Tracing Beethoven Through the Ten Sonatas for Piano and Violin
Shapiro, Rachel Kitagawa
MetadataShow full item record
Examination of Beethoven’s ten sonatas for piano and violin as a single arc, to uncover linkages between the individual sonatas and observe their stylistic evolution as a set, benefits from placing these works also in relation to the wider realm of Beethoven’s chamber music as a whole. During the years in which his sonatas for piano and violin were written, Beethoven often produced multiple works simultaneously. In fact, the first nine sonatas for piano and violin were written within a mere five-year span (1798 – 1803.) After a gap of nine years, Beethoven completed his tenth and final sonata, marking the end of his “Middle Period.” Because of this distribution, it is important to consider each of these sonatas not only as an interdependent set, but also in relation to the whole of Beethoven’s output for small ensemble. Beethoven wrote the last of his piano and violin sonatas in 1812, with a decade and a half of innovation still ahead of him. This provokes one to look beyond these sonatas to discover the final incarnation of the ideas introduced in these works. In particular, the key creative turning points within the ten sonatas for piano and violin become strikingly apparent when compared to Beethoven’s string quartets, which dramatically showcase Beethoven’s evolution in sixteen works distributed more or less evenly across his career. From the perspective of a string quartet player, studying the ten sonatas for piano and violin provides an opportunity to note similarities between the genres. This paper argues that examining the ten sonatas from a viewpoint primarily informed by Beethoven’s string quartets yields a more thorough understanding of the sonatas themselves and a broader conception of the vast network of interrelationships that produce Beethoven’s definitive voice. The body of this paper contains a full exploration of each of the ten sonatas for piano and violin, highlighting key musical, historical, and theoretical elements. Each of the sonatas is then put not only in context of the set of ten, but is contrasted with Beethoven’s sixteen string quartets, identifying unifying motives, techniques, and structural principles that recur across both bodies of work.