Beethoven Piano Sonata 1

Opus 2 No. 1

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Beethoven Piano Sonata 1 First edition

Beethoven Piano Sonata 1 –First Edition

Vienna, 1796.


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"The genie is made up of 2% talent and 98% constant perseverance." –L. V. Beethoven.

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Biography of the Sonata

Beethoven was in Vienna studying with Haydn when he composed this early work in his youth. During Haydn's second trip to London in 1794, Beethoven studied counterpoint with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger who lived from 1736 to 1809. The young genius had his debut in Vienna on March 29, 1795, in which he probably played his first piano concerto. In 1796, Prince Karl Lichnowsky who lived from 1761 to 1814 organized an artistic tour for Beethoven that lasted from February to early July and included visits to Prague, Dresden, Leipzig, and Berlin.

Fact information

Sonatas No. 1, 2 and 3 were composed in 1795. The order in which the three sonatas were written is not known. The work was published in 1796 by Artaria, a leading Viennese publisher who had published works by Mozart and Haydn. It is not known if the autographs still exist, although there are some sketches for the second sonata. The work is dedicated to Haydn, but Beethoven did not recognize Haydn as his teacher in the dedication of the works, a kind gesture expected during the period.

Brief Explanations

Structure of the Sonatas 1, 2 and 3

Beethoven added an extra movement to the typical three movement for piano sonatas, a dance movement that is usually reserved for chamber or orchestral works. In doing so, Beethoven elevated the importance of the piano sonata.

The inner sections of the movements are extended in the Sonatas 2 and 3.

Thematic development begins at any time, not being confined to the development sections.

The codas of Sonatas No. 2 and 3 are expand and begin to assume development.

Harmonic Characteristics

Key relationships defy structural expectations.


For the time, Beethoven indicated an unusual number of dynamic contrasts, sforzandi or other accents, often on weak rhythms.

Special remarks on this Sonata


This Sonata is called the Little Appassionata, probably because it is in the same key as the Sonata No. 23 Appassionata.

Connections between movements

The first and second movements open with an optimistic rhythm in the dominant tone, the first movement arpeggio rises to the third of the scale, the second movement immediately goes to the third. The lines of both movements go from the third to the tonic. The main theme of the movement uses a descending third in its strong beat.

The first and fourth movements open with motifs that end in the tonic, in the same tone in the same register.

The diminished sixth degree of the scale appears in the major keys in the exposition of the first movement, second theme; exposition of the second movement, second theme and coda; third movement after the first double bar.

First Movement: F minor | Allegro | 4/4 | Sonata Form

Measures 1 and 2

The opening phrase is a series of ascending notes in the tonic triad. An opening in unison or octave for a movement is a gesture made famous by orchestral composers at the Mannheim electoral court from approximately 1740 to 1778. Such gestures are labeled Mannhiem Openings. Other examples from Mannheim are Sonata No. 5, and Sonata K. 457 by Mozart. Beethoven also used notes from the tonic triad such as the opening of Appassionata, inviting speculation as to whether the tone of F minor suggested similar ideas.

The upbeat has no staccato marking, nor is there one leading to measure 49. In contrast, the pickup at measures 8 and 108 show staccato markings. Opinions differ as to whether it is an intended pattern or evidence of typographical errors.

Measure 2

The eighth-note triplet carryover extends to the quarter note in the third beat and is marked staccato. Compare this notation with the one used in bar 1 of Sonata No. 6, where the drag is detached from the quarter note at the downbeat of measure 2. These Differences in notation suggest different musical concepts, that is, whether the idea shapes away from the final note, as in this sonata, or towards it, as in the later work.

Measures 1 to 7

The piano opening is somewhat unusual, but has already been used by Haydn in HOB. XVI / 42 and 50 and Mozart in K. 283 and 570. More striking is the rapidly developing dynamic contrast of the a fortíssimo piano with sforzandi in cups 5 and 6.

Measures 21 to 25

The second theme can be seen as a free investment of the first theme. A similar relationship exists between the first and second theme of the first movement of the Sonata No. 23 Appassionata.

The expected key in the sonata-allegro form is A♭, its relative major, but repeated sforzazndi in diminished sixths as part of a descending dominant ninth the arpeggio suggests the minor parallel. Note that drag patterns enhance sforzandi. In the second and third sonatas of this ensemble, Beethoven extends this concept to the full-fledged arrival of the lowest parallel of the expected tone.

Measures 26 to 41

The length of the second theme reaches its climax, marked by the syncopated sforzandi of the left hand.

Measures 41 to 48

The three A♭ are used repeatedly, again suggesting the minor parallel.

Measures 49 to 73

Opening in A♭ major, Beethoven develops both the first and second themes in order, a procedure used periodically throughout the sonatas: 10, 19, 20, 21, 23, and the last movement of the Sonata No. 14.

Measure 62

The penultimate eighth note in the right hand is Re ♭ in the first edition, Re ♮ in the second edition (Simrock, Bonn, 1798).

Measures 73 to 79

Note the unusual patterns of sforzandi at different levels of voices.

Measures 95 to 100

The retransition presents the opening triplet fragment of the song with a crescendo to create tension in anticipation of the recapitulation, an extended concept in some later sonatas, we can appreciate this formula in the Sonata No. 21 Waldstein and the Sonata No. 23 Appassionata.

Measures 101 to 108

The rhythmic and dynamic differences between this statement and the one in the exhibition enhance the drama of the comeback.

Measures 111 to 119

The change touches the key of B minor.

Measures 120 to 140

The second theme is in the minor key.

Measures 132 to 139

Small changes from bars 33 to 41, both in intensity of dynamics and placements of dynamic contrasts, create new tension for this culminating passage.

Measures 146 to 152

The short coda features syncopated, staccato chords for dramatic effect.

Second Movement: F major | Adagio | 3/4 | Sonata Form


The structure of the undeveloped Sonata-allegro form is sometimes called truncated sonata-allegro. The structure also occurs in the second movements of the Sonata No. 5, Sonata No. 17 and Sonata No. 26 with a slight modification. In this movement the end of the exposition is in measure 31; the recap begins at 32.

Measure 2

The expressive descending second interval is introduced. Here we find the closing of the first sentence of a song-like theme. It is omnipresent throughout the movement, appearing in the exhibition in bars 3, 4, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 18, 20, 22, 23, 24, 28, and 30. Its use in the left hand in bars 23 and 24 recall the sixth degree, a connection to the first movement.

Measures 17 to 12

The transition to D minor does not appear in the recap.

Measures 32 to 47

The first theme of the recapitulation is presented with a more elaborate lyricism in both melodic line and accompaniment, moving twice in polyrhythmic patterns.

Measures 58 to 61

The short coda recalls the sixth flat in the opening tone.

Third Movement: F minor | Allegretto | 3/4 | Minueto-trio

Measures 11, 13, 19, 21

In the first edition, the ornamentation note is written with a flag on its stem, suggesting an eighth note value. Some of the editors believe that it should be played as a sixteenth note to distinguish the figure from those in bars 22 and 23.

Measures 42 and 67

The last eighth note of measure 67 is accompanied by a natural sign, making it different from that of measure 42. Some editors believe that the same note should be played for both measures.

Measures 59 to 62

The fingering of the right-hand double notes in the first edition is presumably Beethoven. You can find the score further up on this page.

Fourth Movement: F minor | Prestíssimo | 4/4 | Sonata Form


This is the only movement in the piano sonatas issued in the Sonata-Allegro but replacing a completely new theme with its own AABB structure for development.

Indications in the execution

The Prestissimo alla breve suggests a tempo that was intended to impress the Viennese audience with a whirlwind of virtuosity. Editorial suggestions for the metronome settings have ranged from Carl Czerny's 104 to Artur Schnabel's 116 for the middle note.

Measures 1 to 4 and 13 to 19

Note the dramatic contrast dynamics in the chords that make up the main theme headline: piano->forte and then piano->fortíssimo.

Measures 22 to 50

A second theme enters the dominant C minor, picking up the figuration of the triplet of the accompaniment pattern of the first theme, in points using polyrhythmic patterns. A second section retains the triplets as accompaniment in the left hand and longer lyrical phrases in the right hand. The use of the dominant minor for the second theme produces a last dramatic movement that is in sonata form in the sonatas No. 14, No. 17, and No. 23, all these sonatas in minor keys.

Measures 50 to 58

The opening motif is used to close the exposition, a procedure also used in the last movement of the Sonata No. 23.

Measures 59 to 109

The central section comprises a lyrical theme in A♭ major with a two-part structure. The first part, of ten bars, and the second part of sixteen bars, each repeated, but the repeats are written to allow for variation in linear detail and register.

Measures 109 to 138

A new section presents the motif of the first theme juxtaposed with material related to the middle theme. Although the section acts as a new transition to the recap, it contains developmental elements.

Measures 138 to 142

Notice the change of presenting the chords of the first theme, without dynamic contrasts.

Measures 189 to 196

The movement closes with a short chord extension from the closing section and a steep descending tonic in arpeggio, the final gesture possibly being related to the ascending arpeggio that opened the first movement.