Piano Sonata No. 23 (Beethoven)

Piano Sonata No. 23 (Beethoven)

Ludwig van Beethoven's "Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor", opus 57, colloquially known as the "Appassionata", is considered one of the three great piano sonatas of his middle period (the others being the "Waldstein" sonata, opus 53 and "Les Adieux", Opus 81a). It was composed during 1803, 1804, 1805, and perhaps 1806, and is dedicated to Count Franz von Brunswick. The first edition was published in February 1807 in Vienna.

Like the early Sonata No. 8, "Pathétique", the "Appassionata" was not named by the composer, 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 stormiest piano sonata until the Hammerklavier, being described as a "brilliantly executed display of emotion and music". 1803 was the year Beethoven came to grips with his complete deafness, and the "Appassionata" clearly reflects the emotional turmoil he felt during its composition.

An average performance of all three movements of the "Appassionata" sonata lasts about 23 minutes.


The sonata has three movements:
#Allegro assai
#Andante con moto - attacca
#Allegro ma non troppo - Presto

Allegro assai: a sonata-allegro form in 12/8 time, moves quickly through startling changes in tone and dynamics, and is characterised 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 dominant, immediately repeated a semitone higher (in G flat). This use of the Neapolitan key (i.e. the flatted supertonic) 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"Fact|date=June 2008. (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 the coda 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 in D flat major, 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, 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, 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: 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 cadenzas. 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 this is one of only a handful of Beethoven's works in sonata form that "ends" in tragedy. The total performance time of this movement is about 7 minutes.

The sonata in popular culture

*Maxim Gorky recorded that Vladimir Lenin once said, “I know the "Appassionata" inside out and yet I am willing to listen to it every day. It is wonderful, ethereal music. On hearing it I proudly, maybe somewhat naively, think: See! people are able to produce such marvels!” He then winked, laughed and added sadly: “I’m often unable to listen to music, it gets on my nerves, I would like to stroke my fellow beings and whisper sweet nothings in their ears for being able to produce such beautiful things in spite of the abominable hell they are living in." [http://www.marxists.org/archive/lukacs/works/xxxx/lenin.htm]

*Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, writer-director of the 2006 film "The Lives of Others", has said that his movie was inspired by the anecdote that Lenin loved the "Appassionata" but refused to listen to it because it deterred him from the Communist revolution. (The film tells the story of a Stasi agent who has a moral awakening when coming into contact with music and art.) The characters in the movie even discuss the "Appassionata"/Lenin story.

*In the book "The Vampire Armand" by Anne Rice, it is often played by Sybelle, a young girl who with her friend saves Armand after his failed suicide.


External links

* [http://www.raptusassociation.org/son23e.html Creation History and Discussion of Musical Content]
*Analysis of [http://www.all-about-beethoven.com/apasionata.html Beethoven's Appassionata] Sonata on the [http://www.all-about-beethoven.com All About Ludwig van Beethoven] Page
*Further analysis [http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/classical/pizarro/sonata23.shtml at BBC Radio 3]
* [http://www.serg.vangennip.com/www/piano.html Recordings of this Sonata by Serg van Gennip]
* For a public domain recording of this sonata visit [http://musopen.com Musopen]

heet music

* [http://www.mutopiaproject.org/cgibin/make-table.cgi?searchingfor=passionata Public domain score and midi file of the 2nd movement] on Mutopia

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