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Cello Sonata in C major, Op 102 No 1
late July 1815; dedicated to Countess Anna Maria Erdödy; published in 1817 by Simrock and in 1819 by Artaria

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Movement 1: Andante –
Movement 2: Allegro vivace
Movement 3: Adagio – Tempo d'andante –
Movement 4: Allegro vivace

Cello Sonata in C major, Op 102 No 1
The two Sonatas of Op 102, which can perhaps be regarded as the first works of Beethoven’s so-called ‘late’ period, were composed in 1815, the first completed, according to the wording on the manuscript, ‘towards the end of July’, and the second at the ‘beginning of August’. The inspiration behind them came from the cellist Josef Linke, another of Beethoven’s devoted musicians. Linke was a member of the house string quartet of Prince Rasumovsky, the former Russian Ambassador in Vienna, when at the end of December 1814 the Prince’s palace, laid out for an enormous royal banquet, burned to the ground. The quartet had to be disbanded and Linke was taken on by the Erdödys – Countess Anne Marie (to whom the Op 102 Sonatas are dedicated) and Count Peter, with whom he spent the summer at their retreat in Jedlersee am Marchfelde, east of Vienna. Beethoven, an affectionate friend of the couple, took every opportunity to escape from the city to visit them and his favourite cellist. A letter from Beethoven to the Countess, promising to visit her at Jedlersee, makes play on Linke’s name (meaning ‘left’ in German):

Let the violoncello apply himself, starting on the left bank of the Danube he is to play until everyone has crossed from the right bank of the Danube. What’s more, I am confident of the route over the Danube I have already set; with courage one may gain any objective if righteous.

The C major Sonata, despite the development by this stage of a piano closer to the more sonorous instrument of today, again eschews a full slow movement, but Beethoven this time preludes each of the two movements with a slow introduction. Of these the Andante is the more substantial, opening, rather in the manner of Op 69, with the cello alone, followed by a complementary phrase on the piano, both extended gently and rhapsodically until interrupted by the fortissimo arrival of the first Allegro vivace, which is actually in A minor. The argument is far more concentrated than in the earlier sonatas – Beethoven had by now moved away from the expansiveness of his middle period. The second movement opens with a short improvisatory Adagio which, before making way for the main part of the movement, allows a brief recall of the first movement’s Andante material. The finale proper is a terse sonata-form movement dominated by the short rising figure of the first few bars (perhaps derived from the theme of the Andante) and rapid semiquaver movement. But twice this movement is interrupted by pauses and still, open fifths on cello. At the end the tension winds down before the tempo is picked up again for the last couple of bars.

from notes by Matthew Rye © 1996

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