Piano Sonata No. 1 (Beethoven)

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Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 2, No. 1, was written in 1795 and dedicated to Joseph Haydn. A typical performance of the entire work lasts about 17–20 minutes.

Structure[edit]

The sonata is in four movements:

  1. Allegro in F minor
  2. Adagio in F major
  3. Menuetto - Allegretto in F minor
  4. Prestissimo in F minor

The first movement, in 2/2 time, is in sonata form. The first theme is driven by a Mannheim Rocket,[clarification needed] very similar to the opening of the fourth movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 40. The second theme, in A-flat major, is accompanied by eighth-note octaves in the bass (usually with dominant harmony). There are two codettas; the first consists of a series of energetic descending scales in A-flat major, and the second is a lyrical passage marked con espressione. In this second codetta and in the second theme Beethoven makes interesting use of mode mixture as the right hand parts borrows from the parallel minor. The development opens with the initial theme, but is mostly dedicated to the second theme and its eighth-note accompaniment. The retransition to the main theme uses its sixteenth-note triplet. The recapitulation repeats the material from the exposition without much change, except that it stays in F minor throughout. There is a short coda. A tense, agitated feel is ubiquitous throughout the movement. Within the entire movement there seems to be two primary themes, with the remaining melodies simply making up the rest of score. The first theme consists of bars 1 to 8 which then repeats themselves, with very slight variations, in bars 101 to 108. It is variated in a bigger scale from bars 49 to 54. The second theme lasts from 20 to 35, and like the first theme is then restated in slight variations, in 55 to 60. It is also restated in bars 119 to 124.

Sonata 1 1.png
Allegro: First movement.

The second movement opens with a highly ornamented lyrical theme in 3/4 time in F major. This movement is in ternary form. This is followed by a more agitated transitional passage in D minor accompanied by quiet parallel thirds, followed by a passage full of thirty-second notes in C major. This leads back to a more embellished form of the F major theme, which is followed by an F major variation of the C major section. This Adagio is the earliest composition by Beethoven now in general circulation; it was adapted from the slow movement of a piano quartet from 1785.[1]

Sonata 1 2.png
Adagio: Second movement.

The third movement, a minuet in F minor, is conventional in form. It contains two repeated sections, followed by a trio in F major in two repeated sections, after which the first minuet returns. The minuet is characterized by syncopations, dramatic pauses and sharp dynamic contrast. The trio is built around longer, more lyric phrases that pass between the right and left hands in imitative polyphony.

Sonata 1 3.png
Allegretto: Third movement.

The fourth movement, like the first and third, is in F minor, and is built using a modified sonata form (the development is replaced by new thematic material). The exposition is accompanied by ceaseless eighth-note triplets. The first theme is based on three staccato quarter note chords. A transitional passage leads to a more lyrical but still agitated theme in C minor. The chords of the first theme return to close the exposition. Where the development would be expected to start, there is a completely new theme in A-flat major, with the first respite from the eighth-note triplets. This is followed by an extended retransition based on alternating motives from the first theme and the "development" theme. The recapitulation presents the first and second themes in F minor. There is no coda, only a fortissimo descending arpeggio—in eighth-note triplets—to conclude the piece.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Michael Steinberg: 'The Beethoven Piano Sonatas', Notes from the Richard Goode recording of the complete Beethoven Sonatas, Elektra Nonesuch label, 1993

External links[edit]