Composed in 1809–10, Beethoven's Sonata, Op. 81a expresses his very personal feelings. He titled its three movements "Das Lebewohl" (The Farewell), "Die Abwesenheit" (The Absence) and "Das Wiedersehn" (The Return) in reference to the hasty departure of his good friend and patron Archduke Rudolph of Austria who fled Vienna with the imperial family on May 4th, 1809 to escape Napoleon's approaching troops.
Beethoven referred to Op. 81a as a "characteristic sonata", not in the sense that it had an underlying programme, but because it lent musical expression to his feelings. He reacted angrily when his publisher printed French translations of its title and movement headings. This however did not prevent, Op. 81a from becoming widely known by its French name "Les Adieux".