Три скрипичные сонаты, Opus 12

Время создания: 1797-98 г.
Посв. Антонио Сальери

The three violin sonatas, opus 12, were published in early 1799. It was often suggested that Beethoven dedicated them to Salieri to thank him for the lessons in vocal composition. (With plans in mind for the preparation of an opera Beethoven visited Salieri to learn the secrets of setting text to music.) Likely, this is not true, because Salieri's lessons took place after opus 12 had been published. It is more probable that Beethoven used the dedication to direct attention to him and to obtain Salieri's benevolence. At that time Antonio Salieri was the most important and most influential person of the Vienna musical life. Not only was he the music director at the court but also president of the Tonkunstler Society between 1788 and 1795 and later vice president. For Beethoven as a young and aspiring composer it could not be wrong to win the support of such an influential man.

Apart from that, Salieri was not a mischievous and begrudging person as he is often characterised by the bad and wrong anecdote surrounding the death of Mozart (one of the most successful slandering campaigns ever). Contemporaries describe him as kind and helpful. (beethoven-haus-bonn.de)


№1 D-dur:

1. Allegro con brio
2. Tema con Variazioni. Andante con moto
3. Rondo. Allegro

Гидон Кремер, скрипка
Марта Аргерих, фортепиано

Beethoven inaugurates his first Violin Sonata with a brief fanfare played in octaves by both instruments; this melts into a smoother yet still energetic melody (the tempo is Allegro con brio) that is essentially an expansion of the fanfare. By this point, Beethoven has already laid out all the raw material for the sonata- form movement, even though the exposition is far from over. The thematic ideas simply evolve from each other, in a quick preview of the technique of thematic metamorphosis that Franz Liszt would advocate decades later. Beethoven thoroughly works over all this material in the development section, but only as he approaches the recapitulation does he combine the fanfare with its smooth variant, thus making their relationship explicit. Sibelius would later employ a similar trick, but in a more complex way, in the first movement of his Second Symphony.

In the second movement, Andante con moto, a broad, noble theme introduced by the piano is then taken up by the violin, with four variations. The first variation, dominated by the keyboard, is formal and ornate, with the violin playing a subsidiary role. The second variation offers the violin its own florid showcase, with the keyboard in a burbling accompaniment. The movement takes a dramatic turn with the third variation; it slips into the minor mode and wrenches the instruments through sudden dynamic contrasts and key shifts. Calm prevails once again in the last variation, although the theme is now hidden in the syncopated inner voice of the piano part.

Syncopation rules the main theme of the rondo finale (Allegro). It's an ebullient 6/8 tune with the accent shifted to the second beat, but it makes way for more expansive melodies for the violin over animated piano accompaniment. One of these, a soaring F-major theme, returns to lead the movement through its coda, which Beethoven elongates by modulating through some surprisingly distant keys.

(All Music Guide)


№ 2 A-dur:

1. Allegro vivace
2. Andante piu tosto Allegretto
3. Allegro piacevole

Гидон Кремер, скрипка
Марта Аргерих, фортепиано

What we now call by shorthand the violin sonata—a sonata for violin and keyboard, the two instruments being fairly equal partners—had started out early in Mozart's career as a keyboard sonata with a comparatively inconsequential string part. Through the efforts of Mozart and others, the violin gradually assumed a far more active role. So by 1799, when Beethoven published his first set of violin sonatas, the title-page designation "for the harpsichord or fortepiano with a violin" was already anachronistic in its near-dismissal of the string part. This turned out to be something of a joke, as discovered at the beginning of the set's A-major sonata. The first movement, Allegro vivace, opens with a quick, mechanical little waltz-like accompaniment characteristic of the keyboard writing of the time—except that here it's taken by the violin, while the piano plays a simple, downward-skipping melody that shortly breaks out in a frantic run, all in a very violinistic idiom!

After this first statement, the instruments effectively trade places, but also continue to trade off melody and accompaniment as true partners. The most memorable phrase of a secondary subject looks forward to Rossini's Largo al factotum; this is followed by a lot of back-and-forth teasing between the instruments, and a creeping, mock-suspenseful episode. The development section suddenly jerks everything into C major, a slightly surprising modulation for the time. The development itself hardly differs from the exposition except in its amusing key transpositions from theme to theme. The coda is extended enough to be mistaken for part of the development, playing as it does on the main subject's appoggiaturas, before petering out to leave the violin's little downward-skipping two-note motif hanging.

The second movement, Andante, piu tosto allegretto, is a simple affair. The theme falls into four-bar phrases, with each half introduced by the piano before being appropriated by the violin. This first section is built around a flowing but still guileless melody that eventually becomes sole property of the violin, with the piano offering a modest, staccato accompaniment. The mood darkens in the movement's second half, although neither the thematic material nor the texture becomes any more complex.

The third movement, marked Allegro piacevole, is a relaxed rondo whose recurring theme is a happy whistling tune, with a few wide intervallic leaps and playful turns. Interleaved with this are episodes in much the same character; in fact, the middle section's accompaniment is nothing more than the little cadence from the primary theme's final bar. Beethoven saves one more joke for the end: The instruments move through a decisive-sounding final cadence in full partnership, only for the piano to get in the last word with an "extra" last note.

(All Music Guide)


№ 3 Es-dur:

1. Allegro con spirito
2. Adagio con molt` espressione
3. Rondo. Allegro molto

Гидон Кремер, скрипка
Марта Аргерих, фортепиано

In contrast to its somewhat humorous partners, the Third Violin Sonata of Beethoven's Opus 12 set is a serious work with a sober slow movement, and a particularly muscular opening section. That first movement, Allegro con spirito, keeps both instruments moving incessantly (though never frantically), yet the piano generally has the greater technical challenge with almost nonstop quarter-note triplets and sudden runs, pulling the violin along behind it. What the motifs lack in melodic distinction they make up for in energy and a demand for clean technique. As in the other early violin sonatas, the development section runs through the themes again sequentially, modulating to new keys but not really working over the material in new ways. That is, not until the section's very end, when the instruments stop short for a brief, broad melody over a tremolando accompaniment. But all this is soon brushed aside by a good-natured coda. The Adagio con molt'espressione is the most deeply-felt slow movement in this set of sonatas. It is, in fact, a single melody that evolves slowly over a double-dotted rhythm. The atmosphere is consistently serene, with the violin singing its long lines over a murmuring accompaniment, then trading roles with the piano. It's almost Italianate in its expressive, forward-moving lyricism, except that the Italians had not quite patented this style by 1798; that would come in another decade-plus with Paganini and the bel canto opera composers.

Serenity is banished by the cheerful finale, Rondo: Allegro molto. The primary theme is launched by a repeated-note figure, a musical chuckle that underlies most of what is to follow. Unexpectedly, the middle section falls into the minor mode and hints at some brief, mild conflict between the instruments. This is soon swept away by another surprise, a fugal treatment of the main theme that leads straight into a brief, high-spirited coda.

(All Music Guide)