Piano Sonata in E major, D. 157 (Schubert)

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The Piano Sonata in E major, D. 157 is a piano sonata written in February 1815 by Franz Schubert.

Although all three movements of the sonata are complete, it is very likely that in fact the sonata is unfinished, even though some sources may list it as a complete work. There are a couple of factors which constitute strong evidence that the work is incomplete and that a further movement was probably intended to be added.

Relatively weakly indicating this is the fact that the last movement is a Minuet and Trio, which was at the time an unusual type of movement to end a sonata with, although not unheard of. This is the last of three movements, and it would have been a little more usual at the time to write a sonata in four movements, although three-movement sonatas are not too uncommon at this time.

But a more compelling indication of the sonata's incomplete status is the fact that this Minuet and Trio is in the key of B major, not the sonata's tonic key of E major. It would have been extremely unusual at the time to end a sonata in a key other than its tonic, and it is much more likely that Schubert intended to add a fourth movement in the key of E major, but that he either never got around to doing it, deliberately abandoned any attempt to complete the sonata, or did write this last movement and it has since been lost.


I. Allegro ma non troppo

E major.

The theme of the first movement is not especially melodic. Rather, it sets out to explore the key of E major using two types of contrast: chords vs. arpeggios and scales, and legato vs. staccato. After the opening E major chord, there is an ascending, legato arpeggio, which is met by a fast, downward scale, marked staccato. This pattern is repeated in the dominant, submediant, and finally the subdominant chords. All this together makes up the main tune.

The secondary themes all have basically the same elements: the left hand playing legato arpeggiations of chords, while the right hand plays staccato melodies, interspersed with multiple grace notes.

The movement includes the conventional repeat of its exposition section, comprising three out of the total of 8 pages in the movement. Interestingly, there are also a few very long rests in the movement, a couple of which last up to two full measures. (Most pianists take a little license with these, and shorten them by about half.)

The first movement serves as a bright, apt opener to the sonata, introducing both the nature and key of the piece in an imaginative and exciting way.

This movement was started on 18th and finished on the 21st. D. 154 is an early version of this movement.

II. Andante

E minor.

III. Menuetto: Allegro vivace - Trio

B major.


  • Tirimo, Martino. Schubert: The Complete Piano Sonatas. Vienna: Wiener Urtext Edition, 1997.