Cello Sonata No.3

Ludwig van Beethoven

Cello Sonata No.3 in A major

Op. 69

Recommended recording

Curated by Guy Jones, Head of Curation

About this work

Completed in 1808, the same year as his Fifth and Sixth symphonies, Beethoven's Cello Sonata No. 3 in A Major, Op. 69, bears the heading "Inter Lacrimas et Luctum," (Amid Tears and Sorrow). While this richly melodic work does not immediately strike the listener as doleful, there is some melancholy behind its reflective lyricism. True, the first movement, Allegro ma non tanto, is darkly shaded, but for the most part it is characterized by the pensive, cantilena melody that the cello introduces in the beginning. This theme veers into a more aggressive episode, then makes way for the second subject, which is also in two parts. Again, the first is highly lyrical while the second surges forward energetically. The development section breaks these themes into their component parts and gives each a brief elaboration, alternating the contentious material with the more reflective passages, often in the lower registers of the instruments. The recapitulation allows all the basic material to reappear without incident.

The Scherzo, marked Allegro molto, finds the two instruments trading fragments of a syncopated melody, lurching from A minor to E minor and C major until tripping into a more songlike trio section featuring arresting dynamic contrasts and a bass drone. This whole structure is repeated, with the final appearance of the scherzo proper sneaking away on cello pizzicati.

The Adagio cantabile is technically only the introduction to the last movement, but it could almost stand alone on its 18 bars of gentle lyricism for the cello. An Allegro vivace breaks in; it's a sonata-form movement, with the first subject a happy whirl and the second a reminiscence of the cantabile material from the first movement. The development provides a virtuosic workout for both instruments, especially the piano, but the gentler coda ends the sonata on a note of noble jubilation.

Done