Beethoven, Ludwig van: Op. 17, Horn Sonata

Ludwig van beethoven”s Horn Sonata, op. 17 was composed for a concert on the 18th of April, 1800, by the most famous horn virtuoso of the day, Giovanni Punto. Beethoven accompanied him at the piano, and the show was, by all accounts, a great success. The Sonata was very explicitly designed to showcase Punto’s ability to use ‘stopped’ tones on the natural horn. It was also, according to Beethoven’s biographer Ferdinand Ries, written very quickly:

The composition of most of the works that Beethoven had to have finished by a certain time he almost always put off until the last minute. He had promised to compose a sonata for piano and horn for the famous hornist Punto, for example, and to play it in Punto’s concert with him; the concert with the sonata was announced, but it had not yet been started. On the day before the performance Beethoven began working, and it was finished by the time of the concert.

This account may not be completely accurate, but it does help to explain the ultimate straightforwardness of the piece. The Horn Sonata is not a revolutionary work. It is a work of Beethoven the fantastic professional composer, writing for a terrific horn player, and himself at the piano, for a gala event.

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