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Beethoven Gets Payback For His "Raise" With 'A Therese' Sonata

beethoven graffiti stencil-flickr user southtyrolean.jpg
Flickr user southtyrolean

What a difference there was between Mozart and Beethoven. Where the former was often forced to wear livery and eat with the servants, Beethoven hobnobbed with nobility and taught some of them music and piano.

When he didn't feel he was getting what he deserved, the composer, in 1808, put out the rumor that he was considering a position with a Napoleon brother and would leave for Westphalia.

That set the cat out amongst the pigeons, so the princes, counts, barons and the arch-duke got together to find the extra money - 4,000 florins a year - to insure that Vienna wouldn't lose her musical genius.

Beethoven was grateful, but in 1815, when the funds were late, he sued for the money owed him. Could you imagine Mozart ever dreaming of suing his bosses?

Considering his closeness with the elite, it wasn't surprising that Beethoven would dedicate much of his music to his noble patrons. The piano sonata that is feature tomorrow demonstrates this bit of musical payback.

The Sonata No. 24 in F-sharp major Opus 78 was nick named À Thérèse for Countess Thérèse von Brunswick. This work was composed a year after Beethoven got his extra support and in fact may be a bit of payback for the "raise".

Coming after the stormy "Appassionata" the "À Thérèse" starts Adagio cantabile - Allegro ma non troppo (soft and song-like). Beethoven is not aiming at the bleachers here, but even when he is subtle he is breaking rules.

The sonata opens with a musical fragment and its charm is in the lyrical intensity that grows as the music proceeds, developing into something different, but with the same quality of the fragment at the start.

The second and last movement is marked Allegro Vivace and here the opening is quite dramatic and the pianist has to rattle up and down the keyboard with a disjointed tune played in the middle of the piano before it leaps to the top and back again.

This is a rondo, but a quirky one, and if the Countess Therese did play this she must have had pretty good technique. As for the composer, this sonata and the "Appassionata" were his favorites until he composed the mighty "Hammerklavier" sonata.

  • Hear this slender classic tomorrow morning in the 6 o'clock hour on KPAC.
Randy was Texas Public Radio's Classical Music Director until 2013 and the longest-serving employee in Texas Public Radio's history. He hosted the very first airshift on KPAC when the station went on the air at 90.9 FM in San Antonio back in November, 1982.