Examining the Pathetique Sonata

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Examining The Pathetique Sonata
At the start of the nineteenth century, the world of music made a transition from the Classic Period of composition to what is now known as the Romantic Era. Composers experimented with more expressive and songlike melodies while pianists developed higher skill levels to match the increased technical demands of the pieces. One man who embodied this particular transitional period was Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven was one of the first composers to stray from traditional forms of music and incorporate a broader range of pitch and dynamics into his compositions. In 1798 Beethoven composed the Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, which incorporates many romantic elements of music. Often referred to as The Pathetique Sonata, Beethoven’s early sonata was received well by the general public and was given its title by his publisher. The publisher was struck by the passionate character of the piece and remarked that “friends of alluring and imposing melodies will admire this sonata” (Mai 148). The Pathetique Sonata incorporates three movements showcasing Beethoven’s musical innovation and mastery of the sonata allegro and rondo forms.

The first movement of The Pathetique Sonata contains two major themes. The first is an introductory Grave and the second is entitled Allegro di molto e con brio. The introductory section opens the piece with a slow and meditative theme enhanced by a dramatic range of dynamics including piano, fortissimo, and sforzando. This was the first piece that Beethoven incorporated an introductory theme. Many scholars have debated the inspiration behind the use of such a melancholy introduction, and most concur that it was prompted by the onset of Beethoven’s hearing loss (Stanley 27). The dramatic changes in dynamics express Beethoven’s inner anguish as he battled hearing loss while trying to compose music at a high level. The dynamic changes also build towards the main Allegro theme of the first movement. In...
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