Piano Sonata No. 27 (Beethoven)

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Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 27 in E minor, Op. 90 was written in the summer of 1814 —Beethoven's late Middle period— and was dedicated to Prince Moritz von Lichnowsky.


Unlike a typical sonata, this piece consists of two highly contrasting movements:

  1. Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus mit Empfindung und Ausdruck (With liveliness and with feeling and expression throughout)
  2. Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen (Not too swiftly and conveyed in a singing manner) (cantabile)

The first movement is written in a 3/4 tempo, sounding mysteriously agitated and restless, described by Beethoven as 'a contest between the head and heart', based on the situation of the Prince deciding whether he should marry a young Viennese dancer. It starts out with powerful chords, responded by more subdued material. The falling semitone, particularly the G-F sharp, dominates the first and second subject groups, and most of the episodic work between.[1]

The second movement, a rondo in the tonic major, however, quiets down into a beautiful melody with a 2/4 rhythm. The two contrasting movements suggest an agitated situation calmed by restful contentness. Notably, Beethoven uses German tempo marks for both movements.

English composer Bramwell Tovey characterized the movement as one 'full of passionate and lonely energy'. This contrasting gesticulation of emotion is especially evident in the piece's discernible dialogical form, where the head exposes an idea which is thereafter disputed by the heart.

At the time Beethoven composed the sonata, the lowest note on the piano was an F. This posed a challenge for a work in the key of E, as the bass end of the instrument fell one semitone short of the tonic. Charles Rosen argued that a performer on a modern piano should make alterations to Beethoven's score to utilise the low E that Beethoven could not.[2]


Performed by Randolph Hokanson

Performed by Randolph Hokanson

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External links[edit]

  1. ^ BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/classical/pizarro/sonata27.shtml
  2. ^ Rosen, Charles (2002). Beethoven's Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion, Volume 1. Yale University Press. p. 210. ISBN 0300090706.