Nº 8, Op. 13 – Pathétique

Coursera just launched a new set of lectures, part 3, for the course “Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas” by Jonathan Biss.

Below some notes and references for Sonata Op. 13 (link to Coursera).


Beethoven composed this sonata in 1798 and published in 1799 dedicated to Prince Karl von Lichnowsky.


(…) because really the Pathetique is a groundbreaking – and rule-breaking – work. It is worthy of its fame not only because of its sheer quality, and the strength of its character, but because it is an important and influential piece, one that expanded the possibilities of sonata form in clear-cut ways. 

Altogether, it’s one of the most wild, unpredictable documents of Beethoven’s early period. (…) it’s a turning point, the moment at which the lines between the introduction and
the sonata form proper begin to blur. When Beethoven played with the rules in the Pathetique, it was a psychological gambit, employed to rattle the listener through upsetting his or her expectations. But eventually he pushed that game so far, by the time the next generation of composers came along, those expectations didn’t really exist any more,  certainly not in the same way. As I’ve said before: Beethoven’s incredible ingenuity with sonata form ultimately destroyed it. With the first movement of the Pathetique, we see that process begin to unfold.


3 movements:

  1. Grave – Allegro di molto e con brio (C minor)
  2. Adagio cantabile (A major)
  3. Rondo. Allegro (C minor)



Before there were MOOCs, András Schiff did a series of lecture-recitals of the Beethoven Piano Sonatas at Wigmore Hall (2004-6).

Andras Schiff: The Lectures Beethoven Sonatas Wigmore Hall from 2004–6

For a visual impression, all sonatas of Beethoven are available on YouTube in color-coded analysis using Adobe Audition.





Detailed analysis in the description.

See also


Artur Schnabel – 1935


Claudio Arrau

Annie Fischer – 1977

Richard Goode – 1993

Daniel Barenboim, Berlin State Opera House, 2007
Barenboim on Beethoven Masterclass DVD

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