Ludwig van Beethoven

Sonata for violin & piano No. 2 in A major, Op. 12/2

    Description by James Reel

    What we now call by shorthand the violin sonata -- a sonata for violin and keyboard, the two instruments being fairly equal partners -- had started out early in Mozart's career as a keyboard sonata with a comparatively inconsequential string part. Through the efforts of Mozart and others, the violin gradually assumed a far more active role. So by 1799, when Beethoven published his first set of violin sonatas, the title-page designation "for the harpsichord or fortepiano with a violin" was already anachronistic in its near-dismissal of the string part. This turned out to be something of a joke, as discovered at the beginning of the set's A-major sonata. The first movement, Allegro vivace, opens with a quick, mechanical little waltz-like accompaniment characteristic of the keyboard writing of the time -- except that here it's taken by the violin, while the piano plays a simple, downward-skipping melody that shortly breaks out in a frantic run, all in a very violinistic idiom!

    After this first statement, the instruments effectively trade places, but also continue to trade off melody and accompaniment as true partners. The most memorable phrase of a secondary subject looks forward to Rossini's Largo al factotum; this is followed by a lot of back-and-forth teasing between the instruments, and a creeping, mock-suspenseful episode. The development section suddenly jerks everything into C major, a slightly surprising modulation for the time. The development itself hardly differs from the exposition except in its amusing key transpositions from theme to theme. The coda is extended enough to be mistaken for part of the development, playing as it does on the main subject's appoggiaturas, before petering out to leave the violin's little downward-skipping two-note motif hanging.

    The second movement, Andante, più tosto allegretto, is a simple affair. The theme falls into four-bar phrases, with each half introduced by the piano before being appropriated by the violin. This first section is built around a flowing but still guileless melody that eventually becomes sole property of the violin, with the piano offering a modest, staccato accompaniment. The mood darkens in the movement's second half, although neither the thematic material nor the texture becomes any more complex.

    The third movement, marked Allegro piacevole, is a relaxed rondo whose recurring theme is a happy whistling tune, with a few wide intervallic leaps and playful turns. Interleaved with this are episodes in much the same character; in fact, the middle section's accompaniment is nothing more than the little cadence from the primary theme's final bar. Beethoven saves one more joke for the end: The instruments move through a decisive-sounding final cadence in full partnership, only for the piano to get in the last word with an "extra" last note.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro vivace
    2. Andante più tosto Allegretto
    3. Allegro piacevole

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Ars Produktion ARS 38254
    2018 Somm SOMMCD 01812
    2018 Decca
    2018 Rubicon / Rubicon Classics RCD 1012
    2017 Blue Griffin Recording BG 415
    2017 Warner Classics 0190295763084
    2016 Aparte AP 129
    2016 Chandos CHAN 108883
    2016 Skylark Music SKY 0101
    2016 Gramola GRAM 99106
    2016 Alpha ALPHA 240
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795964
    2016 EuroArts / Warner Classics 555050
    2016 Warner Classics 555054
    2015 Challenge Classics CC 72650
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794708
    2015 Gramola GRAM 99051
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794647
    2015 Champs Hill Records CHRCD 096
    2014 Warner Classics 541222
    2014 Warner Classics 2564634929
    2014 Nimbus Alliance NI 6245
    2014 Erato 2564624223
    2013 Metier MSVCD 2007
    2013 Vermeer VRM 40008
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Le Marquis / Marquis Classics MQSCD 81517
    2013 Phaia Music PHU 03234
    2013 Warner Classics
    2013 Decca
    2013 Camerata Records CAM 28259
    2013 RCA Red Seal 8876544015
    2013 Regis Records 7010
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 001649002
    2012 Zig Zag / Zig Zag Territoires ZIG 307
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94310
    2012 Bridge / The Bridge BRIDGE 9389AD
    2012 Supraphon SU 40772
    2012 Entertainment Group 4023
    2012 Music & Arts MA 1225
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 002894779464
    2011 Doremi Records DHR 80113
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Wigmore Hall 41
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 EtCetera Records 1904
    2010 Erato
    2010 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099964200
    2010 Accent 24213
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Nimbus 2553/56
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Decca
    2010 Decca 4782541
    2010 Decca
    2009 Doremi Records 7946-9
    2009 IDIS / Ital Disc 656062
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 4641222
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099926504
    2009 Decca 4781149
    2009 Decca
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099926413
    2008 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT070802
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 447058
    2008 Romeo Entertainment 7266/8
    2008 Ars Produktion 38459
    2008 Woodhouse Editions 803/6
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93525
    2007 Cascade Records 2200
    2007 Philips 4428302
    2007 Claves 2610
    2007 EMI Classics 87739
    2007 EMI Classics 3777672
    2007 Decca
    2006 Preiser Records 90703
    2006 Cypres Records 1640
    2006 EMI Classics 0946350854
    2006 EMI Classics
    2006 Globe Records 6003
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000459902
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon
    2005 Warner Classics
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 474648
    2004 Artemis Classics 1585
    2004 Haenssler 98462
    2004 Music & Arts 1143
    2004 Brilliant 92387
    2003 Doremi Records 7807
    2002 Centaur Records 2803/05
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon 471495
    2002 Calliope 3251/3
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 74804
    2002 Classica d'Oro 2017
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 74447
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 463605
    2001 Philips 468406
    2000 Philips 468152
    2000 Biddulph Recordings 80201
    1999 Philips 442651
    1999 Aura Classics 0137
    1999 Brilliant 99093
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 4594332
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon
    1999 Angel Records 73647
    1999 Pearl 9330
    1999 Grammofono 2000 78876
    1999 Naxos 554401
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 457619
    1997 Point Classics 267104
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453 743-2GCB4
    1996 Sony Classical 67196
    1996 Sony Classical 64524
    1995 Vox / Vox Box 3503
    1995 Philips 446 521-2PM2
    1995 Live Classics 145
    1994 Centaur Records CRC2642/3
    1994 Naxos 550284
    1988 London 421453
    1985 Deutsche Grammophon 415 138-2GH
    1984 Philips 412570
    MusicMasters 67197
    LYS 444-445
    BMG 60991
    RCA 7704
    Sarx 2030
    Deutsche Grammophon 415874
    Point Classics 267014
    CBS Masterworks 45683
    Meridian Records 89019
    DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 38223-25
    Brilliant 99113
    Brilliant 92387/20
    Cascade Records 2237
    Fono Enterprise 99335
    CBS Records 39680
    Russian Revelation 10047
    Lys 33/35
    Brilliant Classics 93525/30
    Grammofono 2000 78883
    BMG 0902661747
    Supraphon 110582
    Ermitage 125
    Musical Heritage 5091707
    Eufoda 1130