The Kennedy Center

Cello Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69

About the Work

Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven when composing the Missa Solemnis Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
© Dr. Richard E. Rodda

The A major Cello Sonata of 1808 dates from the most productive period of Beethoven's life — it is exactly contemporary with the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, with whose sketches it is mingled, and immediately surrounded by several of his most important compositions: the Piano Sonatas, Opp. 53 ("Waldstein"), 54 and 57 ("Appassionata"); Fourth and Fifth Piano Concertos; Fourth Symphony; Violin Concerto; first two versions of Fidelio; Razumovsky Quartets, Op. 59; Coriolan Overture; Mass in C major, Op. 86; two Piano Trios, Op. 70; and String Quartet, Op. 74. It is not known why Beethoven composed this particular Cello Sonata, a genre that he had not broached since 1796, when he created the two numbers comprising his Op. 5 for Jean Pierre Duport, the court virtuoso to Frederick the Great at Potsdam. It has been speculated, however, that the Sonata was intended as a sort of compensation to Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein (1778-1828), an amateur cellist and secretary to the Austrian War Department, to whom Beethoven had promised the dedication of the Fourth Piano Concerto, completed in 1806. Beethoven instead assigned that work to Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria.