Ludwig van Beethoven

Sonata for cello & piano No. 3 in A major, Op. 69

    Description by James Reel

    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.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro ma non tanto
    2. Scherzo. Allegro molto
    3. Adagio cantabile - Allegro vivace

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Onyx 4196
    2019 Warner Classics 0190295633134
    2018 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 18017
    2018 Audite AUD 23440
    2018 Nimbus Alliance NI 6362
    2018 MDG MDG 9032067
    2017 Supraphon SU 42292
    2017 Decca / London
    2017 Sony Classical 88985406832
    2017 Praga / Praga Digitals PRD 250372
    2017 Gaia Recordings GAIA-16000
    2017 NEOS NEOS 21602
    2017 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 16030
    2016 Melodiya MELCD 1002296
    2016 Onyx Classics ONYX 4178
    2016 Evidence / Evidence Classics EVCD 015
    2016 Erato 0190295951139
    2016 Doremi Records DHR 803839
    2016 Nimbus Alliance NI 6319
    2015 Danacord DACOCD 738
    2015 Pentatone / PentaTone Classics PTC 5186475
    2015 Maguelone MAG 111199
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    2014 Hyperion CDA 679812
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