Isaac Stern, Eugene Istomin
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The Sonatas, Op. 12, each in three movements, were composed in 1797-98 and advertised for sale as a set by the Viennese publisher, Artaria & Co, in January 1799. Their rapid popularity is attested to by the early reprints in Bonn, Paris, and London. Beethoven's old friend, Nikolaus S inn rock, published arrangements for celfo or flute in Bonn within a few years of the first edition. Towards 180Q, Beethoven was taking lessons in vocal composition from Antonio Salieri, to whom the Sonatas are dedicated, but the dedication is probably less an expression of gratitude than a formal bow towards an Imperial Kapellmeister whose influence might help a young composer to obtain a coveted - but not forthcoming - position at Court. "Heaven help us!" wrote Beethoven, with heavy sarcasm, to the publisher Hoffmeister, "What appointment at the Imperial Court could be given to such a mediocre talent like myself."
The Sonatas Op. 23 and Op. 24 (the title "Spring" Sonata is not Beethoven's) were composed during 1800 and 1801 and announced by Mollo in Vienna in October 1801 as "Deux Senates pour fe Pianoforte avec un Violon, Op. 23." However, an engraver's format tins error caused them to be published as separate sonatas with individual opus numbers early in the following year; reprints in Bonn, Pans, Hamburg, Leipzig, and London followed, and arrangements for string quartet and string trio also appeared later. The dedications are to one of Beethoven's most important aristocratic patrons of those years, the banker and art-collector Count Montz von Fries, to whom the String Quintet, Op. 29, and the Seventh Symphony were also inscribed.
The three Sonatas of Op. 30 were composed in 1802 and published in May and June by the "Bureau d'Arts et d'lndustrie" in Vienna, with reprints in all the major publishing cities and several arrangements for various combinations as well. The motivation behind the dedication to Alexander I, the young Russian Czar, is not certain: Alexander was known for his support of enlightened reforms, but he was equally well known for his lavish support of the arts and his generous stipends to Western musicians. Inasmuch as Beethoven, around 1803, was seriously considering leaving Vienna for a more hospitable musical center, it seems altogether possible that he contemplated a visit or an extended stay in Russia as one of his options, with the dedication as his visiting card.
An October 1803 letter to Simrock from Ferdinand Ries tells us that the dedication of the Sonata, Op, 47, was motivated by just such an intended move - in this instance to Pans. The Sonata was originally composed for a concert performance in Vienna by the noted English virtuoso and outstanding exponent of Viotti's music, George Bridgetower Beethoven later intended to inscribe the work to Rodolphe Kreutzer and Louis Adam, "as the first violinist and pianist in Paris," no doubt to be presented to these luminaries upon his arrival in the French capital. Ultimately, of course, Kreutzer became the sole dedicatee of Beethoven's most brilliant piano/violin sonata, written, as Simrock's title-pase stated in April 1805, "in a style molto concertante almost like that of a concerto," a unique phrase expressing Beethoven's drive to achieve a dynamic equality between the instruments, as well as his salute to the then-dominant French violin concerto tradition. The first two movements were. composed in 1803, while the Finale was originally written for Op. 30, No. 1, in 1802, This, along with the strong sense of motivic interconnections between the movements, has led to the suggestion that the Finale may have been the work's original point of departure. Despite the "Kreutzer" Sonata's heightened difficulty, the usual reprints followed, and, in later decades, arrangements for piano four-hands (by Carl Czerny), string quintet, and piano quartet were marketed.
Beethoven customarily composed works for specific occasions - in response to commissions, publication offerings, or performance opportunities. The "occasions" for the first eight sonatas are not precisely known, but may safely be assumed to have been for private performances in the salons and musicales of his aristocratic patrons at the turn of the century, performances in which Beethoven usually served as pianist with various violinists taking the obb/tgato part. Among them were certainly such professional violinists as Schuppanzigh, Krumphoiz, Franz Weiss, Franz Clement, and probably Kreutzer as well during his 1798 visit to Vienna, and no doubt Beethoven condescended to play sonatas with his leading patrons, some of whom, such as Count Andreas Razumovsky, were amateur violinists Before 1800, sonatas were rarely performed at public concerts, though one of the Op. 12 Sonatas seems to have been played by Beethoven and Schuppan-zigh at a concert on March 29, 1797.
The occasion that resulted in Beethoven's final sonata for piano and violin was Pierre Rode's visit to Vienna in late 1812, It was also an opportunity to gratify two of Beethoven's main patrons of these years, Archduke Rudolph and Prince Lobkowitz, the former taking both the piano part and the dedication, the latter providing his palace as the setting for the first performance, on December 29, 1812. The performance was repeated in a public concert on January 1, 1813, Like the String Quartet, Op. 95, also a harbinger of the late style, Beethoven did not rush into print with the G-Major Sonata, Its first edition was announced in the Wiener Zeitung for July 29, 1816, together with announcements of the "Archduke" Trio, Op. 97, and "An die feme Geliebte," Op 98, The Sonata was rather extensively revised prior to publication. By the time he returned to the autograph, Beethoven seems to have forgotten its date of composition, writing on it: "Sonata in February 1812 or 1813 by LvBthwen," To judge by the absence of early reprints or arrangements, the work took some time before its subtle, elegaic effect could be felt.
1985 Maynard Solomon