This is the most extensive sonata of Opus 10, it was composed in 1798 and is dedicated to Countess Anna Margarete von Browne.
Beethoven's seventh sonata, like the eleventh, is one of those that belongs firmly to the category of "total masterpiece that nobody hears," and is the last of the relatively experimental op.10 sonatas.
To begin with, what about the motivating economics of this sonata? Just hear how often the first four notes in the first movement, a single beat-offset simple scalar descent through a bar line, repeat in drastically different ways, or the first three notes in the fourth movement. There is also the great wealth of ideas contained in the movements: the first contains between 7 and 12 themes in the exhibition alone (depending on how it is counted), and another theme emerges in the development section.
The second movement is one of the most profound and heartbreaking things that Beethoven wrote. Comparable to the huge glacier on the third from Hammerklavier and it contains some beautiful textures.
The third movement features a hard-hitting trio and minuet that is beautifully melodic and highly contrapuntal and the fourth movement is a wonder of careful construction; it sounds like an ever-evolving movement, so cleverly the main theme and its recurring motif are treated, and yet it sounds almost improvised.
This sonata represents a return to the expanded four-movement structure used in the sonatas 1, 2, 3 and 4. The first movement is in sonata-allegro form but exhibits several unusual features in its exposition. The second movement is considered one of the slowest and deepest movements in the repertoire of Beethoven piano sonatas. The third movement is a minuet and trio, the first occurrence of this designation since Sonata No. 1. The last movement is titled Rondó, and in fact there is a recurring central theme, but otherwise the structure is more improvisational than other rondó patterns in the first sonatas.
The first and second movements open with the same motifs in the same register, descending a semitone.
The fourth movement opens with an ascending semitone, transposed up to a quarter to the subdominant.
The first and fourth movements open with non-tonic harmony, both delaying clear cadences for several measures, ten in the first movement and nine in the fourth. Both movements also feature opening phrases that end with a fermata over the dominant in the same key.
The exhibition challenges structural expectations in that a second theme is presented in the submedia immediately after the first theme. When modulation to the dominant occurs, a motif drawn from the first four, opening theme notes are introduced at bar 53 and is prominent throughout the remainder of the exposition.
The first theme is introduced in four staccato measures in octaves, suggesting an opening Mannheim orchestral as in the first movement of the Sonata No. 1. It repeats in parallel inverting chords from six to three in bars 5 to 10, in broken sixths in bars 11 to 16, and finally in a broken textured octave in bars 17 to 22. Broken sixths can be counted between the technical challenges described as occurring near sonata openings. Other examples where to show such challenges are the Sonata No. 2 in bars 32 to 38; Sonata No. 3, double thirds, in bars 1 to 3; Sonata No. 17, fast notes in measures 3 to 18; Sonata No. 23, arpeggio broken in bars 14 to 15; and Sonata No. 26, double notes in bars 29 to 33.
A second theme appears in B minor, a tone that eventually acts as the supertonic of A major. It expands to culminate in a strong cadence that leads to the dominant A major.
A second theme based on the first four notes of the opening theme is initially presented with a grace note notation with an eighth root followed by four normal eighth notes. There is a strong tradition of playing these notes evenly as four eighth notes. In measure 67 this motif appears increasing as four quarter notes, passing through C major, D minor and B major. At measure 94, the motif appears in staccato octaves again, then in individual notes in staccato with an altered phrase form extended to the same four measures in length as its original appearance in the first theme.
A closing section is made up of another form of the four-note mid-note motif, followed by a return of the four pattern notes in quarter notes as they appeared in the weak beat of bar 67.
The four note motif as it appeared at the closing. The exhibition section is expanded to open the development.
The opening of the movement in D major is repeated. After a fermata, an unexpected entry in B major at measure 133 marks the beginning of the opening of the four-measure motif in another form. It is repeated with response phrases and fragmentation, passing through G minor, E major and D minor, finally resting on the dominant of the opening key.
The broken sixths become the point where the recap diverges from the exposition, creating yet another challenge.
The theme that appeared in B minor in the exhibition is now in E minor, acting as the supertonic of the opening tone.
All exposure material is repeated in the opening tone.
The four-note motif extends by a coda, passing through to G minor and the dominant of E♭ major and reaching the opening tone at measure 327, at which point the figure advances to a brilliant close.
This movement is serious and deep, aesthetically uniting the concepts of the slow movements of the sonatas 2, 3 and 4. The use of the term mesto (sad, melancholic) together with the tempo sets the mood of the movement.
An opening theme goes to G minor in measure 5 and then through diminished seventh harmonies returns to the opening tone.
A second theme in D minor modulates to C major.
A section on the minor dominants, A minor, repeated cadences using augmented sixths at half cadence resolutions, often extended with diminished seventh, at one point extended and punctuated with dramatic fortíssimo-piano indications in bar 24. A new last phrase closes the section.
The section opens with a theme in F major that seems new, but possibly derived from bars 14 and 15.
Contrasts in texture, dynamics and orchestral style, the register acts as a dramatic link with the recapitulation.
The first theme is modified, a passage in Neapolitan harmony from measures 49 to 50 that acts as a turnaround to connect with the final measures of the second theme in the opening tone. Material presented in measures 9-13 of the exposition is omitted.
A long and dramatic coda features the first theme in lower registers with an active note with accompaniment in the right hand. Chromatic harmony movements and diminished sevenths to build a climax, at which point the orchestral texture recalls the development of measures 72 to 75.
Fragments of the opening motif are rendered in a finer, silent texture to close the movement with a single, widely spaced final line.
This compact and charming movement features a continuous movement, trio section in G major, thirty-two bars long with no repetitions.
Rondó is reflected in the recurrence of the theme A. The pattern does not follow the symmetrical one used in other final rondo movements, and the interjection of unexpected tones suggests development or improvisation.
The opening theme in G major features three motifs interspersed with silences. A second idea in the opening tone features an ascending scalar line, first in staccato octaves then in individual notes in the left hand.
A very short B section presents a color line above the dominant harmony.
The return of A is abbreviated, modulating to Si ♭ major.
The section C combines a new B♭ major theme that modulates E♭ major, then sets the opening A motif to B♭. Then follows a cadence-like passage that reaches the dominant of the opening tone with a fermata.
The first part of theme A is repeated with variations in register. A new phrase emerges from the three motif notes and rises to the climax followed by a short cadence and a fermata.
A coda is based on the three-note motif, which, after a chord interlude (optimistic at bars 102-5), is combined with a chromatic scale, possibly taken from section B. The movement dies with the three-note motif notes in the left hand and arpeggios in the right.