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Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 “Pathetique”

Free essay Sonata No. 8 was written in the years of 1798-1799 in Vienna. At this time, Beethoven was 29 years old. Exactly in 1799, Beethoven started to see the first signs of deafness. Sonata was first published in December 1799 under the name “Grande Sonate Pathetique” with a dedication to Prince Karl Lichnowsky, one of Beethoven’s Viennese patrons.

The word “Pathetic” is used in the sense of “passionate” and “sublime”, “upbeat”. The name of this Sonata belongs to Beethoven. “Pathetique” Sonata shows a big set of Beethoven’s viewing experience of drama and opera performances, from literature, from music, from nature on the banks of the Rhine; from picturesque landscapes of the woods, fields, hills, and valleys, which he explored; from the French Revolution of 1789, with its freedom-loving spirit; familiarity with the philosophy of the outstanding personality of the Bonn Beethoven’s teacher – Christian Gottlob Neefe, “the enemy of etiquette” and “hater flatterers”, composer, writer, university-educated, musical director of the theater in Bonn. In Bonn, Beethoven also regularly visited the theater company under the direction of the famous German actor and playwright G. Grossman. The troupe staged plays and operas. The public in 1782 had an opportunity to enjoy the plays by authors, such as Lessing, Voltaire, Beaumarchais, Moliere, and Shakespeare. With this troupe rehearses, Beethoven played opera roles and walks in rehearsal. Thus, he examines in detail the opera of Italians, such as J.B. Pergolesi, N. Puccini, A. Sacchini, A. Salieri, D. Cimarosa, French opera of A.E. Gretry, N. Dazed, F.A. Philidor, P.A. Monsini and N. Dalayrac, opera of Germans J.A. Hiller and C.G. Neefe, a Czech opera G.A. Benda. In 1785, another company under Boehm delivered several musical tragedies of Gluck. At this time, Beethoven first heard “Orpheus” and “Alceste,” which caused a passionate admiration of the young composer. For many years, he had been studying the works of Gluck.

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Introduction to the world of literature has had a great influence on opinion in the arts and music of Beethoven. Homer and his “Odyssey”, Plutarch and his “life story” of the heroes of Roman history, which served for generations of that time samples of true heroism, conquered composer. There were Agesilaus, Alexander and Caesar, Gaius Marcius Alcibiades and Coriolanus, Lycurgus and Numa Pompilius, Theseus and Romulus, Artaxerxes, Aratus, Galba, and Otho, among the favorite heroes. Such poets, like Shakespeare with his dramas “The Tempest”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Macbeth”, “Othello”, “Much Ado About Nothing”, “The Merchant of Venice”; Schiller with his play “The Robbers”; Goethe with his poetry and the novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther”, with his “Faust” and “Wilhelm Meister”; Lessing with his “Nathan the Wise”, became the inspiration for Beethoven. The biographer of Beethoven, L. Noll, said that the melodies of the composer soon became to show the realism of Lessing and Goethe and the sincerity of the sublime flight of Schiller’s thought.

“Pathetique” Sonata largely turned to the traditions of previous music works. It has a piano style of P.E. Bach, with his more emotional and passionate expression to the structure of his sonatas, built on the oratorical rhetorical logic of the main successor of 6 parts: exordium, narratio, propositio, confutatio, confirmatio, peroratio, and other: partitio, tractatio and digressio. Also, it contains something from works of J.S. Bach with their sublime spirit turned to God. Italian opera overture from their lofty heroic style marked a slow tempo, minor fret, and dotted rhythm. Of course, there was also something from Handel with his grand scale, which sounded in a voice of people with the force of passion; a rare penetration in terms of human suffering, and the rise in the transmission of feeling triumphant joy. As it has been already mentioned, Gluck’s “Alceste” and “Orpheus” made a huge impression on the composer. However, one can also mention “Iphigenia in Aulis”, “Iphigenia in Tauris”, operas and sonatas of Haydn and Mozart, especially the Sonata K. 457, C minor as those who influenced Beethoven.

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Aesthetic points on view of Neefe in music have become the reliance in the oeuvre of Beethoven. The teacher demanded from his musicians the ardent imagination, deep insight into the sacred power of harmony and precision dating with different characters with the physical and moral nature of man. Just then, the music would not be the empty ringing. He demanded the transfer of feelings and passions in their development from the original grain to the ripened fruit. Haydn was one of the teachers of Beethoven in Vienna. As an avid fan of freedom and revolution, Beethoven scared the old Haydn, who was a man who was God-fearing and full of the greatest of respect to the princes. The teacher did not understand the sharp views and antics of Beethoven. Haydn could not like the full of the revolutionary fervor musical ideas of his pupil. There is a famous record of the dialogue between Haydn and young Beethoven. When Beethoven asked the old Haydn to give the honest opinion about his first works, the teacher, after a number of compliments about the incredibly large, almost monstrous richness of his imagination, made the profound observation that Beethoven strikes him as a person who has few heads, few hearts, and few souls. Beethoven realized that Haydn kept something back. After coaxing of Beethoven, Haydn added that Beethoven’s work was something that he would not name strange, but unexpected and unusual. Of course, things of the young composer were lovely, even wonderful. However, they reveal something strange, dark because of gloom and strangeness. A musician’s style is always the composer’s soul. Thus, Haydn noticed something new that was typical about Beethoven.

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As a virtuoso, Beethoven took first place in musical life not only in Vienna but also in all of the German cities. The contemporaries describe the impression obtained from the playing of Beethoven on the piano differently. They say that in his works, spirit vomited all restraining chains, shacked off the yoke of slavery, and triumphantly flew into a bright ethereal space. His game was roaring like a wild volcano expostulated. His soul drooped, fainted and uttered quiet complaints of pain, then again ascended and triumphed over transient earthly suffering, and found solace in the soothing chaste breast of sacred nature. The contemporaries note the two main themes of Beethoven: the theme of the heroic struggle and the theme of Nature.

Although the “Pathetique” Sonata is largely traditional and addresses to the oeuvre of previous composers, such as Handel, J.S. Bach, P.E. Bach, Gluck, Haydn, and Mozart, it is also new and typical for Beethoven. This is a strong-willed, rebellious, free spirit, but also the wreath for the two main topics of Beethoven’s heroic struggle and rests in the lap of nature. It is also a new style, which is tall, grand, heroic, monumental, dramatic, devoid of elegance lace, a new piano technique with extreme registers piano, with a powerful texture and contrasting dynamics, and the reminiscent the orchestral technique.

Sonata contains tree parts. The first part is Grave –Allegro di molto e con brio. The second part is Adagio cantabile, and the third is Rondo, Allegro. Critics describe the content of these three parts in different ways. Some speak of passionate enthusiasm for the first part, the sublime, calm, and contemplative mood of the second part, and dreamy, sensitive rondo in the third part. Others call the Sonata striking examples of Beethoven’s dialogues and praise the genuine scenes in the drama of feelings. Sonata, with its pathetic cries, stormy passions, and dark dialogue is very theatrical. The actors in the “Pathetique” are too noticeable. Perhaps, some attention should be paid to these actors and the roles they play.

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The first part of the main role belongs to fate and man. Passionate dialogue is going on between them; an intense struggle felt in the soul of man, the weakness, and the will to win are fighting over their destiny. Nature and man are the actors in the second part. One can imagine the rest in the lap of nature. Nature and man are merging; heroic feelings are getting stronger in the human soul. Emotions, poetic sadness, gurgling water, folk dance, and stage storms with thunder and lightning are all present in the third party. Life is diverse. A decision has been made. The person needs to be strong-willed and fight for his fate.

Sonata’s tonality in C minor brings to mind the sad and tragic images of J.S. Bach, Gluck, and Mozart. The first part in Sonata forms with a slow introduction. Sonata begins unusually with its slow introduction (Grave), in which we hear the talk of fate and man. Thunder chord stroke of fate (forte) falls on the person. It is hard not to hear the precursor “Pathetique Sonata” of Beethoven in Largo of heroic Handel’s concert, Op. 6 № 12. Man (piano) gives response as a hero: slowly, in a “heroic” dotted rhythm, in even marching size C, in the sublime chord choral stock, in mournful C Minor key with reliance on the opera dramatic “chord of terror”. The phrase ends with a few seconds by downward intonation of sighs and groans. The question (the hit) and the fate of the human response sounded several times. Their texture is rising higher and higher; the atmosphere is heating up. The flash of the human senses appears in the passage of the thirty-second, and the person begins to pray to Fate. Texture changes to the song. Melody with choral accompaniment immediately evokes Orpheus with his singing and playing the lyre. As in Gluck, melodic plea’s furies Orpheus (the fate) meet the formidable “No”. The man continues to pray but receives no mercy from fate. Recitatives rights (piano) in the high texture expressed his lack of confidence and confusion. One can hear the intonation issues at the end of the phrase, exclamations (ascending minor sixth), which pass in the “fall into the abyss” (descending chromatic passage of thirty-second) and “desperate” cry on the tone of reduced sevenths. Thus, in the Grave “Pathetique” Sonata of Beethoven, one can find rhetorical figures: exclamatio (exclamation), suspiratio (sigh), coloring, passus duriusculus (harsh stroke), and saltus duriusculus (harsh jump). Therefore, the entry is very similar to the speech and dialogue.

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Man meets with Fate for three times in the first part. Their next meeting (the second) develops in G minor, the tonality of the Italian arias. In this meeting, after speaking with destiny, one can hear the man, who gasps, and his strength leaves him. The chords are sliding down in syncopated movement, and after this, there is a turn from G minor to far E Minor. At the third meeting, in the code in C Minor, the voice of Fate is not heard. However, apparently, she is invisibly present beside because the man still gives responses to her previous questions. One can hear “panting man” again, and his forces leave him again. Sections fiery Sonata allegro (con brio), in the exposition, development, and recapitulation; one can feel the unfolding struggle in his soul between his strengths and weaknesses. The code overcomes the power of man and his will.

Composer opposed to the exposure of will, fiery energy in the title role (in C minor) and weakness, sensitivity, and the cold in the side of the party (E flat minor). The top lot – a rapidly rising and decaying impulsive extended subject to booming octave background, with a strong ending. Then fanfares of salt octaves and run out eighths bring with them an element of militant alarm. Topic divides into segments, loses its energy, and subsides. The theme of the adverse party is dialogical. Her cold, gloomy E Flat Minor, fluttering grace notes and mordent, “moaning” tones of descending small thirds, accompaniment, which reminiscent of the sound of the heart, and especially the exchange of short phrases between the low and high registers, create an atmosphere of confusion and panic. However, further on, the color became brightened and enlightened. Phrases sound already in major keys: D flat major, B flat major, E flat major. The subject of the final party, from tact 89, is prompt run with an almost physical sense of breath. Courageous throws of the register at the end of the exposure reflect the scope of the fight.

The second conversation with Fate follows after it. The theme begins with the forceful nature of the main party in E minor. The “imploring” theme of the entry interrupts it. The strong-willed and energetic main theme is losing power and slipping into the lower octave registers. It decays into the segments, and reaches the “bottom”. It is trying to get to the surface. At this time, the weak tone of the “praying” theme of the entry gets triumph in the upper register but then goes down. Reprise begins with the theme of the main party in a minor key. It sounds in its initial exposition kind. In the second sentence, it turns to a different key; it singles out the descending motive power, and its energy decreases and leads to the subject of the adverse party in F minor. Only after this adverse moment, the party turns into the main key of C minor, which was originally heard in the reprise.

The final party in C Minor leads to a strong-willed main theme of the party, which terminates at the “chord of terror”. It is followed by a pause. Music continues with the third conversation with destiny. Coda ends withholding a strong-willed energetic theme of the main party in C Minor with a strong ending and willed by the passionate statement “I live, feel, and fight.”

The second part of the Sonata is Adagio cantabile (slow, melodious). It sounds in A-flat major, 2/4, in a typical 3-part reprise form of Adagio, where the three main parts alternate with the two binding sections. A man rests in the open air after struggling in the first part. The whole part is contemplative and peaceful. There are 3 themes. The first theme is in A-flat major, in the fracture of chorale preludes. Three layers can be heard in this subject: the upper voice with genre features of the song, the bass of the “steps”, which has the features of the genre of the march, and figuration middle voice, which swings the background and causes associations with the rustle of nature. The melody of the upper voice sounds in the middle register, which is easy to sing. The special simple melody brings this courageous tune with the folk song. Here, man and nature seem to merge into one. The subject is breathing with harsh peace.

The second theme is in F minor. One switch to an external plan. It seems like one hears vague echoes around the sprawling nature. The topic is filled with small lengths and grace that evoke associations with the singing and playing birds. The third theme is in the A-flat minor. It provokes the switch to the internal and spiritual plan. It implements the troubling questions in the upper register, which is the melancholy tone in the melody, and calmly answers in the bass. Triplet background brings anxiety. The sudden sharp turn of A-flat minor to E major, emerging quart, and call-tone octaves, like they talk about the decision and the return of force. After another harmonic twist, E major key turns to the first main theme in A-flat major.

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Now, the first theme in A-flat major sounds in the triplet background of the third theme. However, it does not make the alarm here. The topic rather becomes more energetic and full of life. In the coda, we hear the external switch. It is the noises of nature and birds. The last four tacts of this party is the repetitive cadence formula of the farewell.

The third part (Rondo, allegro) is in C minor with the complex size. There are no tragic images from the first part. The third part is pastoral. There is also a distinctive feature in the music of this part: suddenly willed emerging cadences and energetic passages say about the availability of power and courage of man, and also about the ability to continue the fight.

The main theme (refrain) is in C Minor. It similar to the song, and its melody tunes are similar to many Austrian and Italian folk songs. Its mood transmits light poetic melancholy. The topic is perceived as a breath of cool breeze. The theme of the first episode (in E flat major) evokes a sense of fun bubbling pure water. During the conduct, one can hear the chorale. This is a peaceful state of mind and the sublime silence of nature. Next, the main theme goes in C Minor. The theme of the second episode (in A-flat major) is launching a major long in meditation. However, in the future, it reveals the dancing character and sounds of folk dance. Suddenly, a storm with thunder and lightning breaks out in the music. Then tune goes into the main theme (refrain) in C Minor.

The next fragment has a theme of the first episode but in C Major. One can hear the sound of water and chant again. Chorale’s theme is dramatized, but this dramatization quickly dissipates, and sonority fades. Again, there is the main theme in C Minor. It gradually becomes saturated with energy and drama. The theme of the first episode takes place in two parts, both at the beginning and at the end. Therefore, the form takes on the features of the Sonata. Thus, the general form of this part is rondo-sonata. The strong-willed, energetic coda in C Minor tells about the desire to fight. It is full of events that unfold within it: a few figures gallant farewell and reverence in A-flat major. Coda ends with a loud and energetic passage chord in C Minor. Conflicts are resolved in the Sonata in an optimistic way. Calm second part and affirming nature rondo show it quite clearly.

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“Pathetique” Sonata made a huge contribution to the development of piano music in the early nineteenth century. Many critics, composers, pianists, and other people, who are connected with this musical direction, were not indifferent to this masterpiece of Beethoven. Countless arguments and admiration arose around the work that has affected the sensitive souls of listeners. Sonata is significantly different than the style of the music works of the other composers. Beethoven was quite a mature composer. When writing this work, he encountered his illness for the first time and even began to think about suicide. It is not surprising that his fear and anguish were reflected in the work. One can say that, from that moment, the style of his music was completely changed. He started to use less high notes. His works became increasingly unclear to the critics. By the age of 50, he began to write for the “ideal” audience of the future.

Of course, Beethoven and his “Pathetique” Sonata had an enormous influence on the works of other composers. It has, first of all, the impact on the style of their works, even if it was completely different from the style of Beethoven. Brahms, Wagner, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, and many other composers in a certain period of their lives were very touched by the nature of the struggle that was described in the “Pathetique.” Although, Johann Sebastian Bach was also a talented and deserved composer, yet people are listening to Beethoven’s works more widely and frequently. In addition, a large number of innovations, which belong to Beethoven, had a more profound impact on the development of the music than the works of J.S. Bach. That is why one can call Beethoven the greatest of composers of all times and nations.

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