Musicology

"Transformation Within the Frame: Beethoven’s Revision of the First Movement of the Cello Sonata in A Major, Opus 69"

Thursday morning, November 1, 2012, Bayside A
Lewis Lockwood
Professor emeritus, Harvard University

“Transformation Within the Frame: Beethoven’s Revision of the First Movement of the Cello Sonata in A Major, Opus 69”

Composed in the early months of 1808, apparently during an interruption in Beethoven’s ongoing work on the Fifth Symphony, the Cello Sonata in A Major Op. 69 is by common consent one of his most beautiful and significant keyboard chamber works. In a brilliant analytical study of its first movement, Eytan Agmon compared it in importance to the “Waldstein” and “Appassionata” sonatas and to the Opus 59 quartets.  The only surviving autograph of this sonata – that of the first movement – is unusual even for Beethoven for the scope of its revisions.  Though the manuscript has been widely available in two separate facsimile editions published in1970 and in 1992, it harbors complexities that call for renewed study.  Begun as a fair copy, the manuscript soon became a densely revised composing score as Beethoven recast many of its details and passages. This paper will focus on the Development section, in which, throughout the entire section he carries out a massive revision essentially  by reversing the order of the dialogue entries of the cello and piano from start to finish.  My discussion aims to show how Beethoven transformed the Development section and to explore issues of register and sonority that enable us to understand the aesthetic and structural consequences of this drastic revision.