The Violin Sonata No. 4 of Ludwig van Beethoven in A minor, his Opus 23, was composed in 1801, published in October that year, and dedicated to Count Moritz von Fries. It followed by one year the composition of his first symphony, and was originally meant to be published alongside Violin Sonata No. 5, however it was published on different sized paper, so the opus numbers had to be split. Unlike the three first sonatas, Sonata No. 4 received a favourable reception from critics.
It has three movements:
- Andante scherzoso, più allegretto
- Allegro molto
The work takes approximately 19 minutes to perform.
The first movement, Presto, is in Sonata Form, and uses small fragments as opposed to two longer themes. The exposition modulates to E minor, before returning to A minor prior to heading into the development. In the development, the themes are passed through all three parts - Violin and both hands of the piano. In Bar 136, a new theme is introduced, similar to previous themes but different. This is a technique that Beethoven later used in the first movement on Symphony No. 5. This theme leads directly into the recapitulation, but returns in the coda. Both the Exposition and the Development and Recapitulation are repeated.
Andante scherzoso, più allegretto
This movement contains many distinct themes that follow roughly in Sonata Form. It includes a fugal theme, showcasing Beethoven's ability to write fugally (which is later showcased in his Große Fuge). This movement should have a light edge to it, scherzoso meaning "jokingly".
This final movement, in Rondo, with a thematic outline of ABACADABCDA. Each theme has many fantastic elements. The "A" theme features Beethoven's scalar writing, which is such a feature of his works. The "B" Theme is again scalar, but then moves into a cycle of Diminished 7th chords, outlining all three possible diminished chords in an arpeggiated manner. In theme "C", Beethoven moves into the parallel key of A Major, in a chordal theme. Theme "D" closely resembles the theme from the Finale of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony. In the final repeat of theme "A" Beethoven places the theme in the left hand of the Piano, whilst placing an inversion in the violin part.