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Sonate für Klavier (Es-Dur) op. 81a

Listening samples
1. Das Lebewohl (Les Adieux). Adagio - Allegro (365 kB)
2. Abwesenheit (L'Absence). Andante espressivo (365 kB)
3. Das Wiedersehn (Le Retour). Vivacissimamente (365 kB)

Composition
1809 bis 1810
dedicated to Rudolph Erzherzog von Österreich

Beethoven composed the piano sonata op. 81a under the influence of the Napoleonic wars. On April 1st, 1809 Austria declared war on France. At the end of the month, French troops crossed the Austrian border and marched towards Vienna. On May 4th, the imperial family, among them Archduke Rudolph, Beethoven's student, patron and friend, decided to leave Vienna and flee to Hungary. Seven days later on May11th, the French bombed Vienna and Beethoven allegedly spent the night with pillows over his ears in the basement, wailing and complaining as the roar of the cannons hurt his already impaired hearing. The following morning, French troops conquered Austria's capital. In October 1809 the war parties signed the peace treaty of Schönbrunn but Archduke Rudolph did not return until January 30th, 1810. On the occasion of his most important patron's departure (Rudolph was a good piano player himself) Beethoven composed a piano sonata. The autograph of the first movement of the sonata bears the following inscription: "The Farewell / Vienna, May 4th, 1809 /on the departure of His Imperial Highness, the revered Archduke Rudolph." It may be possible that Beethoven had started the composition already in April and not on Rudolph's departure day. The other movements, "Abwesenheit" (absence) and "Wiedersehen" (return) were definitely written after September 1809.

Beethoven called op. 81a "characteristic sonata", referring to it not so much as programme music but more as an expression of a, namely his state of mind and feelings with musical means. However, Beethoven always called the sonata itself "The Farewell, absence and return" and was quite enraged when he realised that the publisher of the original also printed the title in French. "I have just received the Farewell etc. and must notice that there are other copies with a French title, why so? Farewell is quite different from "les adieux", said only to one with the warmest affection, the other to a whole gathering, whole towns" (BGA 523). No other person did Beethoven dedicate so many works to than Archduke Rudolph. The musical description of his feelings during Rudolph's absence was certainly the most beautiful and intimate way for Beethoven to express his friendship with the Archduke. (J.R.)

Music manuscripts
Skizzen, NE 147
Überprüfte Abschrift, op. 81a, 2. und 3. Satz

First editions
Originalausgabe, op. 81a, Breitkopf und Härtel, 1588-1589
Originalausgabe, op. 81a, Breitkopf und Härtel, 1588-1589
Originalausgabe, op. 81a, Breitkopf und Härtel, 1588-1589; Teilscan
Originalausgabe, op. 81a, Breitkopf und Härtel, 1588-1589; Teilscan
Frühdruck, op. 81a, Artaria, 2215
Frühdruck, op. 81a, Artaria, 2215

Scores (bibliographic data)

Written documents
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 4. Februar 1810
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Baden, 21. August 1810
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Baden, 23. September 1810
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 12. April 1811
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 20. Mai 1811
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 9. Oktober 1811
Billet an den Erzherzog Rudolph, Wien, 16. Oktober 1811
Brief an Breitkopf und Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 2. Juli 1810

Pictures
Rudolph (1788-1831), Erzherzog von Österreich, seit 1819 Kardinal und Erzbischof von Olmütz - Anonymes Ölgemälde, vielleicht von Johann Baptist von Lampi, 1. Hälfte 19. Jahrhundert?
Rudolph (1788-1831), Erzherzog von Österreich, seit 1819 Kardinal und Erzbischof von Olmütz - Stich von Blasius Höfel nach einer Zeichnung von Adalbert Suchy, um 1820
Rudolph (1788-1831), Erzherzog von Österreich, seit 1819 Kardinal und Erzbischof von Olmütz - Anonyme Lithographie des 19. Jahrhunderts, Mitte 19. Jahrhundert?
Rudolph (1788-1831), Erzherzog von Österreich, seit 1819 Kardinal und Erzbischof von Olmütz - Fotografie eines Stichs von Blasius Höfel, Um 1920?

Literature (bibliographic data)

Literature for further reading
K.-J. Sachs, Beethovens "Lebewohl" für Erzherzog Rudolph : Zum Kopfsatz der Klaviersonate Es-Dur, op. 81a, Les Adieux, Bonner Beethoven-Studien 4, 2005

Manuscript sources in other libraries
Berlin: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung mit Mendelssohn-Archiv
Österreich, Wien: Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Archiv, Bibliothek und Sammlungen

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