Listening Lists: Beethoven Piano Sonatas


Ludwig van Beethoven composed 32 foremost piano sonatas (plus 3 as a 13-year-old). These sonatas are one of the vital necessary collections of repertoire (although they weren’t designed as a set) for the piano, and for classical music as a style. We’re going to check out 5 of them!

So, what’s a piano sonata, anyway?

Piano sonatas

A sonata is a composition for a solo instrument, and a piano sonata is a sonata for the piano. The phrase “sonata” comes from the Latin phrase “sonare” – “to sound”; a “cantata” (from the phrase “cantare”) is a bit to be sung, and a “sonata” is a bit to be performed. A sonata is normally in a number of actions (stand-alone sections) – mostly three or 4. At the very least one of many actions is normally in “sonata kind” – a musical construction with three foremost sections:

  • an exposition (introduction of musical themes)

  • a growth (growth of musical themes, the place the themes are altered)

  • a recapitulation (a “recap” of the musical themes from the exposition, normally with some variation).

(Sonata kind will be discovered in lots of various kinds of musical composition, not solely in sonata compositions).

Beethoven FAQ

We thought we might reply just a few widespread questions on Beethoven earlier than we get into the listing:

– Sure – however he was not born deaf; his deafness developed over time. He first seen difficulties together with his listening to as he neared 30. By his mid-40s, he was fully deaf and needed to write and browse notes in an effort to talk. Amazingly, he continued to compose (and created a few of his finest work), although he was compelled to retire as a conductor and pianist.

– In all probability not. This idea is predicated on descriptions of Beethoven’s look, which have some similarities with descriptions of individuals with African descent. Nevertheless, his genealogical data present that he had Flemish heritage. Some individuals argue that maybe certainly one of his ancestors had an affair with somebody of African ancestry, however this idea is unlikely. There have been different black composers and musicians working in Europe round Beethoven’s time, nevertheless, equivalent to George Bridgetower and Joseph Bologne (the “Chevalier de Saint-Georges”).

– No. He turned deaf, however his eyesight was fantastic.

– He lived comfortably, earing 4000 florins per yr from 1809 on the situation that he remained in Vienna for the remainder of his life. This was greater than the typical center class citizen on the time would have earned.

– No, he by no means married. He did, nevertheless, have romantic pursuits – most notably his “Immortal Beloved”, to whom he wrote (however by no means despatched) a ten-page love letter. We do not know who the supposed recipient was, however candidates embrace Antonie Brentano, Julie Guicciardi, Therese Malfatti, and Josephine Brunsvik; all of those girls had been thought of romantically by Beethoven. It’s attainable the Beethoven had an affair with Brentano in 1811-1812. After this level, there isn’t a proof of any relationships (however he did meet up with prostitutes).

Now that we have answered these necessary questions, on to the listing! We will go in numerical order (we’ll allow you to resolve which sonata is the perfect!), so settle in and let’s get listening!

Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 “Pathétique”

The “Pathétique” sonata was composed in 1798 when Beethoven was 27 years outdated. It’s devoted Prince Karl von Lichnowsky – a pal of the composer. The nickname “pathétique” (“Grande sonate pathétique” in full: “grand emotion-inducing sonata”) was given to the work by Beethoven’s writer (and Beethoven authorized!).

The three actions are:

I. Grave – Allegro di molto e con brio (Solemn – In a short time and with vigour)

II. Adagio cantabile (Sluggish, in a sung type)

III. Rondo: Allegro (Rondo kind: quick)

Piano Sonata No. 14 in C# minor, Op. 27, No. 2 “Moonlight”

The “Moonlight” sonata was accomplished in 1801, and devoted to his scholar Countess Giulietta Guicciardi. It’s marked “Quasi una fantasia” (“virtually a fantasy” (musical kind)). The “moonlight” nickname got here from a comment by German music critic and poet Ludwig Rellstab after Beethoven’s dying; the primary motion of the work reminded him of moonlight shining upon Lake Lucerne. This sonata is certainly one of Beethoven’s hottest piano works

The three actions are:

I. Adagio sostenuto (Sluggish and sustained)

II. Allegretto (Reasonably quick)

III. Presto agitato (Very quick and agitated)

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Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2 “Tempest”

The “Tempest” sonata was composed in 1801-1802; this nickname was given after Beethoven’s dying. It’s a reference to Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”; Beethoven supposedly steered that his affiliate Anton Schindler ought to learn it. Nevertheless, he could have truly been referring to a unique “Tempest”: preacher and writer C. C. Sturm (Storm/Tempest), who was significantly admired by Beethoven.

The three actions:

I. Largo – Allegro (Sluggish, broad – Quick)

II. Adagio (Sluggish)

III. Allegretto (Reasonably quick)

Piano Sonata No. 21 in C main, Op. 53 “Waldstein”

The “Waldstein” sonata was composed in 1804. It marked a brand new section in Beethoven’s evolution as a composer. The work was devoted to Beethoven’s pal and patron Depend Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein (therefore the nickname) of Vienna. It additionally has a second, less-frequently-utilised nickname: “L’Aurora (The Daybreak)”, because the opening of the third motion has been related to dawn imagery.

The three actions:

I. Allegro con brio (Quick, with liveliness)

II. Introduzione: Adagio molto (Introduction: Very sluggish)

III. Rondo. Allegretto moderato — Prestissimo (Rondo (kind). Reasonable – Very, very quick)

Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 “Appassionata”

The “Appassionata” (“passionate”) sonata was composed in 1804-1805~, and was devoted to Depend Franz von Brunswick. This work acquired its nickname by the writer of an association for 4 arms (two pianists) in 1838. Beethoven thought of “Appassionata” to be certainly one of his most tempestuous piano sonatas.

The three actions:

I. Allegro assai (Very quick)

II. Andante con moto (Strolling tempo, with motion)

III. Allegro ma non troppo – Presto (Quick, however not an excessive amount of – Very quick)

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