Piano Sonata No. 13 (Beethoven)

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Piano Sonata No.13
by Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven Riedel 1801.jpg
Beethoven in 1801
Key E-flat major
Opus 27/1
Duration15 minutes
Movements3 or 4, depending on edition

Piano Sonata No. 13 in E-flat major, Op. 27 No. 1, "Quasi una fantasia", is a sonata composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1800–1801.


Composition and publication

Beethoven was about 30 years old when he wrote the sonata. He had already made a name for himself in Vienna as pianist and composer [1] and was beginning to explore alternatives to the classical-era compositional procedures that he had largely adhered to during the 18th century. The most famous works of his "middle period", often emphasizing heroism, were yet to come.

Beethoven's sketches for the first, second, and final movements survive, but the original autograph copy is lost. [2] [3] The sonata was published separately from its more famous companion, Op. 27 No. 2 (the "Moonlight" Sonata), but at the same time, [4] by Cappi in Vienna; the first advertisements for the work appeared 3 March 1802. [2] Both Op. 27 sonatas were originally titled Sonata quasi una fantasia.

The dedicatee of the work was (as was typical of the time) an aristocrat, Princess Josephine von Liechtenstein. [5] Little is known of Beethoven's relationship with her. [2]

Quasi una fantasia

Grove Music Online translates the Italian title Sonata quasi una fantasia as "sonata in the manner of a fantasy". [6] While we cannot know precisely why Beethoven used this description for the two Op. 27 sonatas, several explanations are available. [7] In the case of the present work (though not its companion), the entire sonata is played continuously without pauses between movements, in the manner of most fantasias. [8] [9] The movements are not in the usual order for a sonata: [9] the opening movement is a slow movement and the scherzo and slow movement are in inverted order. The first movement is not in sonata form, as is true for most sonatas. [4] As Kenneth Drake has pointed out, the movements are in extreme contrast with each other, a common trait of the sections of a fantasia. [10] Lastly, the appearance of a quotation from one movement within another (here, from the third movement within the fourth) is a form of freedom not ordinarily employed in classical sonatas. [11]

Several of these patterns are mentioned in Lewis Lockwood's discussion of the aesthetics of Beethoven's "quasi una fantasia" works:

The result of the "attacca" principle [i.e. performance of all movements without pause] is the blurring of the concept of each movement as an autonomous whole ... Instead, the "attacca" connections force attention on to the totality of the entire composition, with its transitions from movement to movement, and thus from one sharply defined affect to another. ... This is even more true when, as in [the present sonata], there is also a cyclic return of earlier material later in the sonata, which thus aims to integrate its movements into a unified cycle.

Lockwood 1996, 11



  1. Gordon (2005, 5)
  2. 1 2 3 Gordon (2005, 114)
  3. Beethoven, Ludwig van (2015). Del Mar, Jonathan; Donat, Misha (eds.). Sonata quasi una Fantasia für Pianoforte (in English and German). Translated by Schütz, Gudula. Kassel: Bärenreiter. p. 40. ISMN  979-0-006-55799-8.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Rosen (2002, 156)
  5. Beethoven, Ludwig van (2015). Del Mar, Jonathan; Donat, Misha (eds.). Sonata quasi una Fantasia für Pianoforte (in English and German). Translated by Schütz, Gudula. Kassel: Bärenreiter. p. iii. ISMN  979-0-006-55799-8.
  6. Quasi. Grove Music Online (Oxford Music Online). Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  7. Jones (1999, 55–65)
  8. 1 2 Beethoven, Ludwig van (2015). Del Mar, Jonathan; Donat, Misha (eds.). Sonata quasi una Fantasia für Pianoforte (in English and German). Translated by Schütz, Gudula. Kassel: Bärenreiter. p. iv. ISMN  979-0-006-55799-8.
  9. 1 2 Marston (2000, 93)
  10. Quoted in Sisman (1998, 70)
  11. Beethoven would return to this procedure in the Fifth Symphony, the piano sonata Opus 101, the cello sonata Opus 102 No. 1 (Marston 2000, 93) and the Ninth Symphony. There are precedents from Haydn; his 31st and 46th symphonies.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Tovey, Donald Francis (1998). Cooper, Barry (ed.). A companion to Beethoven's pianoforte sonatas : bar-by-bar analysis (Revised ed.). London: Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. pp. 96–107. ISBN   978-1-86096-086-4. OCLC   40981346.
  13. Beethoven, Ludwig van (2015). Del Mar, Jonathan; Donat, Misha (eds.). Sonata quasi una Fantasia für Pianoforte (in English and German). Translated by Schütz, Gudula. Kassel: Bärenreiter. p. 43. ISMN  979-0-006-55799-8.
  14. Some later instances of the same procedure include the companion piano sonata Op. 27 No. 2 (Marston 2000, 93), the piano sonatas Op. 101 (Marston 2000, 93), and Opus 111, the cello sonata Op. 102 No. 1 (Marston 2000, 93), and the Eighth Symphony.
  15. Gordon (2005, 114)

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