Violin Sonata No. 4 (Beethoven)

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The Violin Sonata No. 4 of Ludwig van Beethoven in A minor, his Opus 23, was composed in 1801, published in October that year, and dedicated to Count Moritz von Fries. It followed by one year the composition of his first symphony, and was originally meant to be published alongside Violin Sonata No. 5, however it was published on different sized paper, so the opus numbers had to be split. Unlike the three first sonatas, Sonata No. 4 received a favourable reception from critics.

It has three movements:

  1. Presto
  2. Andante scherzoso, più allegretto (in A major)
  3. Allegro molto

The work takes approximately 19 minutes to perform.


The first movement, Presto, is in sonata form, and uses small fragments as opposed to two longer themes. The exposition modulates to E minor, before returning to A minor prior to heading into the development. In the development, the themes are passed through all three parts - Violin and both hands of the piano. In Bar 136, a new theme is introduced, similar to previous themes but different. This is a technique that Beethoven later used in the first movement on Symphony No. 5. This theme leads directly into the recapitulation, but returns in the coda. The recapitulation is highly condensed, with the first bars of the second subject entering in C major before abruptly sinking back to the minor. The exposition, as well as the development and recapitulation, are repeated.

Andante scherzoso, più allegretto[edit]

This movement contains many distinct themes that follow roughly in Sonata Form. It includes a fugal theme, showcasing Beethoven's ability to write fugally (which is later showcased in his Große Fuge). This movement should have a light edge to it, scherzoso meaning "jokingly".

Allegro molto[edit]

This final movement, in Rondo, with a thematic outline of ABACADABCDA. Each theme has many fantastic elements. The "A" theme features Beethoven's scalar writing. The "B" theme rapidly moves through a cycle of diminished 7th chords, outlining all three possible diminished chords in an arpeggiated manner, before settling into E minor as a secondary key area. In theme "C", Beethoven moves into the parallel key of A Major, in a chordal theme in which the two instruments are eerily out of sync. Theme "D" is a long and luxurious F major episode that closely resembles the theme from the Finale of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony. All three of the intermediate sections are briefly touched upon at the end, before the final repeat of theme "A" in which Beethoven places the theme in the left hand of the piano, whilst placing an inversion in the violin part.

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