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Ethan Brown
Analysis of Beethovens Op. 10 no 3 mvmt. 1
Beethovens op. 10 no 3 is a fantastic piano sonata written relatively early in the
composers career. The piece was written in Vienna, while Beethoven was establishing his
reputation as a talented composer and virtuosic pianist. The piece was published during a small
spike of output between the end of 1797 and 1798. This spike is likely due to the Beethovens
travels around Europe during 1796. While busy touring and performing he must have had little
time to do any robust amount of composing. After this period of touring Europe records of travel
and general records of correspondence dissipate for the majority of 1797. Beethoven having
made an impressive international appearance was ready to get back to work.
This period is likely to be the time Beethoven spent composing his opp.58, the most
important of which were the E-flat Piano Sonata (op.7) and the cello sonatas(op.5), as well as
the song Adelaide (op.46)The publications of 1798 were even more assured, including the
three op.9 string trios, his most impressive chamber works to date, and the three op.10 piano
sonatas.( Kerman) Opus 10 was dedicated to the wife of Count Johann Georg von Browne, a
wealthy patron whom opus 9, a set of string trios was dedicated to. Certainly, this period saw a
great amount of compositional experimentation by Beethoven, and there are some similar traits
between the compositions. The sonata allegros of his piano sonatas were becoming increasingly
robust, as he started to explore tri-modular blocks in the exposition of both opus 10 no 2 and 3.
At this time his compositions were becoming more and more dramatic with increasing chromatic
explorations and structural deformations. Such compositional development can be seen as
culminating to early masterpieces such as the Eroica Symphony.

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In 1798, the emissary of the French Directoire, General Bernadotte visited Vienna and
spoke with Beethoven. An anecdote exists that during their meeting the general suggested to
Beethoven that he compose a heroic symphony in honor of the young Bonaparte. The drama
found in the first movement of op. 10, which is caused by wrong key explorations in the
exposition, can be seen as an experiment and an exploration of writing heroic themed music. A
concept which makes of the ideas explored in his Fifth Symphony so remarkable (Kaplan).
Whether or not this story is true it is certain that this explosive time in the young composers life
was an important step towards the masterworks he would later create. In their own right
however, opus 10 and the other compositions from this time are still fantastic works and deserve
much attention.
The first movement of Beethovens D major piano sonata is an ambitious piece with
many interesting nuances. It is clear that Beethoven had many ideas he wished to explore in this
composition. The majority of the composition is occupied by the exposition and recapitulation,
the former being 125 measures and the later 157. The development however is only 61 measures
in length. Given the repetitive nature of the exposition and recapitulation it is interesting that
Beethoven chose to put so much material into these sections. His compositional choices reflect
that Beethoven knew how to keep the listener entertained and informed on an extended and
complex journey through the exposition.
One of the most important structural decisions that Beethoven makes for the piece is
breaking the exposition into three sections instead of the traditional two parts. The exposition is
a tri-modular block filled with many unique compositional decisions that come with such a
flexible structure. The first block is a concise tonally over determined presentation section paired
with an even shorter transitional section. TM1.1 begins from the start of the sonata and extends

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to measure 10, where it ends with a PAC. The entire section is composed completely of quarter
notes, which creates a rather forthright and noble character. The two most obvious textural
qualities include the abundance of octave doublings in both the right and left hands, and a stream
of parallel first inversion triads. TM1.2 begins after a two beat break in the texture after the
PAC. This can break can be interpreted as a premonition of all of the caesuras which come later
in the exposition.
TM1.2 is clearly derived from TM1.1, though it has been varied. The melodic contour is
exactly the same, although it has been transposed up an octave and displaced onto up beats. The
down beats now play the third, which was previously the bass of the first inversion triads, and
bass notes are doubled in octaves. TM1.2 has successfully taken the same theme and rearranged
the textures to make a contrasting second section. The presentation section of TM1.2 ends with a
second PAC on the downbeat of measure sixteen. The transition begins after another two beat
break in the texture, and it proves to be developmental. It continues to explore traits established
in both presentation sections. The octaves in the right hand are characteristic of both TM1.1 and
TM1.2, and the off beats in the right hand are a revisiting of the top line of the ascending sixths
from TM1.2. After only 6 measures and one additional non-diatonic note, the passage comes to
an abrupt end with a half cadence marked by a fermata. A one beat caesura follows the fermata,
and thus the first block of the tri-modular exposition closes.
The especially short transition section could be seen as being rushed because the music
was searching for a half cadence in response to the tonally over determined first block. This half
cadence and caesura are in accordance with normal sonata form; however, in its haste to move
on in the form the music has made a grave error. The half cadence was in vi, and not the
anticipated goal of V. Thus the second block is designated to come to terms with this and fix the

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dilemma. The lyrical theme of TM2.1 is quite a contrast to powerful scalar octaves found in
TM1. This theme is more reflective character and reconsiders the errors made by the previous
block, which has threatened to ruin the sonata. The minor tonality and lyricism cast a pensive
and insecure shadow over the beginning of the block. The music resides in this ominous haze of
doubt for a tight-knit 8 bar modulating period that starts in vi and moves to iii, the dominant of
vi. The music has become obsessed with finding a dominant landing pad, even if it is still
incorrect in relation to the home key. After the PAC in iii, the music gets a sudden burst of
energy; it has become apparent that the tonality has not fallen too far off track! F-minor, the
dominant key of b-minor is also the relative minor key of A-major, or V. After the PAC in iii,
the music seems to catch a spark and realizes how close it actually is to getting back on track. In
measure 31 TM2.1 begins in which the music rapidly starts a new transition section in search of
V. The new material consists of a four bar phrases which Beethoven sequences up a minor third
into A-major, the dominant key. The block advances into TM2.2 at measure 38, which has a
rather loose character as the sonata is still trying to settle into A. There is diatonic model
sequence behavior in A for 7 measures; this has a driving, yet stable character which was
reminiscent of the turn themes from TM2.1. Echoes of the previous energy which propelled the
music into the dominant tonality carry through this section as do the harmonies reinforcing Amajor. After a half cadence punctuates the section at measure 47 TM2.3, an extended cadential
progression begins under a chromatic scale that spans a twelfth. This passage closes in measure
53 with a PAC. The PAC is followed by a short caesura which closes out TM2. According to
James Hepokoski and Warren Darcys, Sonata Theory, the use of a PAC to announce the arrival
of V is a low level default. The long period of wrong key exploration, and tonal instability made
the strength of a PAC necessary to confidently establish the correct key however. This allows

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the listener to realize that the harmonic dissonance previously plaguing TM2 has been resolved
and the sonata is free to move onto a new section.
TM3 Begins with a calm, piano theme which is S-like in nature. The crisis earlier in the
sonata has been resolved, and a new theme is created which takes form in an eight bar sentence
which is TM3.1. At the end of this sentence Beethoven is faced with an important structural
decision. Since the dominant confirming PAC was needed due to the late arrival in V, there is a
possibility that this PAC could be interpreted as the EEC. This would cause closing material to
follow and thus end the exposition. Beethoven however has more material he wishes to explore.
To clarify this ambiguity Beethoven immediately repeats TM3.1, but in a minor tonality. The
emergence of a wrong key again undermines the confidence so recently achieved, thus the
possibility of a closing section is removed. To further clarify that the block is not yet ready to
close, Beethoven includes a five beat break in texture. This break, which is unprepared by
cadence, also undermines the notion that the exposition will soon end. This is because such
breaks are rarely found in closing themes. After the break, the music tries to regain control and
stays in V for several measures. This effort is futile however, and because the music was not
willing to end when all was well a new threat to the tonality has arrived. In measure 75 there is a
modulation to bVII, and again the sonata falls into a transitional section filled with sequences
and tonal instability.
The material following the modulation develops into a 4 bar model. Characteristic traits
include a series of voice exchanges between root position triad, and first inversion ones. These
voice exchanges are perpetuated by fourth inversion dominant chords. The model is then
sequenced to i and bVI. Along with pianissimo dynamics, the seamless nature of voice
exchanges combined with the sequences creates a very fluid and tranquil, yet roaming character.

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This is a great contrast with the previous loose section with unstable transitional material, which
felt much more frantic and lost due to the rapid eighth note figurations. This contrast is likely
directly influenced by how these passages exist in relation to the dominant key. The sequence
from TM2, which appeared first, had existed at a moment of thematic tension. Its purpose was to
hurry and find the correct key at a moment when failure loomed; this accounts for the hectic,
angular passages and sense of urgency during this section. The second sequential TR section
comes after the dominant key has been confirmed, and a sense of security has come over the
piece. This allows Beethoven to explore some thematic material further and visit other remote
keys while still being aware that V has been located and will be easy to settle into. This is akin
to a traveler who has become lost on their way, but through being lost they found a new path to
the desired location. Upon realizing their location and finding the correct path they now relax
and take comfort in their discovery. The music makes a point to enjoy the exotic new place it
has have found and takes a moment to embrace it.
Just as the third sequence winds down, and the stable V heard earlier is becoming a very
distant memory a path towards V appears. At measure 87 in a moment of triumph, through the
tonal ambiguity, a sforzando whole note A-major triad blazes in the right hand. The 5th degree of
the chord is the highest note played since the five beat brake in measure 65. At this moment the
dominant finally seizes complete control of the exposition as a seven bar expanded cadential
progression begins. In measure 93 a confident and satisfying PAC is in V is finally reached.
This cadence is the Expositional Closing Cadence, and marks the beginning of the closing
section of the sonata. C1 begins with material related to P, and after twelve bars of
prolongational P based material another PAC occurs, this introduces C 2. C2 is a soft piano
afterthought which contrasts greatly with the rigid quarter note theme which dominated the P

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section. The first eight measures of C2 are all half notes and can be heard as echoes of the half
notes which dominated half of the duration in the b-minor TMB2.1. The rest of C2 is filled with
scalar fragments of P themed material. These putter off until they hit a caesura in measure 124.
After the caesura, a repeat sends the music back to the exposition, or onto the development.
After four measures of pre-developmental material, which were just the last echoes of C,
the development begins. The first four measures of the actual development are almost an exact
transcription of the first four bars of the piece. The only difference is that two of the Fs are
naturaled. In measure 133 Beethoven rewrites the key signature to all naturals, and adds a
double bar line which is an interesting editorial decision. Finally after the double bar, he begins
to compose new material for the development. Even though there are no accidentals in the key
signature, the beginning is keyed in bVI. The first theme is a four measure idea which he then
transposes down an octave, a similar structural prolongation used in presentation section of
TM1.1. After these eight bars, the core of the development begins. The core consists of an eight
bar phrase that is reminiscent of the scalar passages in TM1. From bVI the model is sequenced
twice to iv and bII. The third time the model fragments off and begins a new phrase. The new
phrase is in the home key, and is reminiscent of the turn figures that exist in TM2. After two
measures of Italian6 chords, the V of D-major returns, and a half cadence confirms D-major.
This sets up a period of dominant lock and declares the end of the Development. As the
development comes to an end the primary theme has been explore exhaustively, but themes from
subsequent blocks has been vague and short in duration. There is a bit of doubt casted over the
rotational development until, the last bit of thematic material covered in the dominant lock is the
varied motive from measure 87, the closing theme which reestablished V in TM3. This
presentation is very staccato and alternates extreme registers however. The chaos of the

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development has rendered the theme disjunct and weak, but never the less it rises up to usher in a
stable tonality. This theme clearly has a great level of structural importance, as it has been the
thematic material that has closed the most important and dramatic sections of the sonata. After
this, the development halts on a first inversion A dominant 7th chord under a fermata. This acts
as a half cadence, which closes out this development and ushers in the recapitulation.
The recapitulation begins with a pickup to measure 183 as expected; the first thirteen
measures are an exact repetition of the exposition. After the first thirteen measures Beethoven
begins to break from the repetition in measure 195, this is done to avoid reaching too many
PACs before the ECC, which would make its arrival less fulfilling. Instead of adopting the
theme from the initial TR in the corresponding measure, Beethoven continues the steady eighth
note theme from the P section. The music begins to modulate to ii, and it becomes clear that the
crux of the recapitulation is in full stream. Measure 202 establishes a half cadence in e-minor,
which corresponds with the half cadence that happened before TM2. This cadence has some
interesting contrasts with the one in measure 22. The new chord is a full triad, which is
arpeggiated for two full measures and has no fermata written above. This decision is likely due
to momentum the music still possesses. Adding a fermata in the recapitulation while it is not in
the home key is counterproductive and misleading so it is left out to allow the music to continue
on. Interestingly, Beethoven did include a caesura which insinuates that the recapitulation will
still be in dialogue with the tri-modular block structure that the exposition was in.
After the caesura, the theme from TM2 enters, but transposed to e-minor. The period
modulates with the same relationship as it had in the exposition and it ends with a PAC in bminor. This has important ramifications for the recapitulation. After the cadence, the material
still corresponds with the exposition and the same four bar model is sequence a third from vi to I.

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At this moment, in measure 215 the sonata has easily slipped back to the home key and the
remaining material written can be transposed to fit the home key. For an extended period of time
the material is simply transposed. Measures 215-222 correspond with 34-41, but after this short
period, Beethoven begins to compose new material. The music appears to be on the verge of a
divergence until, in measure 228 the chromatic scale which closed out TM2 appears and puts the
recapitulation back on track. The last two measures leading up to the cadence have been varied,
the cadence happens none the less, and another caesura takes place to close out this block in the
recapitulation. Measures 232-292 continue to correspond with measures 53-112 with minor
variations. Even the modulations that took TM3 away from V happen, but they are transposed to
enable them to lead back into I just as the earlier ones led to V. The same heroic sforzando
theme which led to the ESC and the closing of the development returns once again. This time it
ushers in the expanded cadential progression which leads to the ESC in measure, 273. The
corresponding measures continue in the C section until measure 293. The way the exposition
dissolved into the development was very open and would be a terrible resolution for the music to
reach after such a dramatic sonata. To solve this, Beethoven composes a post-crux alteration of
considerable length.
In measure 292 a sequences begins on an e-minor triad. From this chord a sequence of
ascending fourths and descending fifths chords move down to the subdominant, G-major. This
move to the subdominant is typical of recapitulations, because the distance to the home key is a
perfect fifth, the same relationship which the exposition travels to the dominant. In saving this
tonality for a post crux alteration Beethoven is signaling that indeed the sonata is coming to a
close and the modulation is not a troubling one. In measure 297 the music reaches a cadence in
G major, and another caesura break occurs. After this break, a G pedal is played in the bass and

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the scalar imitative quarter note theme from the end of the development returns. From measures
290 to 306 tetra-chords outlining a G-major scale are repeated. The left hand consistently starts
on the first scale degree and the right hand hovers around the fifth scale degree. Starting in
measure 309 the tetra-chords are slowly chromatically altered and begin to include B-flats, Fnaturals, and finally, A-flats. From this imitation a B-flat dominant seventh chord forms. The
figuration of this chord is reminiscent of the sequences filled with voice exchanges that preceded
the EEC; this is another cue the piece is in its closing state. The harmony stays on the B-flat
chord and the voice exchanges continue, until the chord is rewritten as a German augmented
sixth chord in measure 320. Just as the augmented 6 chords led to the dominant at the end of the
development, the chord resolves to an A dominant seventh and initializes an extended cadential
progression which moves through vi, ii, V, and ends with a PAC in D-major. After the PAC,
intervallic material from C1 returns as D-major is prolonged for the remainder of the sonata. In a
dramatic double forte section the last triads are played as D-major resounds in triumph.
The entire piano sonata is a very impressive piece of music. Understanding Beethovens
structural concepts and his use of the sonata form template takes time and attention to detail.
This is rather typical of a Beethoven composition however. The composer was never
particularly concerned about the audiences understanding of his compositions and occasionally
he even boasted that certain compositions were being written for later generations to understand
and enjoy. The drama created by the harmonic tension and masterful control between the
structure and theme presentation create a powerful musical narrative. How Beethoven
maneuvers through periods of instability and gives them each such different character is
remarkable. The most impressive accomplishment is how each section clearly relates and
responds to the material explored before. This can be seen through the rotation of themes a key

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structural moments such as the closing section, and the correlation between the ECC, the end of
the development, and the ESC. This recurring material at measures 87, 175, and 267
consistently feels like the savior of the sonata and protector of tonality. It is saved for the most
crucial structural moments and has a texture very distinct from any other material in the piece.
With such a strikingly unique extra-musical concept repeatedly on display it is not unlikely
Beethoven was experimenting with concepts that would be later deployed in the Eroica

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Caplin, William E. Classical Form: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of
Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.

Hepokoski, James, and Warren Darcy. Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and
Deformations in the Late-Eighteenth-Century Sonata. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006.

Kerman, Joseph al. "Beethoven, Ludwig van." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online.
Oxford University Press. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.