You are on page 1of 3

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN

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


Composed between 1796-1798, during Beethoven’s early period

Beethoven was a German composer. He was baptized in 1770 and died in


1827. Therefore, he belongs to the classical era (1730-1820). He played the piano,
harpsichord, organ and violin. He is probably the most dominating presence in
classical music.

He was an innovator. He widened the scope of sonata, symphony, concerto


and quartet. In his works we see his dynamism, care for humanism, nationalism,
his concern for the freedom and dignity of the individual. His work had an enormous
effect on composers from Schubert, to Berlioz, Debussy and Mahler.

He wrote 32 piano sonatas in total. Technically, the “Pathetique” is a classical


composition, but it has many romantic elements; adventures in harmony, structural
complexity and rhythm. Some call it “a classic romantic piece”. After all, Beethoven
was the “bridge” between the two periods. This sonata shows those steps towards
romanticism. Therefore the title “Pathetique”, which means emotional, moving,
passionate.

This sonata brings to mind Haydn’s “Drumroll” Symphony No.103 in E♭ major


and Mozart’s Fantasia K.475 in C minor. It is possible that Beethoven was
influenced by the work of his composition teacher and that of Mozart, whom he very
much admired.

1
The “Pathetique” is composed in 3 movements. The first movement
(Grave, Allegro di molto e con brio) is in sonata form
(A-A-B-A’). It begins with an Introduction (“Grave” meaning “very slow”
– measures 1 to 10) in the key of C minor. After the Introduction, comes the
Exposition (I) (“Allegro di molto e con brio” meaning “very fast with much energy”
– measures 11 to 132), where the 1st theme is in C minor and surprisingly
the 2nd theme is in E♭ minor and then major. After the Exposition and its repeat,
there comes the Development (II) (measures 133-194), starting in the key of
E minor. Then, there comes the Recapitulation (III) (measures 195-294), where the
1st theme appears in C minor and the 2nd theme in the unexpected key of F minor
and then in C minor, as it was supposed to be. In Beethoven’s times, the key of
F minor was believed to be the “darkest” of keys. This may be the reason why
as soon as he reached that high F note in measure 232, he finally makes that
modulation towards C minor. After the Recapitulation section, there is a quick Coda
(the end part, succeeding the Recapitulation in sonata form, a section that
Beethoven made imposing – measures 295-310) to establish the end of the piece.

(-) Introduction

Tempo: Grave
Key: C minor
Time: Common time (four-four)
Measures: 1 to 10

(I) Exposition

Tempo: Allegro molto e con brio


Key: 1st theme C minor, 2nd theme E♭ minor/major
Time: Cut common time (two-two, “alla breve”)
Measures: 11 to 132

2
(II) Development

Tempo: Grave, Allegro molto e con brio


Key: Starts in E minor
Time: Grave: Common time (four-four)
Allegro: Cut common time (two-two, “alla breve”)
Measures: 133 to 194

(III) Recapitulation

Tempo: Allegro molto e con brio


Key: 1st theme C minor, 2nd theme F minor then C minor
Time: Cut common time (two-two, “alla breve”)
Measures: 195 to 294

(-) Coda

Tempo: Grave, Allegro molto e con brio


Key: C minor
Time: Grave: Common time (four-four)
Allegro: Cut common time (two-two, “alla breve”)
Measures: 295 to 310