Nº 27, Op. 90

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. 27 from part 2 (link to Coursera).


Beethoven composed this sonata in 1814 and published in 1815, dedicated to Prince Moritz von Lichnowsky.

Op. 90 was written in 1814, during a particularly difficult period of Beethoven’s life, and certainly not one of his more prolific ones. the “Appassionata” was written nearly 10 years earlier, in 1804 and 1805. It is the sonata no. 23, and op. 90 is no. 27, which means that in the intervening decade, Beethoven wrote only three piano sonatas – a very paltry number by his standards, and anyway, two of those three are quite small.

So, the most immediately unusual thing about op. 90 is that it only has two movements.  Now, Haydn sometimes wrote piano sonatas in two movements, but he did so less and less often as he aged and as the genre itself began to take shape. And Mozart’s sonatas are invariably in three movements, so it’s not just that two-movement sonatas were unusual for Beethoven: they fall well outside the norms of the classical era. 

Op. 90, while not remotely of the same scope as op. 111, functions in a similar way: stress and anguish in the first movement are followed by the blissful calm of the second, and just as in op. 111, the presence of the former is what makes the latter so affecting.



2 movements:

  1. Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus mit Empfindung und Ausdruck (E minor)
  2. Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen (E major)



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

Annie Fischer – 1977

Richard Goode – 1993

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

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