Beethoven’s Preliminary Sketches for the 'Waldstein’ Sonata

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Beethoven’s main sketches for the ‘Waldstein’ Sonata begin on page 120 of the
sketchbook Landsberg 6, but some sketches on earlier pages, not previously identified as
belonging to the sonata, show that he started composing a new piano sonata in C some time
before he began working intensively on it. These preliminary sketches, which represent a
similar compositional stage to some early sketches for the Eroica Symphony, exhibit many
affinities with the sonata and clearly fed into it as preparatory work, even though they share
few melodic similarities. They reveal that Beethoven started work on the sonata as early as
October 1803, even before he began sketching his unfinished opera Vestas Feuer, and about
two months earlier than previously thought. They therefore date from immediately after
the time he received the gift of a new Erard piano, whose arrival probably prompted him to
compose this sonata. He clearly had much difficulty deciding how best to begin it, and spent
much longer on this problem than hitherto recognized. These early sketches raise the question
of how far sketches with only tenuous links to a work can be considered as being ‘for’ that work. They also demonstrate how easy it is to overlook preliminary sketches, and they suggest that there may be other works for which such sketches have yet to be identified.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalAd Parnassum
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2016


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