewiß kein Argument gegen ehrlich-kritische Argumente.  Es besagt nur etwas über den Stellenwert solcher Argumente.

. . . "Das Einleitungs-Allegro von Opus 14 ist kein >>Presto<<; keine Rede von >>brio<<, >>vivace<< oder >>alla breve<<.  Der Streichquartett-Charakter als solcher, der im Allegretto dann sogar zu einem auf unseren Klavieren unausführbaren Effekt führen wird, läßt keinen eindeutigen Interpretationsschluß zu.  Gewiß:  die Sonate beginnt mit jenen pochend ausfüllenden Begleitachteln, wie sie etwa auch das Kopfthema des großen d-Moll-Quartetts von Mozart (KV 421) prägen.  Das kann bedeuten, dieses Werk sei besonders durchsichtig, schlank, pedalarm, antivirtuos und >>unpianistisch<< zu spielen.  Es kann andererseits auch dahingehend ausgelegt werden, hier seine blühende Empfindsamkeit, Intimität, Zartheit gefordert...

Diejenige Interpretation kommt dem Satz offenbar am nächsten, die diese beiden verschiedenen, einander jedoch keineswegs ganz ausschließenden Tendenzen der Durchsichtigkeit und der Empfindsamkeit verbindet.

. . .

Nun wollen wir die außerordentliche Gelegenheit benutzen, jene Interpretation zum Vergleich heranzuziehen, die Beethoven selber seiner Sonate angedeihen ließ -- als er sie drei Jahre nachdem er sie komponisert hatte, für Streichquartett bearbeitete.  Das war zwischen 1801 und 1802, also immerhin beinahe zur Zeit des c-Moll-Klavierkonzertes, der >>Kreutzer<<-Sonate für Klavier und Violine und, nicht zu vergessen, des >>Heiligenstädter Testaments<<.  Man weiß, wie stolz Beethoven auf seine Bearbeitung war. >>Die unnatürliche Wut<<, so schrieb er am 13. Juli 1802 an Breitkopf & Härtel, >>die man hat, sogar Klaviersachen auf Geigeninstrumente überpflanzen zu lassen... möchte wohl aufhören können.  Ich behaupte fest, nur Mozart könne sich selbst vom Klavier auf andere Instrumente übersetzen, sowie Haydn auch -- und ohne mich an beide große Meister anschließen zu wollen, behaupte ich es von meinen Klaviersonaten auch, da nicht allein ganze Stellen gänzlich wegbleiben und umgeändert werden müssen, so muß man -- noch hinzutun; und hier steht der mißliche Stein des Anstoßes, den um zu überwinden man entweder selbst der Meister sein muß oder wenigstens dieselbe Gewandtheit und Erfindung haben muß.  Ich habe eine einzige Sonate von mir in ein Quartett von Geigeninstrumenten verwandelt, worum man mich so sehr bat und ich weiß gewiß, das macht mir so leicht nicht ein anderer nach."  .  .  .  Beethoven hat tatsächlich selber -- fürs Cello -- aus der legato-Belgeitung des Klaviers eine Staccato-Begleitung gemacht.  Und für die Schlußmeditation komponierte er eine stille, den Meditations-Charakter steigernde Geigenstimme hinzu, die (transponiert nach F-Dur) so aussieht (Notenbeispiel).

Wenn aber die Sonate dem interpetierenden >>Bearbeiter<< namens Beethoven eine solche Emfpndsamkeitsfreiheit gewährt, dann braucht auch die -- sich geradezu als unendliche Melodie darbietende, weit modulierende, auf rauschhaft klavieristischer Begleitung dahinwogende -- Enfaltung der Durchführung nicht  .  .  . verhamlost zu werden  . . . " (Kaiser:  182 - 187; --

-- Kaiser begins his discussion by describing this sonata as having a chamber music style, polyphone and sensitively withdrawn, and in any event, non-virtuosic expression and that in it, the compositional tensions do not bring with them any expansive, passionately far-reaching consequences, rather, writes Kaiser, they appear tender, introvert -- and he refers to the meditative F-Major first movement with its changes from major to minor, to the tart and inconsolable restlessness of the second movement, an Allegretto, not an Andante or even an Adagio, and to the lines and colorings of the Rondo, whose seemingly >>Allegro comodo<< mood, nevertheless, provides for some pianistic difficulties.   He states that Beethoven, himself, obviously thought much of his E-Major Sonata, otherwise, he would not have considered it worthy of being arranged for string quartet, including a number of new ideas.  Kaiser continues by referring to Beethoven's, with respect to these two sonatas as well as with respect to the e-minor Sonata, Op. 90, speaking of the controversy between two principles in dialogue form, or, with respect to the first movement of Op. 90, of the >>struggle between head and heart<<, which, according to Kaiser, may have been handed down to us as his comment, but which, nevertheless, does not help the pianist, very much.   

Of this sonata, continues Kaiser, one can read everywhere that it is not as weak as one can read everywhere, about it.  To him, apologizes Kaiser for his all too private reminiscence, that, at least, would confirm what consequence secondary literature might have -- with this sonata, there is connected a >>reading<< memory.  Kaiser tells us of his practicing this sonata as an eleven- to twelve-year old boy, while he would have preferred to practice one of the >>greater<< Beethoven sonatas, he came across Willibald Nagel's two-volume work, >>Beethoven und seine Klaviersonaten<<, and in it, Kaiser's haughty attitude was confirmed and that he conveyed his observation triumphantly to his father, who was not a musician, but a physician. Kaiser reports that his father replied to him . . .  >>Die Sonate wird seit über hundert Jahren immer wieder gepsielt.  Jetzt hat dein Professor Nagel sie negativ beurteilt.  Aber sie wird noch gespielt werden, wenn kein Mensch mehr von Willibald Nagel spricht<< (Kaiser's father told him that this sonata has been played for over a hundred years, and now, Nagel had rendered a negative opinion of it. However, continued his father, the sonata will still be played in a hundred years from now, when no-one will be talking about Willibald Nagel, anymore.)  This made sense to Kaiser, yet, he also concedes that this should certainly not serve as an argument against honest, critical argument.  To him, it only says something with respect to the value of such arguments.    

In discussing the individual movements, Kaiser starts with the introductory Allegro of which he states that it is not a >>Presto<<, as it does not call for  >>brio<<, >>vivace<< or >>alla breve<<, and he states that the string quartet character as such which, in the Allegretto, will then lead to some effects that, on our pianos, may be difficult to execute, and that it does not allow for a clear interpretation.  While the movement begins with those hammering, full accompanying eights, as, for example, also the head theme of the great d-minor quartet by Mozart (K421).  This, writes Kaiser, can mean that this work is particularly clear, slim, lacking in pedal activity, anti-virtuosic, and >>unpianistic<<.  On the other hand, continues Kaiser, this could also be interpreted that it requires a blossoming sensitivity, intimacy, tenderness...

Kaiser states that that interpretation that can combine these different, although not mutually exclusive, tendencies, does this work the most justice. 

. . .

Kaiser then refers to the interpretation that, according to him, Beethoven accorded to this work, when he, three years after its composition, arranged it for string quartet.  That, writes Kaiser, was between 1801 and 1802, thus almost at the time of his composition of the c-minor Piano Concert, of the   >>Kreutzer<<-Sonata for Piano and Violin and also that of the >>Heiligenstadt Will<<.  It is known, writes Kaiser, how proud Beethoven was of his arrangement [see the English translation of Beethovens letter to Breitkopf and Härtel, featured on our Creation History page, which Kaiser quotes here in German]  .  .  .  He then mentions that Beethoven, himself, has turned the legato-accompaniment of the piano into a staccato accompaniment for the Cello, and that for the final meditation, he added a quiet violin voice that suite its meditative character. . . .  

In conclusion, Kaiser argues that, if this sonata, to the interpreting arranger, provides such ample opportunity for freedom in sensitivity, then the piano accompaniment that he describes as an >>endless melody<< should not be presented too harmlessly by its modern pianistic interpreters . . . ).


ACTIVE, PERFORMING ARTISTS

Anton Kuerti, in turn, looks at this sonata with the eyes of an active pianist who wants to convey its musical content to his listeners as clearly as possible:

In his introduction, he describes the two sonatas that have been grouped together as Opus 14, as short, less serious in their content than its predecessors, and he emphasizes that they are also not striving to explore depth but rather that they want to delight us with their many sympathetic moods and that one can hardly imagine that someone would consider these sonatas as extremely great, but one can also not imagine that someone would not like them, since they are full of humor and gentle poetry.   (Kuerti: 26).

Allegro

Kuerti stresses that the introductory subject consists of many elements, that, however, there does not appear to exist a visible connection between the various ideas, while these, however, flow into each other, perfectly.  If one, continues Kuerti, compares these sonatas to Beethoven's late sonatas, one could learn to understand how Beethoven slowly learned to combine ever larger elements invisibly with each other.  

The second subject, continues Kuerti, is filled with many new ideas so that it is not surprising that Beethoven used the introductory idea again for the final theme of this movement.  What, according to Kuerti, is evern more amazing is that Beethoven, considering the wealth of themes from which he could chose, did not choose any of them,   but rather, that he developed a new and very expressive theme.  The entire movement, writes Kuerti, has a vibrant warmth and freshness that makes it irresistible.    (Kuerti: 26).

Allegretto

Kuerti points out that the -- in his opinion, "turbulent" Scherzo contains a ländler-like Trio, that serves as a simple foil and that reappears in a brief coda.  Kuerti then refers to the many sketches of this work that show how Beethoven worked through the various developmental phases of composition in order to arrive a a breath-taking simplicity, so that even such a modest, uncomplicated work can become the >>stage<< for serious artistic striving.     (Kuerti: 26-27).

Rondo:  Allegro commodo

Kuerti describes the least movement as simple, brief Rondo with a similarly stormy middle part as one would often encounter it in Beethoven's Rondos.  Even for a Rondo in which the second subject (in the first part) is often very brief, here, it is unusually short and unimportant and consists only of 8 mearues, of which both halves are almost identical.  Kuerti describes this movement as not very strong and points out that perhaps, Beethoven might have been aware of this, so that he ended this movement abruptly as if he wanted to say, "that's enough!"  (Kuerti: 27).

Here, we can offer you a link to a midi listening sample of this work:

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:


Opus 14/1 - Search