Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Piano Sonata No. 23 (Beethoven)

Piano Sonata No. 23 (Beethoven)

Ask a question about 'Piano Sonata No. 23 (Beethoven)'
Start a new discussion about 'Piano Sonata No. 23 (Beethoven)'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
For the Italian 1974-movie, see Appassionata (film)
Appassionata (film)
Appassionata is a 1974 Italian film. It stars actor Gabriele Ferzetti....

. For the music album, see Appassionata (Maksim Mrvica album)
Appassionata (Maksim Mrvica album)
Appassionata is the 9th studio album by Maksim Mrvica. It was internationally released in 2010.-Track listing:# Carnival # Habanera # Tramuntana # The Swan...

Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

's Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op.
Opus number
An Opus number , pl. opera and opuses, abbreviated, sing. Op. and pl. Opp. refers to a number generally assigned by composers to an individual composition or set of compositions on publication, to help identify their works...

 57 (colloquially known as the Appassionata) is a piano sonata
Piano sonata
A piano sonata is a sonata written for a solo piano. Piano sonatas are usually written in three or four movements, although some piano sonatas have been written with a single movement , two movements , five or even more movements...

. It is considered one of the three great piano sonatas of his middle period (the others being the Waldstein, Op. 53
Piano Sonata No. 21 (Beethoven)
The Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, also known as the Waldstein, is considered to be one of Beethoven's greatest piano sonatas, as well as one of the three particularly notable sonatas of his middle period . The sonata was completed in the summer of 1804...

 and Les Adieux, Op. 81a
Piano Sonata No. 26 (Beethoven)
Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, Op. 81a, known as the Les Adieux sonata, was written during the years 1809 and 1810.The title Les Adieux implies a programmatic nature...

). It was composed during 1804 and 1805, and perhaps 1806, and was dedicated to Count Franz von Brunswick. The first edition was published in February 1807 in Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...


Unlike the early Sonata No. 8, Pathétique
Piano Sonata No. 8 (Beethoven)
Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, commonly known as Sonata Pathétique, was written in 1798 when the composer was 27 years old, and was published in 1799. Beethoven dedicated the work to his friend Prince Karl von Lichnowsky...

, the Appassionata was not named during the composer's lifetime, but was so labeled in 1838 by the publisher of a four-hand arrangement of the work.

The Appassionata was considered by Beethoven to be his most tempestuous piano sonata until the twenty-ninth piano sonata
Piano Sonata No. 29 (Beethoven)
Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 is a piano sonata widely considered to be one of the most important works of the composer's third period and among one of the great piano sonatas...

, known as the Hammerklavier, being described as a "brilliantly executed display of emotion and music". 1803 was the year Beethoven came to grips with the irreversibility of his progressively deteriorating deafness.

An average performance of the entire Appassionata sonata lasts about twenty-three minutes.


The sonata, in F minor, consists of three movements:
  1. Allegro assai
  2. Andante con moto
  3. Allegro ma non troppo - Presto

Allegro assai

A sonata-allegro form in 12/8 time, the first movement moves quickly through startling changes in tone and dynamics, and is characterized by an economic use of themes.

The main theme, in octaves, is quiet and ominous. It consists of a down-and-up arpeggio in dotted rhythm that cadences on the tonicized dominant, immediately repeated a semitone higher (in G flat). This use of the Neapolitan chord (e.g. the flatted supertonic
In music or music theory, the supertonic is the second degree or note of a diatonic scale, one step above the tonic. In music theory, the supertonic chord is symbolized by the Roman numeral ii in a major scale, indicating that the chord is a minor chord , or ii in a natural minor scale, indicating...

) is an important structural element in the work, also being the basis of the main theme of the finale. The rhythm of the theme is based on the Scottish folk song On the Banks of Allen Water. (British folk songs were well-known in Vienna at that time, and Beethoven, like Haydn, wrote many arrangements for British publishers.)

The second subject is a direct quotation of the first two lines of the folk song, re-hashed to fit the 12/8 time (the folk song is in 3/4). As in Beethoven's Waldstein sonata
Piano Sonata No. 21 (Beethoven)
The Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, also known as the Waldstein, is considered to be one of Beethoven's greatest piano sonatas, as well as one of the three particularly notable sonatas of his middle period . The sonata was completed in the summer of 1804...

, the coda
Coda (music)
Coda is a term used in music in a number of different senses, primarily to designate a passage that brings a piece to an end. Technically, it is an expanded cadence...

 is unusually long, containing quasi-improvisational arpeggios which span most of the [early 19th-century] piano's range. The choice of F-minor becomes very clear when one realizes that this movement makes frequent use of the deep, dark tone of the lowest F on the piano, which was the lowest note available to Beethoven at the time.

The total performance time of this movement is about 10 minutes.

Andante con moto

A set of variations
Variation (music)
In music, variation is a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form. The changes may involve harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration or any combination of these.-Variation form:...

 in D flat major
D flat major
D-flat major is a major scale based on D-flat, consisting of the pitches D, E, F, G, A, B and C. Its key signature has five flats .Its relative minor is B-flat minor...

, on a theme remarkable for its almost crude simplicity. Its sixteen bars (repeated) consist of nothing but common chords, set in a series of four- and two-bar phrases that all end on the tonic. (See image.) The four variations follow:
  • Var. I: similar to the original theme, with the left hand playing on the off-beats.
  • Var. II: an embellishment of the theme in sixteenth notes.
  • Var. III: a rapid embellishment in thirty-second notes. A double variation
    Double variation
    The double variation is a musical form used in classical music. It is a type of theme and variations that employs two themes. In a double variation set, a first theme is followed by a second theme , followed by a variation on A, then a variation on B, and so on with alternating A and B...

    , with the hands switching parts.
  • Var. IV: a reprise of the original theme without repeats and with the phrases displaced in register.

The fourth variation cadences deceptively on a soft diminished-7th chord
Diminished seventh chord
A diminished seventh chord is a four note chord that comprises a diminished triad plus the interval of a diminished seventh above the root. Thus it is , or enharmonically , of any major scale; for example, C diminished-seventh would be , or enharmonically...

, followed by a much louder diminished-7th that serves as a transition to the finale.

The total performance time of this movement is about 6 minutes.

Allegro ma non troppo - Presto

A sonata-allegro in near-perpetual motion in which, very unusually, only the second part is directed to be repeated. It has much in common with the first movement, including extensive use of the Neapolitan sixth chord and several written-out cadenza
In music, a cadenza is, generically, an improvised or written-out ornamental passage played or sung by a soloist or soloists, usually in a "free" rhythmic style, and often allowing for virtuosic display....

s. The movement climaxes with a faster coda introducing a new theme which in turn leads into an extended final cadence in F minor. According to Sir Donald Francis Tovey
Donald Francis Tovey
Sir Donald Francis Tovey was a British musical analyst, musicologist, writer on music, composer, conductor and pianist...

 this is one of only a handful of Beethoven's works in sonata form that ends in tragedy (the others being the C minor Trio, Piano Sonata Op. 27 no. 2, Violin Sonata Op. 30 no. 2, and the C# minor Quartet.)

The total performance time of this movement is about 5 minutes without repeats, and 7 minutes with repeating.


External links

Sheet music

  • Public domain score and midi file of the 2nd movement on Mutopia
    Mutopia project
    The Mutopia Project is a volunteer-run effort to create a library of free content sheet music, in a way similar to Project Gutenberg's library of public domain books.The music is reproduced from old scores that are out of copyright...