Beethoven Analysis – Piano Sonata in Fm (Op. 2)

Beethoven’s first published piano sonata is far longer and more complex than his Kurfursten sonatas, and we see the mature Beethoven for the first time. His basic musical tastes, harmonies, and means of developing material stay firmly in place despite him transforming through three different styles. We also see Haydn’s influence in using a few notes (like the Mannheim rocket) as a base to build the entire movement. Beethoven composed this sonata when he was only 25.

A complete formal and harmonic analysis of the piano sonata is in the video above, a general outline of the form is below.

Form of Fm (Op. 2)

00:00 – The 1st movement uses the Mannheim rocket for its main subject and its inversion for the first subordinate subject. He uses the melody to create a hard dissonance (m2nd) against the harmony of the base. He blurs harmonies a lot with his “triplets” in the second subordinate subject.

5:38 – The 2nd movement is made from recycled material from an unpublished piano trio, but now the material is more complex and is developed more. It features complex melodies with a strong emphasis on rising and falling and a sighing motif. Beethoven is also fond of mixing a chord in the base with a note in the treble that implies the chords’ subdominant. Like in the 1st movement, he cadences with an 11 chord.

10:28 – The 3rd movement has has a murky feeling. The minuet is in Fm, yes, but it doesn’t sound like such a clear, tragic minor piece, because Beethoven uses Bbm (ii) a lot along with Fm. His orchestration as it were is frequently is in 4 parts, suggesting a string quartet. The trio is more straightforward, using a chromatic C-Bh-Bb descent in its latter parts.

13:13 – The 4th movement is volcanic, with less restraint than the other movements, as if Beethoven saving the pent up energy for the last movement. It’s main subject makes great use of 1st-7th-1st notes, a simple cadence, with V9 and viihalfdim chords. The transition is very dense, with many different harmonies squeezed into one measure, like Beethoven is trying his hardest not to play I-V. The subordinate subject is in a minor key (Cm, Fm) but frequently stays in the mediant (III) (Eb, Ab). The long downward scales give a dramatic, tragic feeling to the music, a falling down to ruin.


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