Unused Variations to Piano Sonata #30, op.109 (1820)

Unused Variations to Piano Sonata #30, op.109 (1820)
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Performer: Mark S. Zimmer
Length: 2:37
In the year 1820, Beethoven entered into an agreement to compose three new piano sonatas for the Berlin publisher Adolph Martin Schlesinger. The first of these three, the sonata in E, op.109, had begun as a piano bagatelle but quickly grew to become the first movement of a piano sonata. Beethoven had more trouble with the last two movements, sketching them while he was in Mödling for the summer, in between working on the Credo and Benedictus of the Missa Solemnis. Desperate for money, Beethoven prioritized these piano sonatas since his ability to get paid for the Mass was in question.

The third movement began to take shape in September and October of 1820, and Beethoven drafted it as a theme with nine variations. The sketches for these variations are found in the Artaria 195 desk sketchbook that he used for most of 1820. However, when he came to write a continuity draft, he realized that the last movement was too large, and he trimmed the nine variations down to only six, as we find in the published sonata, which was completed by the end of 1820.

The sound file here includes the theme from the third movement in its final form (omitting the repeats), and then the surviving sketch materials for the unused variations.

Variation 5 is a brisk 2/4 marked as "Allegro." The sketches are in three chunks, two of which are clearly related but are incomplete. The second section is more complete, with a very high syncopated figure that repeats. This variation leads directly into unused variation 6, a rollicking 6/8. The first three measures of the variation are essentially complete, but then it breaks off into fragments and concludes with a single-line continuity draft.

The last unused variation is number 8, which precedes the variation that is also the final one in the published version of the sonata. This also is an Allegro continuity draft that mostly is a single line with 32nd-note runs. How Beethoven intended to flesh this draft out is unclear. Beethoven does note that the first section repeats.

Opus: 109

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