An Analysis of Beethoven Pathetique Sonata

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An application of Analysis of Beethoven’s ‘Pathetique’ piano sonata No. 8 inC minor, Op.13 with particular focus on musical features such as melody, thematic content, rhythm, form and structure, and harmony.

Bent states that analysis is the means of answering the question, how does it work? According to Bent, analysis is a relatively young discipline “analysis as a pursuit in its own right became established during the 19th century” (Bent, 2006, p.13), although basic methods of analysis of music has been suggested to date back to the eighteenth century and have become a seductively compelling and important topic for music scholars over the last fifty years, and as a result, an extensive range of literature proclaims the value of interaction between analysis and performance. “Analysis needs to clarify our relationship to the music, not congest it with information which we cannot relate to our listening or playing” (Rink, 1995, p.4) Here Rink is suggesting that there is no point of analysis for analysis sake. Instead analysis should provide us with useful information which in terms of performers aids their performance practice. Musicologists and scholars use a variety of methods of analysis in order to inform performers of particular important aspects of the music that they play, such as Melody, thematic content, rhythm, form and structure and harmony. It has been stated that “Analysts should understand what it is that they analyse, especially when the goal of their analysis is to enlighten performers” (Lester, 2000, p.56) in order to achieve this goal analysts need to understand what information they need to be gathering as the needs will be different depending on whether the person is a musicologist, Listener, performer or composer and then will need to chose the method of analysis, which is suitable for their line of enquiry. Where these interests overlap a mixed method approach to analysis would be the most suitable option, depending on the line of questioning that the analyst is asking from the object they are analysing.

As a performer myself, I would strive to better my performance by considering the information from different methods of analysis, in order to provide different discoveries and ways of how to perform the pieces I have chosen for my recital. In terms of this particular case study Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata. A variety of literature discusses analysis of his works and sonatas. In the late nineteenth century, leading into the twentieth century, we begin to see a variety of approaches to analysis. William Newman in his monumental three-volume work ‘Sonata in the Classic Era (A History of the Sonata Idea) published in 1972, analyses sonata form in a descriptive way as does Tovey in his book entitled ‘A companion to Beethoven’s Pianoforte Sonatas’. Schenker, however, chooses a more formal approach, using tables, graphs and symbols to portray his meaning. Sonatas during the late classical and early romantic periods started to become more complicated with changes to performance practice, including the loss of continuo, the changes in the ability of instruments, and new technical developments in instruments such as the Piano, and the shift away from the idea that each movement should express one dominate emotion, to a notion of accommodating themes and sections in an integrated whole. Therefore, there were more musical features to analyse which led to various methods of analysis being carried out in order to comprehensively analyse the piece of music in terms of their thematic and harmonic resources, especially during the twentieth century. Furthermore, in the last twenty years, musicology has begun to foster a new way of presenting cultural objects, developing another way in which music can be analysed. This is a new musicology approach incorporating issues such as gender specific arguments, Politically-motivated criticism, issues of race, gender construction and sexuality in relation to music....
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