N0. 19 AND 20, OP. 49

View of Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral


When Joachim Kaiser, in his description of these Sonatas, points out that pianists, in their playing these "easy sonatas" might compare themselves to Einstein being faced with the task of performing simple multiplications, then he might be referring to the fact that, perhaps, also this sonatas would deserve careful attention.  

When we, as lay people, deal, at first, with their creation histories, we might also want to take a look at summaries provided by some experts:  

"These sonatas fall readily into two groups: thirteen sonatas written prior to 1800--opus 2 to 22, plus two "easy sonatas," opus 49--which explore and expand the possibilities of sonata form" (Solomon: 104).

"By the time he had finished his First Symphony and the String Quartets op. 18 in 1800, Beethoven had written 13 piano sonatas (up to and including op. 22 and the two sonatas op 49) . . . " (Kinderman: 30).

"There is far less distance between these sonatas [WoO 47] and those of Op. 49 than between the latter and the 'Hammerklavier'" (Cooper: 11).

However, we might to well not to 'reflect' on these comments yet but rather to take them along on our 'discovery route', as useful, not too heavy luggage; we begin our journey by trying to establish a time frame for the creation of these "easy" sonatas.   



Approximately to the extent that these sonatas might appear to us to be in the wrong place within Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas, namely between Op. 31 and Op. 53, we should also be prepared to discover that their creation does not "chronologically" follow the sequence of the given Opus numbers of Op. 49, No. 1 and Op. 49, No. 2.  

Therefore, we might wish to consult Thayer and Cooper in chronological sequence, but not necessarily in Opus number sequence.  

Thayer  (p. 197) first reports that the Kafka Sketch Volume at the British Museum contains sketches to the Minuet and Trio for Beethoven's Sextett, to the Aria, "Ah, perfido!" and to the Piano Sonata Op. 49, No. 2, and that these sketches can be dated back to the year 1796.  

While Thayer merely refers to this possibility, Cooper provides us with an indication as to how this information can be verified in some manner:  

"Several other works can be dated to Beethoven's period in Prague in 1796 on the basis of the paper types of their sketches or autograph score.(3) One is the Piano Sonata in G, Op. 49 No. 2" (Cooper: 64).

Thayer (p.199) then points out that the fact that the second movement of the second Sonata (which was thus written in 1796), the Minuet, is based on the same motif as the third movement of the Septet and that the fact that the motif in the sonata is older than the same motif in the Septet can be proven by the fact that sketches to is can be found next to those of "Ah, perfido" (written in 1795-1796) and of the Sextet for Wind Instrument, Op. 71.  According to Thayer, this also indicates that, in all likelihood, this motif was written in 1795 or 1796 the latest.  

Thayer (p. 201) then lists this sonata as having been written in 1795 - 1796.  

However, when did Beethoven write the "first" sonata of this Opus group?  Let us quote Thayer directly:  

"Nottebohm considers it likely that the first Sonata was finished at the latest in 1798, certainly before the Sonata "Pathetique" and the Trio for strings, Op. 9, No. 3" (Thayer: 199).  

On the other hand, Thayer (p. 213) confirms this by pointing out that sketches to the Rondo of Op. 13 were found among those of the Trio, Op. 9 and after the beginning of a clean copy for the Sonata, Op. 49, No. 1.  

Thayer (p. 217) then lists this sonata as having been written in 1798.  

However, did Beethoven intend to publish these sonatas?  Let us consult Barry Cooper with respect to this:  

"The theme of the Tempo di Menuetto [of the Septet] (though not its working-out) was borrowed from the still unpublished Sonata, Op. 49 No. 2.  Beethoven did not normally make such borrowings except where the earlier work was to remain unpublished . .  . and so it seems probable that in 1799 he had no intention of ever publishing the sonata.(13)" (Cooper: 86-87).


When did negotiations with publishers begin?  With respect to this, Thayer reports:  

"The Sonatas were ready for publication as early as 1802, in which year brother Carl offered them to Andre in Offenbach.  They were not published until 1805, when they appeared with the imprint of the Bureau d'Arts et d'Industrie, as appears from an advertisement in the Wiener Zeitung of January 19, 1805" (Thayer:199).

Thayer (p. 392) then lists the works as having been published by the Kunst- und Induestrie-Comptoir, in 1805.

Since the rather long stretch of time (1795 - 1805) from the time of Beethoven's writing of the first sketches to these "easy sonatas" to their publication, on the occasion of these smaller works would not warrant to intensively investigate the general circumstances of his life during this time, we would like to refer readers who want to investigate these issues, to our Biographical Pages, while here, we move on to the description of the musical content of each sonata, whereby we can again ponder our introductory expert comments in the event that one or the other impression that we may personally gain lends itself to such reflection.