Classical Music | Music for Duo

Ludwig van Beethoven

Cello Sonata No. 4 in C Major, Op. 102, No. 1  Play

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Recorded on 07/10/2017, uploaded on 07/10/2017

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

The five sonatas for cello and piano span Beethoven’s entire career. The first two, (1796) are deeply indicative of his early compositional style and the third (1808) was published alongside the 6th Symphony, embodying Beethoven’s so-called “middle” period. The last two sonatas (1815) are works set in severe contrast to one another, in structure and in overall character, with the 4th Sonata being the more mild in character of the two. 

 

The first movement opens with a short Andante, in which the cello plays the opening theme alone. It moves attacca into a longer Allegro vivace, with the piano and cello playing agitated and energized music in unison. The second movement starts with a calm Adagio, and moves briefly into a reprise of the Andante from the first movement, before ending with a playful and jubilant Allegro vivace.       Notes by Ruth Marshall

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Cello Sonata No. 4, op. 102, no. 1         Ludwig van Beethoven

 

Ludwig van Beethoven composed only five sonatas for the cello and singlehandedly set the precedent for future composers in a genre that was practically non-existent. The instrument itself had only recently come into its own as a solo instrument, released from its restrictive role as part of the basso continuo largely by the efforts of Joseph Haydn. Though the cello had already assumed for itself a more predominant role in the string quartet, and secured a position in piano trio, there was nevertheless no example for Beethoven to follow in the composition of cello sonatas.

 

The five sonatas for cello also spanned a large part of Beethoven’s career. The first two, published together as his opus 5, were early efforts composed in 1796, and the third appeared a little more than a decade later in 1808. The final two sonatas, published as opus 102, appeared in 1815 during a turbulent time in the composer’s life. Plagued by illness, Beethoven’s output dropped off significantly beginning in 1811. His deafness grew increasingly worse as well, yet caused the composer’s gaze to turn evermore inward, leaving behind the outward heroism for a profound introspection which culminated in the last string quartets. The opus 102 sonatas marked the beginning of this transition, and already show the composer searching for a more personal means of expression. Besides a piano sonata and a collection of folk song settings, they were the only significant compositions to emerge until the Missa Solemnis and Ninth Symphony.

 

The first of the opus 102 sonatas, No. 4 in C major, is an unusual two-movement work which displays Beethoven’s strikingly original approach to musical form. Though some of its elements may be traced back to earlier works, its mode of expression has more in common with the composer’s burgeoning late period. Of roughly equal length, the sonata’s two movements are strongly connected through their shared motives. Both movements, in Allegro tempos, are preceded by slow introductions built around the same melodic kernel, yet the length of the latter movement’s introduction nearly gives it the feeling of being a brief slow movement preceding without break into a finale. The movement’s themselves are lively and energetic, full of the rhythmic and melodic vitality one expects of Beethoven’s music. The introductions, particularly that leading into the second movement, are ethereal, approaching that strange and wonderful vocal quality Beethoven so miraculously could elicit from his instruments in his last works.      Joseph DuBose