Piano Sonata No. 8 (Beethoven)

Last updated

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, commonly known as Sonata Pathétique, was written in 1798 when the composer was 27 years old, and was published in 1799. It has remained one of his most celebrated compositions. [1] Beethoven dedicated the work to his friend Prince Karl von Lichnowsky. [2] Although commonly thought to be one of the few works to be named by the composer himself, it was actually named Grande sonate pathétique (to Beethoven's liking) by the publisher, who was impressed by the sonata's tragic sonorities. [3]


Prominent musicologists debate whether or not the Pathétique may have been inspired by Mozart's piano sonata K. 457, since both compositions are in C minor and have three very similar movements. The second movement, "Adagio cantabile", especially, makes use of a theme remarkably similar to one in the spacious second movement of Mozart's sonata. [4] Close similarities have also been noted with Bach's Partita no. 2 in C minor. [5] Both works open with a declamatory fanfare marked Grave, sharing a distinct combination of dotted rhythms, melodic contour, and texture. Furthermore, the first four notes of the Partita's Andante (G-C-D-Eb, prominently repeated throughout the work) are found in the Pathétique as the first notes of important themes – first in the hand-crossing second subject of its first movement (initially transposed), then in the main theme of the Rondo. It is known that Beethoven was familiar with the works of Bach, studying The Well-Tempered Clavier as a youth and returning to his predecessor's compositional styles later in life.


Reactions of Beethoven's contemporaries

The sonata Pathétique was an important success for Beethoven, selling well [9] and helping create his reputation as a composer, [10] not just as an extraordinary pianist. Not only was it instantly popular, it also exposed the world to the characteristics that Beethoven would continue to develop in the coming years. [1]

When the pianist and composer Ignaz Moscheles discovered the work in 1804, he was ten years old; unable to afford to buy the music, he copied it out from a library copy. His music teacher, on being told about his discovery, "warned me against playing or studying eccentric productions before I had developed a style based on more respectable models. Without paying heed to his instructions, however, I laid Beethoven's works on the piano, in the order of their appearance, and found in them such consolation and pleasure as no other composer ever vouchsafed me." [11]

Anton Schindler, a musician who was a friend of Beethoven in the composer's later years, wrote: "What the Sonate Pathétique was in the hands of Beethoven (although he left something to be desired as regards clean playing) was something that one had to have heard, and heard again, in order to be quite certain that it was the same already well-known work. Above all, every single thing became, in his hands, a new creation, wherein his always legato playing, one of the particular characteristics of his execution, formed an important part." [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

Sonata form is a musical structure generally consisting of three main sections: an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation. It has been used widely since the middle of the 18th century.

Sonata rondo form is a musical form often used during the Classical music era. As the name implies, it is a blend of sonata and rondo forms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Piano Concerto No. 3 (Beethoven)</span>

The Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37 is generally thought to have been composed in 1800, although the year of its composition has been questioned by some contemporary musicologists. It was first performed on 5 April 1803, with the composer as soloist. During that same performance, the Second Symphony and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives were also premiered. The composition was published in 1804, and was dedicated to Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia. The first primary theme is reminiscent of that of Mozart's 24th Piano Concerto.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Symphony No. 1 (Beethoven)</span> Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven; premiered in 1800

Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21, was dedicated to Baron Gottfried van Swieten, an early patron of the composer. The piece was published in 1801 by Hoffmeister & Kühnel of Leipzig. It is not known exactly when Beethoven finished writing this work, but sketches of the finale were found to be from 1795.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Symphony No. 2 (Beethoven)</span> Musical work by Beethoven, composed 1801-1802

The Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36, is a symphony in four movements written by Ludwig van Beethoven between 1801 and 1802. The work is dedicated to Karl Alois, Prince Lichnowsky.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Piano Sonata No. 21 (Beethoven)</span> Piano Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, known as the Waldstein, is one of the three most notable sonatas of his middle period. Completed in summer 1804 and surpassing Beethoven's previous piano sonatas in its scope, the Waldstein is a key early work of Beethoven's "Heroic" decade (1803–1812) and set a standard for piano composition in the grand manner.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Piano Sonata No. 32 (Beethoven)</span> Piano sonata written by Beethoven

The Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111, is the last of Ludwig van Beethoven's piano sonatas. The work was written between 1821 and 1822. Like other late period sonatas, it contains fugal elements. It was dedicated to his friend, pupil, and patron, Archduke Rudolf.

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 3 in C major, Op. 2, No. 3, is a sonata written for solo piano, composed in 1795. It is dedicated to Joseph Haydn and is often referred to as one of Beethoven's earliest "grand and virtuosic" piano sonatas. All three of Beethoven's Op. 2 piano sonatas contain four movements, an unusual length at the time, which seems to show that Beethoven was aspiring towards composing a symphony. It is both the weightiest and longest of the three Op. 2 sonatas, and it presents many difficulties for the performer, including difficult trills, awkward hand movements, and forearm rotation. It is also one of Beethoven's longest piano sonatas in his early period. With an average performance lasting just about 24–26 minutes, it is second only to the Grand Sonata in E Major, Op. 7, published just a year later, in 1796.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Piano Sonata No. 16 (Beethoven)</span> Piano sonata by Beethoven, composed 1801-02

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 16 in G major, Op. 31, No. 1, was composed between 1801 and 1802. Although it was numbered as the first piece in the trio of piano sonatas which were published as Opus 31 in 1803, Beethoven actually finished it after the Op. 31 No. 2, the Tempest Sonata.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Piano Concerto No. 2 (Beethoven)</span>

The Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19, by Ludwig van Beethoven was composed primarily between 1787 and 1789, although it did not attain the form in which it was published until 1795. Beethoven did write a second finale for it in 1798 for performance in Prague, but that is not the finale that was published. It was used by the composer as a vehicle for his own performances as a young virtuoso, initially intended with the Bonn Hofkapelle. It was published in December 1801 as Op. 19, later than the publication in March that year of his later composition the Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major as Op. 15, and thus became designated as his second piano concerto.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Piano Concerto No. 1 (Beethoven)</span>

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15, was written in 1795, then revised in 1800. It was possibly first performed by Beethoven at his first public concert in Vienna on 29 March 1795. It was first published in 1801 in Vienna with dedication to his pupil Princess Anna Louise Barbara Odescalchi, known to her friends as "Babette".

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 10, No. 1 was composed some time during 1796–98.

Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 11 in B major, Op. 22, was composed in 1800, and published two years later. Beethoven regarded it as the best of his early sonatas, though some of its companions in the cycle have been at least as popular with the public.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Piano Sonata No. 14 (Mozart)</span>

The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor, K. 457, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was composed and completed in 1784, with the official date of completion recorded as 14 October 1784 in Mozart's own catalogue of works. It was published in December 1785 together with the Fantasy in C minor, K. 475, as Opus 11 by the publishing firm Artaria, Mozart's main Viennese publisher.

Cello Sonatas No. 1 and No. 2, Op. 5, are two sonatas for cello and piano written by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1796, while he was in Berlin. While there, Beethoven met the King of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm II, an ardent music-lover and keen cellist. Although the sonatas are dedicated to Friedrich Wilhelm II, Ferdinand Ries tells us that Beethoven "played several times at the court, where he also played the two cello sonatas, opus 5, composed for Duport and himself". Although Jean-Pierre Duport was one of the King's teachers, it is now thought to have been his brother Jean-Louis Duport who had the honor of premiering these sonatas.

The Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5 of Johannes Brahms was written in 1853 and published the following year. The sonata is unusually large, consisting of five movements, as opposed to the traditional three or four. When he wrote this piano sonata, the genre was seen by many to be past its heyday. Brahms, enamored of Beethoven and the classical style, composed Piano Sonata No. 3 with a masterful combination of free Romantic spirit and strict classical architecture. As a further testament to Brahms' affinity for Beethoven, the Piano Sonata is infused with the instantly recognizable motive from Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 during the first, third, and fourth movements. Composed in Düsseldorf, it marks the end of his cycle of three sonatas, and was presented to Robert Schumann in November of that year; it was the last work that Brahms submitted to Schumann for commentary. Brahms was barely 20 years old at its composition. The piece is dedicated to Countess Ida von Hohenthal of Leipzig.

Violin Sonata No. 33 in E-flat major was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Vienna on December 12, 1785. It was published on its own by Franz Anton Hoffmeister, a German composer and music publisher to whom Mozart's String Quartet No. 20 is dedicated. While much is unknown about the history of this sonata, it is nevertheless a very mature work, written in what one may call Mozart's period of greatest mastery.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">String Trios, Op. 9 (Beethoven)</span>

The three String Trios, Op. 9 were composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1797–98. He published them in Vienna in 1799, with a dedication to his patron Count Johann Georg von Browne (1767–1827). They were first performed by the violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh with two colleagues from his string quartet. According to the violinist and conductor Angus Watson, these were probably Franz Weiss on viola and either Nikolaus Kraft or his father Anton on cello. Each of the trios consists of four movements:

<i>Hooked on Classics</i> 1981 studio album by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Hooked on Classics, produced by Jeff Jarratt and Don Reedman, is a multi-million selling album recorded by Louis Clark and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, published in 1981 by K-tel and distributed by RCA Records, part of the Hooked on Classics series.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Piano Quartets (Beethoven)</span>

The Piano Quartets, WoO 36, by Ludwig van Beethoven are a set of three piano quartets, completed in 1785 when the composer was aged 14. They are scored for piano, violin, viola and cello. He composed a quartet in C major, another in E-flat major, and a third in D major. They were first published posthumously in 1828, however numbered in a different order: Piano Quartet No. 1 in E-flat major, Piano Quartet No. 2 in D major, and Piano Quartet No. 3 in C major.


  1. 1 2 Craig Wright, Listening to Western Music, pp. 209–212. Cengage Learning.
  2. Beethoven Pathetique Sonata Op. 13 All About Beethoven. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
  3. Burkhart, Charles: Anthology for Musical Analysis, p. 233. Schirmer 2004.
  4. Marks, F. Helena. The Sonata: Its Form and Meaning as Exemplified in the Piano Sonatas by Mozart. W. Reeves, London, 1921.
  5. Sisman, Elaine R. Pathos and the Pathetique: Rhetorical Stance in Beethoven's C-minor Sonata Op. 13. Beethoven Forum vol. 3, pp. 81–106. University of Nebraska Press, 1994.
  6. Program details, WCLV Adventures in Good Music with Karl Haas
  7. Holley, Joe (8 February 2005). "Classical Radio Personality Karl Haas, 91, Dies". The Washington Post . p. B06. Retrieved 17 November 2008.
  8. Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine : KISS – "Great Expectations" on YouTube
  9. Maynard Solomon, Beethoven, p. 80. Revised Edition, Schirmer Trade Books.
  10. Jan Swafford, Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, p. 219. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  11. 1 2 H. C. Robbins Landon, Beethoven: A Documentary Study, pp. 61–62. Thames & Hudson 1970.