Program Notes

By Jason Sundram

Violin Sonata #7 in C minor, Opus 30, #2 (1802)

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Ludwig van Beethoven (December 16, 1770–March 26, 1827)

  1. Allegro con brio
  2. Adagio cantabile
  3. Scherzo (Allegro)
  4. Finale (Allegro)

Dedicated to Czar Alexander I of Russia

Beethoven was not a man you would want to meet socially. He had a stormy personality and a fierce temper. He was the first composer to consider himself an artist and was conscious of writing music not just for his time, but for posterity. He was comfortable with aristocracy to an extent that no musician, not even Mozart, had been before him. He was egotistical, and considered himself superior even to kings. But he was right; his music is alive and strong today, while the nobles of his time are remembered chiefly for their role in supporting his music.

Sonata #7 is the second of three sonatas published in 1802, just after Beethoven became fully aware of his hearing loss. It is the largest and most serious of the three Opus 30 sonatas. Although a brilliant and virtuosic piece, the sonata is never superficial. This music is vintage middle period Beethoven, with plenty of Sturm und Drang ("Storm and Stress") . Its key of C minor makes it kin with the stormy Piano Trio, Opus 1, #3 and String Quartet, Opus 18, #4. The same spirit which later created the fiery Symphony #5, Opus 67 (also in C minor) is present here. Beethoven referred to this sonata as the beginnings of his “new path” in music; one which would take him to the heights of the Choral Symphony (#9).

One of only three violin sonatas with four movements instead of Beethoven's usual three, the Sonata #7 opens with a questing, mysterious movement. Its rumblings suggested the charge of the Prussian cavalry to a contemporary. The two inner movements are surprisingly quiet. After sketching the second movement in G major, Beethoven moved it to the key of A-flat, giving this gentle song a more veiled sound. The third movement is a playful scherzo. The Finale is dramatic and foreboding, with a wonderfully energetic presto climax.