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Volume 10 • Number 1

Spring 2003



Eliminating Potentiality: Beethoven's Work on the First Movement
of the Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op.5, No.2

by Petra Weber-Bockholdt

Beethoven's two Sonatas for Violoncello and Piano, op.5, were composed during his concert tour to Prague, Dresden, and Berlin in 1796. Written for the cello-playing Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm II, they were first performed at court by the composer and the cellist Jean-Louis Duport in the summer of that year, and published the following February by Artaria in Vienna. For reasons of space, the following essay will deal only with the first movement of the G-Minor Sonata, on its own a movement of enormous dimensions. Never before had Beethoven tackled the problem of creating such a large structure. Lewis Lockwood has compared it with the Eroica, whose first movement, with a total of 509 measures, is 1823⁄4 measures longer than this one. Its tempo is a function of its size: not only is the usual Allegro accelerated by the indication molto più tosto presto; the driving character of the fast quarters, subdivided into triplets over long stretches, adds much to the movement's zeal and temperament. Both the tempo and the dimensions of the movement invoke notions of mastery, supreme command, and sovereignty.

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