Horn Sonata (Beethoven)

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Ludwig van Beethoven composed his Horn Sonata in F major, Op. 17 in 1800 for the virtuoso horn player Giovanni Punto. It was premiered with Punto as the soloist, accompanied on the piano by Beethoven himself in Vienna on April 18, 1800.[1]

Beethoven was not well-known outside of Vienna at the time of this composition, and after a performance of the piece in Pest, played by Punto and Beethoven, a Hungarian critic wrote, "Who is this Beethoven? His name is not known to us. Of course, Punto is very well known."[2]

Historical Locus

The first important sonata for French horn and piano, Beethoven's sonata remains a staple of the French horn repertoire more than 200 years later. Stylistically a duo-concertante, in addition to serving as a virtuoso vehicle for both instruments it makes the character of each instrument, as Beethoven regarded it, important to its expression. Though only 15 minutes in duration (the second movement is mainly an introduction to the last movement, setting up its synthetic construction with a contrasting mood), it is a large-scale presentation of its material. No comparable sonata for the two instruments appeared until Hindemith's Sonate (1939), a more massive and longer work in the playing style of the big, late Romantic orchestras. For insight into the compositional possibilities of both instruments, it remains the beacon to the future today.


The piece was written originally for natural horn but is most often performed on the modern instrument with valves. However, to broaden the potential market for the work, an arrangement of the sonata for cello was made, probably by Beethoven, for publication. It was then published as "Sonate pour le Forte-Piano avec un Cor ou Violoncelle."

A further arrangement for string quintet, was made by oboist Carl Khym for the music publisher Simrock in 1817. [3]


It consists of three movements:

  1. Allegro moderato
  2. Poco adagio, quasi andante
  3. Rondo - Allegro moderato

A standard performance of this three-movement work usually lasts 15 minutes.



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