Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Music

Music Research Seminar: Peter Martens (Stellenbosch University)

Peter Martens

Contemporary performance of the sonatas for cello and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven, as informed by Carl Czerny

Lecture Theatre 1, School of Music


The speaker is Peter Martens (University of Stellenbosch, South Africa)


This lecturer, illustrated with recorded and live performances, places the sonatas for cello and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven into the context of a continuing discussion about the composer’s metronomic tempo indications (MTIs) for a large number of his own works, many of which were added retrospectively after the patenting of Maelzel’s metronome in approximately 1815. There seems to be an increasing consensus that these indications deserve serious consideration when performing such works.

The sonatas for cello and piano happen to fall into a category of works for which Beethoven did not leave his own MTIs. But it is in the writings of his associate and former pupil, Carl Czerny, that one does find a source that not only includes MTIs, but also performance instructions for these works. Despite its title, Czerny’s book On the Proper Performance of All Beethoven’s Works for Piano is not limited to a discussion of his works for solo piano, but also contains specific mention of the sonatas for cello and piano as well as all his other chamber music with piano. Therefore this source is given a central position in the present study. The authenticity and validity of Czerny’s text is evaluated, leading to the acceptance of Czerny as a reputable and qualified figure to pronounce on Beethoven interpretation. In addition, Beethoven’s preoccupation with tempo is examined within the context of a conceptual study of the notion of tempo.

This research is anchored within several relevant streams of current discourse, including Historically Informed Performance Practice and the performance history of the works in question, both of which are underpinned by the notion that the musical work is ultimately realised in its performance: Experimental practice can reveal new knowledge about Beethoven’s six sonatas for cello and piano through performance.

Dr Marten’s will also perform the University Lunchtime Concert on Friday 18 November

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