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C O U R S E 
Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas
Jonathan Biss, Curtis Institute of Music
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Beethoven: The First Professional Composer
Notes taken on October 10, 2013 by Edward Tanguay
Beethoven was the first composer who had models to follow
although he may have dislike some of his employers, musically, at least, he had all the tools to thrive within the system
notably bad at taking orders
would have made a terrible court composer
was able to make decisions about his music in a way that Haydn and Mozart never could, particularly in their youth
he composed at an unbelievable pace
600 works in a 30 year period
including 22 operas and 41 symphonies
rarely sacrificed quality
Beethoven revised his music more extensively than Mozart did
came to Vienna for a prescribed period of sponsored study
most people would have, when finished, returned to Bonn
Beethoven knew that Vienna was the place he had to be if he wanted to have independence in writing his works
he did have patrons
Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowicz (1772-18116)
one of Haydn's and Beethoven's patrons, dedicatee of some of these composers' greatest works, including Haydn's "Lobkowitz" quartets (Op. 77), and Beethoven's 3rd, 5th, and 6th symphonies and his Op. 18 string quartets
Moritz Lichnowsky (1771–1837)
faithful friend of Ludwig van Beethoven
but as you can see from their correspondence, they were more friends, not employers
few expectations placed on Beethoven
sponsored him out of belief in his talent
this allowed Beethoven to publish at a less frenzied rate, first works at 25
very late compared to Haydn and Mozart
at 25, Mozart had already written half of his published works
when Beethoven finally published Opus 1 (three piano trios) it earned him enough money to live for a year
for the most part, was not reliant on patrons during his lifetime
after 1811, the last 16 years of his life, did not perform publicly at all
received commissions from as far away as England, the 9th symphony, but never went to England (unlike Haydn)
received commissions from Russia for three of his last quartets
he really was the first professional composer
the meanings of the sonatas as opposed to the quartets and symphonies
only one of his sonatas was performed publicly in Beethoven's lifetime (Opus 101, Sonata No. 28, late work, forward-looking, difficult to comprehend)
the piano recital didn't even exist until Liszt started playing them in the 1830s ("Le concert, c'est moi")
in Beethoven's day, one did not go to concerts to hear new piano works
therefore, the sonatas and quartets were home music and not concert music, which gave them their special character for three main reasons:
1. Beethoven didn't have to think about the limitations of players, inadequate rehearsal time, inadequate conditions
his reputation would not be jeopardized by home musicians struggling through the sonatas the way it would if his symphonies were massacred in performance
the removal of this impediment meant that Beethoven's imagination could be fully engaged in a way that it couldn't with the symphonic music
2. audience comprehension was also a much lower concern, since the music was to be played at home, it became a kind of private experimentation between Beethoven and the player
it cannot be a coincidence that as revolutionary as the Ninth Symphony is, the last sonatas and the quartets, written contemporaneously with the Ninth Symphony, are far more ahead of their time
3. there is an inherent difference in playing alone and playing in a large group, sonatas already have a degree of intimacy greater than symphonies, and when it is a solo sonata, there is a almost religious sense with communing privately with music.