Recorded on 09/27/2010, uploaded on 09/28/2010
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
When Ludwig van Beethoven composed his first two cello sonatas in 1796 there was virtually no precedent for him to follow. The instrument had only recently been freed from its rather restrictive role as part of the basso continuo of the Baroque and early Classical period, and thus far had only partially come into its own right as a solo instrument, largely at the hands of Joseph Haydn and Luigi Boccherini. Thus, the two sonatas, published as Beethoven’s opus 5, were a definitive point in the instrument’s history, elevating the cello to equal rank with the violin. Furthermore, they are often considered to be the first with a completely written out piano part. Alongside the composer’s three later sonatas for the instrument, the opus 5 sonatas also provided a model for future composers.
The opus 5 sonatas were composed during Beethoven’s visit to the Prussian court in Berlin, which he made with Prince Lichnowsky. The King of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm II was himself an ardent music-lover and amateur cellist, but it was actually for the king’s first cellist and teacher, Jean-Pierre Duport, that the sonatas were actually written. Both sonatas are similar in structure, consisting of only two movements with the first in each case preceded by a lengthy introduction.
The second sonata of opus 5, in G minor, opens with a particularly extensive introduction, marked Adagio sostenuto ed espressivo, that well-nigh approaches the dimensions of a separate movement in its own right. Forte chords and ghostly, descending scales in the piano open the introduction, but then give way to a forlorn melody in the cello. Soloist and accompanist trade melodic fragments before giving way to development on the material thus far heard. Venturing as far away as the key of A-flat major, the introduction eventually finds its way to the dominant, and closes with a half cadence followed by a brief pause. The first movement proper which follows maintains the tonality of G minor, but is somewhat lighter in character with its lilting triple meter and quick tempo. However, as would be expected of Beethoven, it is not without its moments of passion and fire. The final movement is a rondo in G major. Though marked Allegro, it proceeds at a rather relaxed pace, and its major tonality provides the sonata with a cheerful ending. Joseph DuBose
Adagio sostenuto ed espressivo/ Allegro molto più tosto presto
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