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Sonata for piano (E minor) op. 90

Listening samples
1. Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus mit Empfindung und Ausdruck (365 kB)
2. Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorzutragen (365 kB)

Dedicated to Moritz Graf von Lichnowsky

Opus 90 was composed in the summer of 1814. Beethoven had not written a piano sonata for five years - his last one was the ‘Les Adieux’ Sonata op. 81a. In the summer of 1814 Beethoven's popularity was at its peak: Wellington's Victory op. 91 and the cantata The Glorious Moment op. 136, both composed for the Congress of Vienna, had brought him praise, wealth and public glory. In late May 1814 the third version of his opera Fidelio was premièred with much success and remained in the repertoire all summer long.

After completing the sonata, Beethoven first gave the autograph to his friend, patron and piano student Archduke Rudolph, indicating that he was not interested in publishing the piece right away. However, he needed the manuscript back in the autumn of the same year and promised the Archduke he would soon receive a nice engraving in return. Beethoven's brother Kaspar Karl and his wife Johanna were in debt to the Viennese music publisher Anton Steiner, and Beethoven volunteered to act as a bondsman. The district court then obliged the composer to provide Steiner with a new piano sonata - op. 90. The sonata was not printed until early spring of 1815, and only on 6 June did Steiner announce the newly published work in the Wiener Zeitung, promising that all conoisseurs and music-lovers would welcome the sonata as Beethoven had not written anything for piano for quite a while. The new piece needed no praise, Steiner continued, for had all the ingenuity, harmony and skill so typical of the most renowned composer of the age. The Archduke, however, was not willing to wait that long and asked to have the autograph back on loan in order to make a copy of it. Beethoven humoured him and gave him the manuscript, which he had borrowed from the publisher for a week. And indeed, the Archduke made a copy which is still considered an important source for this sonata. (J.R.)

Music manuscripts
Autograph, op. 90, NE 189

First editions
Originalausgabe, op. 90, Steiner, 2350, J. Van der Spek C op. 90
Originalausgabe, op. 90, Steiner, 2350, C 90 / 1
Originalausgabe, op. 90, Steiner, 2350; Teilscan, HCB C op. 90
Titelauflage, op. 90, Breitkopf und Härtel, 2350; Teilscan, C 90 / 12
Titelauflage, op. 90, Simrock, 2350; Teilscan, HCB C Md 53,17

Bibliographic data in library catalogue

Written documents
Brief an Sigmund Anton Steiner, Wien, 21. März 1815, HCB Br 238
Billet an Sigmund Anton Steiner, Wien, 29. Mai 1815, HCB Br 239
Brief an Ignaz von Gleichenstein, Wien, Juni 1815, NE 276
Billet an Tobias Haslinger, Wien, vielleicht Februar 1823, HCB Br 141

Moritz Graf von Lichnowsky (1771-1837) - Fotografie eines anonymen Ölgemäldes aus dem 19. Jahrhundert, um 1910 ?, NE 81, Band I, Nr. 170

Bibliographic data in library catalogue

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

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