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Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 8

Ludwig van Beethoven 's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor , op. 13 commonly known as Pathétique (although commonly thought to be one of the few works to be named by the composer himself, it was actually named by the publisher, to Beethoven's liking [1] ) was published in 1799 , though written the year before, when the composer was 27 years old. Beethoven dedicated the work to his friend Prince Karl von Lichnowsky .

The Pathétique Sonata is perhaps the earliest of Beethoven's compositions to achieve widespread and enduring popularity. It is widely represented on the concert programs and recordings of professional pianists. As one of the more famous Beethoven pieces, it has been incorporated into several works of popular culture .

The sonata comprises three movements:

  1. Grave - Allegro di molto e con brio
  2. Adagio cantabile
  3. Rondo: Allegro

Grave - Allegro di molto e con brio

The first movement is in standard first movement sonata form . It includes a long first theme, written in Grave , that is reminiscent of the Baroque period, specifically Bach's C minor partita. This first theme delays the primary theme until the exposition at the start of the Allegro section. This main section is in 2/2 time in the key of C minor, modulating, like most minor-key sonatas of this period, to the relative major, E flat. The return of the slow theme may have been inspired by Joseph Haydn 's "Drumroll" Symphony , completed three years earlier in 1795. Beethoven extends Haydn's compositional practice by returning to the introductory material not once but twice, at the beginning of the development section as well as in the coda.

An interesting point about the first movement is that Beethoven does not specify where its repeat should begin. Traditionally, most pianists start their repeat at the beginning Allegro , but some performers choose to start from the beginning of the piece. This is because at the end of the repeat is another slow section that is similar to the opening section. Tovey suggests leaving out the repeat altogether, and some performers follow this practice.

Adagio cantabile

The Adagio movement opens with the famous cantabile ("in a singing style") melody. This theme is played three times, interspersed with two modulating episodes: the first going from F minor to E flat major, the second from A flat minor to E major. With the final return of the main theme, the accompaniment becomes richer and takes on the triplet rhythm of the second episode. The brief coda's stylistic diversity is arresting: four bars of Romantic transcendence followed by a strikingly conventional 18th-century close. Another interesting feature of the Adagio is its range in texture. After having a thick four-voice texture in the principal theme, Beethoven temporarily reduces the texture to one voice near the closing of the B section. The same kind of textural reduction takes place in the opening and last measures of the coda.

Rondo: Allegro

The sonata closes with a 2/2 movement in C minor. The main theme strongly resembles the second theme of the Allegro of the first movement, being identical to it in its pitch pattern for the first four notes and in its rhythmic pattern for the first eight. It follows a version of sonata rondo form that includes a coda; see Sonata_rondo#Codas for this structure. The three rondo episodes are in E flat, A flat, and C major. The common use of sforzandos create a forceful effect, although overall the rondo is relatively lightweight compared to the first movement.

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