Beethoven's Complete Works for Cello and Piano

It could be said that Beethoven was the creator of the sonata for cello and piano as we know the form today. Mozart, Haydn and his other predecessors had used the cello as a basso continuo, but had not given the instrument a leading role. Although Bach and Boccherini had already written sonatas for the instrument they had done so with a very different approach and with a basso continuo accompaniment. Beethoven’s approach, on the other hand, was to treat the cello as a solo instrument, giving it equal importance as the piano.
The first two sonatas (Op. 5) were written for the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II, then twenty-six years old. In spite of being very different from each other in character, the two sonatas share a very similar structure. Both of them have only two movements, and begin with a slow introduction which is developed so that it gives the impression of being a movement in its own right, almost as if the sonata had three movements instead of just two.
In five years, Beethoven also wrote the three sets of variations for cello & piano. The first variations on a theme of Judas Macabeus by Frederik Handel (whom Beethoven considered to be the greatest composer in the canon) were written around the same time as the first two sonatas. Beethoven had used the genre of theme with variations in many of his compositions throughout his life; inserting the form into sonatas, quartets, and symphonies, etc. It seems to have been a form that he was very comfortable with.
The third sonata was written at the same time as the fifth symphony. In spite of being from the same period, they are very different in character. While in this symphony, the driving force is a depiction of man’s struggle against the forces of destiny, the sonata presents us with a mood of harmonious optimism.
Although there is a long period separating the composition of the third sonata from the first two, Beethoven followed the same path he had started with Op. 5, giving the cello still more autonomy and indeed the sonata begins with a phrase that the cello plays unaccompanied.
The last two sonatas, Op. 102, have such complexity that the performers must play from the score, rather than individual parts, in order to make coordination easier. In these sonatas we can see Beethoven’s late style. This is particularly evident in the form and structure of the fourth sonata, which completely breaks with the classical form, and also in the fugue of the final movement of the fifth sonata, which revolutionises the genre. Through these sonatas we can trace the trajectory of the composer’s style; from Classicism to early Romanticism. What is also clear is the impact Beethoven had on this genre, as with others, and the milestone he has come to represent in music history.
Irma Bau & Irina Veselova
Translation by William Kingswood


Concert I

Sonata nº1, op. 5 nº1
  1. Adagio sostenuto – Allegro
  2. Allegro vivace

Die Zauberflöte op. 66: Twelve variations on “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen”


Die Zauberföte woO. 46: Seven variations on “Bei Männern welche liebe fühlen”

Sonata nº2, op. 5 nº2
  1. Adagio – Allegro
  2. Rondó – Allegro

Concert II

Sonata nº3 op. 69
  1. Allegro ma non tanto
  2. Scherzo – Allegro mosso
  3. Adagio cantabile – Allegro vivace

Judas Macabeus: Twelve variations on “See, the Conq’ring Hero comes”


Sonata nº4, op. 102 nº1
  1. Andante – Allegro vivace
  2. Adagio – Tempo d’Andante – Allegro vivace

Sonata nº5, op. 102 nº2
  1. Allegro con Brio
  2. Adagio con molto sentimento d’Affetto
  3. Allegro – Allegro fugato