Sonatas for Pianoforte and Violoncello, Op. 102/1 and 102/2


Ludwig van Beethoven, 1815

Painting by Willibrod Mähler

In a German popular magazine article of January 9, 2000, the German music critic Joachim Kaiser refers to these Sonatas as "herbe" ('tart') works.  Already in the spring of 1815, so Thayer, there existed sketches to them, namely in a sketchbook that was later located in Berlin and which had been described by Nottebohm.  The time indication of the spring of 1815 was provided by Beethoven himself with his reference thereon to the London production of Wellington's Victory, u "In Drury Lane Theater on February 10th, and repeated by general request on the 13th, Wiener Zeitung of March 2nd" (Thayer: 613).

Since Thayer's next reference mentions that:

"the destruction of Razumovsky's palace suspended the quartets, and Linke, the violoncellist, passed the summer with the Erdödys at Jedlersee. This gave the impulse to Beethoven to write the principal works of this year: the two Sonatas for Pianoforte and Violoncello, Op. 102. The first beard his date: 'Towards the end of July'; the second: 'Beginning of August'" (Thayer: 620,

it might be advisable to investigate as to when Beethoven came into contact with Countess Erdödy during this year and under what circumstances.  For this purpose, I looked through the correspondence of Beethoven with Countess Erdödy and the private tutor of her children, Anton Brauchle, that is featured in Dana Steichen's book Beethoven's Beloved (which defends her as Immortal Beloved candidate) of this year.  As first document of this year is featured Beethoven's letter to Countess Erdödy:

"29th February, 1815

I have read, your esteemed Countess, your letter with great pleasure, also the renewing of your friendship for me. It has long been my wish once again to see you and also your dear children, for although I have suffered much, I have not yet lost my earlier feelings for childhood, for beautiful nature and for friendship.--The trio, and everything which as yet is not published, stands, dear Countess, from the heart, at your service--as soon as it is written, you shall receive it. Not without sympathy and solicitude have I often enquired after your state of health, but now, once again, I shall present myself personally to you and I will be glad to be able to take part in all that concerns you.--My brother has written to you, you must be a little indulgent with him, he is really an unfortunate suffering man.--The hope that the coming spring will have the best influence on your health and perhaps, as I wish also, make it reality--farewell, dear, worthy Countess, my best remembrances to your dear children, whom in spirit I embrace.--I hope to see you soon.--

Your true friend

Ludwig van Beethoven" (Steichen: 267).

This leads us to conclude that Countess Erdödy had been absent from Vienna and from Beethoven for some time and that she had returned to Vienna at that time.  Thus, the simultaneous occurrence of several outer circumstances such as the destruction by fire of the Razumovsky palace and the arising necessity for the quartet members of the same name to look for employment elsewhere as well as the return of his former patron, Countess Erdödy, met with Beethoven's inner drive towards the creation of a work of this genre at this time and that it subsequently saw the completion of this work during this summer

An impression of how quickly Beethoven returned to a very familiar tone with his former patron is conveyed by this note from the summer of this year:

"Liebe liebe liebe liebe liebe Gräfin, ich gebrauche Bäder, mit welchen ich erst morgen aufhöre, daher werde ich Sie und alle Ihre Lieben heute nicht sehen. - Ich hoffe, Sie genießen einer bessern Gesundheit; es ist kein Trost für bessere Menschen, ihnen zu sagen, daß andere auch leiden, allein Vergleiche muß man wohl immer anstellen, und da findet sich wohl, daß wir alle nur auf eine andere Art leiden, irren. - Nehmen Sie die bessere Auflage des Quartetts und geben Sie samt einem sanften Handschlag die schlechte dem Violoncello; sobald ich wieder zu Ihnen komme, soll meine Sorge sein, selben etwas in die Enge zu treiben. Leben Sie wohl, drücken, küssen Sie Ihre lieben Kinder in meinem Namen, obschon es fällt mir ein, ich darf die Töchter ja nicht mehr küssen, sie sind ja schon zu groß; hier weiß ich nicht zu helfen, handeln Sie nach Ihrer Weisheit, liebe Gräfin.

Wahrer Freund und Verehrer

Ludwig van Beethoven" (Schmidt, Beethoven=Briefe: 98; 'Dear, dear, dear, dear Countess, I am using the baths with which I will only be done by tomorrow, and therefore, I cannot see you and your loved ones today.--I hope that you enjoy better health; it is no consolation for better human beings to tell them that others suffer, too; alone, one always has to make comparisons, and in doing so, one might well find that we all suffer and err, yet each in a different manner. -- Take the better edition of the Quartet and give the worse one to the Violoncello with a slight tap on his hand; as soon as I shall have time to visit  you, it shall be my business to corner him.  Farewell, press and kiss all your dear children in my name, yet, it occurs to me that I may no longer kiss your daughters, they have become too old for that; in this, I do not know how to help myself; act according to your wisdom, dear Countess.  Your true friend and admirer Ludwig van Beethoven').

Who was meant by the Violoncello, will have become clear to the observant reader.

In the beginning of 1816, according to Thayer, Beethoven entrusted these works to Charles Neate of England and added a dedication to the latter.

Beethoven's former Bonn colleage, the publisher Nikolaus Simrock, published the work in 1817 (without a dedication to Countess Erdödy) (Thayer: 692).

Proof of the fact that this work was also intertwined with the further development of the creative style of Beethoven's last period can be found in the following:

"A fugue-theme, identical, so far as the first three measures go, with that of the Scherzo of the Ninth Symphony, presented itself to him and was imprisoned in his notebook of 1815, being recorded among the sketches for the Sonata for Pianoforte and Violoncello in D, Op. 102" (Thayer: 887).