Wednesday, September 15, 2010

9/15 The "Pathetique" Piano Sonata

(Follow this analysis or be haunted by the Ghost of Rubinstein forever)
Piano Sonata #8 in Cm, Op.13, "Pathétique" (1798) - 1. Grave, Allegro Di Molto E Con Brio

As promised yesterday, today's post will focus on doing a form analysis on the first movement of the Pathetique piano sonata.  This sonata was the first to have an introduction section, but other parts are already stretching the definition of a "strict" sonata form...
Here's a recording by Sviatoslav Richter from the fabulous 50's:
 
Alternate Youtube link


Introduction (Grave/slow)
Exposition (allegro di molto e con brio)
  • 1st Theme in Cm, (Authentic Cadence)
  • Modulating bridge
  • 2nd Theme Group in E flat minor/major (3 parts)
  • Codetta (uses 1st theme material to head into repeat)
Exposition (Repeat)
  • 1st Theme in Cm, (Authentic Cadence)
  • Modulating bridge
  • 2nd Theme Group in E flat minor/major (3 parts)
  • Codetta
Development (Grave, Allegro Di Molto E Con Brio)
  • Uses mostly introduction (subdued variation) and 1st theme
  • Begins in Gm, modulates to Em
  • Retransition (setup for the Recapitulation "home" key)
Recap (allegro di molto e con brio)
  • 1st Theme in Cm (Authentic Cadence)
  • Modulating bridge (var of 1st M.B.)
  • 2nd Theme Group in Fm/M and C minor, (Authentic Cadence)
Coda (Grave, Allegro Di Molto E Con Brio)
  • Introduction and 1st theme variations

It must be said that there's no "absolute" analysis - in other words, where a transition begins and ends can be open for debate.  Beethoven NEVER used the above as some kind of composition "recipe", he just wrote what he thought sounded good.  We just use the above divisions as a way of interpreting the dramatic flow of the whole piece.  I just call them signposts, like "Rest Stop Ahead" or "Speed Zone".  In the 70's Charles Rosen wrote a book called "The Classical Style" where he tried to imply that sonata form was a myth (and then 10 years later he wrote a book called "Sonata Forms"...Huh?).  As you can see B deviated from this form even as early as Opus 13, and later on he pretty much took it apart (before putting it back together).....

OK, here's a more detailed analysis, be prepared to "get your Schenker on"..
A Formal Analysis of Beethoven’s Pathetique

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