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Ludwig van Beethoven, Sonate für Klavier (D-Dur) op. 28, Autograph

Beethoven-Haus Bonn, BH 61

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Dedicated to a philosopher of the Enlightenment and social reformer

Here you can see the autograph score of the Piano Sonata op. 28, which Beethoven dedicated to Joseph von Sonnenfels. Sonnenfels (1732-1817) was a lawyer, teacher, philosopher of the Enlightenment, freemason, writer and one of the leaders of social reform in Austria (under his aegis torture was abolished and police violence curbed). Sonnenfels embodied the Enlightenment ideas of freedom and admiration for the free arts - principles to which it is known that Beethoven was committed. There is no evidence of a meeting between the composer and Sonnenfels, although they had mutual friends who might have made such a meeting possible: One of these was Baron van Swieten, himself a friend and patron of the arts. He might have introduced Beethoven and Sonnenfels to one another at one of his many private house concerts. Another was Johann Melchior von Birkenstock, Sonnenfels' brother-in-law.Beethoven was a frequent guest at his house, as the Brentano family lived there, with whom he was good friends. The publishing house that printed the sonata, the Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir, is listed as a possible place of contact for the two men. It is even possible that Sonnenfels commissioned the sonata from Beethoven. But perhaps Beethoven was just simply impressed with Sonnenfels' principles and philosophy. (J.R.)

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