Beethoven’s piano sonatas are a cornerstone of the piano repertoire and favourites of both the concert hall and recording studio. The sonatas have been the subject of much scholarship, but no single study gives an adequate account of the processes by which these sonatas were composed and published. With source materials such as sketches and correspondence increasingly available, the time is ripe for a close study of the history of these works. Barry Cooper, who in 2007 produced a new edition of all 35 sonatas, including three that are often overlooked, examines each sonata in turn, addressing questions such as: Why were they written? Why did they turn out as they did? How did they come into being and how did they reach their final form? Drawing on the composer’s sketches, autograph scores and early printed editions, as well as contextual material such as correspondence, Cooper explores the links between the notes and symbols found in the musical texts of the sonatas, and the environment that brought them about. The result is a biography not of the composer, but of the works themselves.
Table of Contents
List of music examples
List of tables
Preface and acknowledgements
Chapter 1: Approaching Beethoven’s piano sonatas
Chapter 2: The Bonn sonatas
Chapter 3: The Opus 2 sonatas and Haydn
Chapter 4: The sonatas of 1796–97
Chapter 5: The sonatas of 1798–1800
Chapter 6: New century, new approaches
Chapter 7: A ‘new path’?
Chapter 8: The middle period opens up
Chapter 9: A Clementi commission
Chapter 10: Moving into the late period
Chapter 11: The last three sonatas
Barry Cooper is Professor of Music at the University of Manchester. He has a wide range of research interests from medieval to 19th-century music, notably on English Baroque music and the music of Beethoven and his contemporaries. A world authority on Beethoven, his books on the composer include Beethoven and the Creative Process (1990; 2nd edn, 1992), Beethoven’s Folksong Settings (1994), Beethoven (The Master Musicians, 2000; 2nd edn, 2008) and Beethoven: An Extraordinary Life (2013). He is also the General Editor and co-author of The Beethoven Compendium (1991; 2nd edn, 1996). His scholarly performing edition of Beethoven’s 35 Piano Sonatas (London: ABRSM, 2007) won the award 'Best Classical Publication' of the year from the Music Industries Association.
'A much-needed study of the "story" of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. Cooper guides us diligently through the evolution of these cornerstones of the pianist’s repertoire.'
John Irving, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
'In this remarkable study, a first of its kind, Barry Cooper traces the compositional process of an entire genre, the thirty-five sonatas for the fortepiano, from Beethoven’s daring first set of three sonatas composed when he was twelve through the last sonata of 1821–22. The values of such a comprehensive look are clearly evident here, and Cooper supplements the analysis of the sonatas with his deep insights on the composition of the symphonies and other genres. Every pianist and scholar deeply engaged in the sonatas will be both intrigued and enlightened with both the details and long view of Cooper’s study.'
Will Meredith, San José State University