What is the course about?
Study Beethoven’s middle-period piano sonatas (Op. 31 – Op.90) to consider structure, style and expression in a corpus of works that remains at the core of the piano repertoire. We shall be analysing Beethoven’s radical expansion and development of the sonata in his ‘heroic’ middle period, from the start of his ‘new path’ in 1801-2, to the start his experimental period 1814. We shall explore the revolutionary aspects of these masterpieces, in the context of early 19th century developments including proto-Romanticism, Beethoven’s masterpieces in other genres, the rise of the virtuoso, and development of the piano. The course also considers the compositional process, and reception and performance histories of these famous works, contextualising them within Beethoven’s biography and the broader musical-historical nexus.
During class time we shall look at different editions, sources including sketches and autographs, and discuss published analyses, so you must be able to read music notation confidently to fully participate. We shall also consider and compare recorded interpretations and the approaches of famous interpreters.
If you are a pianist you are invited to prepare a relevant movement/extract to perform in class time (optional).
What will we cover?
- The classical structure of solo instrumental sonatas: number of movements, sonata form
- Comparison of Beethoven’s early sonatas with their classical models
- Beethoven’s biography
- Analysis of Beethoven’s key structures, and adaption of sonata form
- Beethoven’s innovative use of form, rhythm, harmony, melody and motif, texture and dynamics
- Score reading and score markings
- Basic harmonic and motivic analysis
- Performance history and comparison of various recorded interpretations of these works.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Recognise the outline structure of a solo piano sonata
- Display an advanced knowledge of sonata-form, and other movement-structures
- Relate Beethoven’s creative oeuvre to his life and historical period
- be able to talk confidently and contribute to discussion on how Beethoven uses, and exceeds, expected structures and forms in his early piano sonatas.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This course is for musicians of a grade 5+ standard who read music notation confidently. You will be required to follow scores of the piano sonatas while listening. You must also have a clear understanding of major/minor key signatures, triads and basic chord structures. Please email email@example.com if you wish to check your suitability for this class.
You need to be a confident internet user in order to access further course materials on google classroom.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Tutor presentation and explanation, including handouts
Score following exercises
Guided listening and watching of audio and audio-visual examples
Class discussion and debate
Listening and reading outside class is encouraged and once enrolled further online resources will be available through google classroom.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Please bring a notebook and pen.
You may wish to buy some of the music or books recommended in class.
You may also wish to bring your own scores of Beethoven’s piano sonatas to mark-up. In class there will be pdf scores displayed on the classroom projector for group use.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
This course continues with Beethoven: piano sonatas 3 (Course code: MD035C)
To find out more about music history classes and to read our year-long selection of courses, please see the blog post Music history: your guide to the 2019/20 programme which lists our full programme of classes ordered by term, and by day of the week. You may then click on each title to read the full course outline.
For more details about musicianship and music theory please visit our blog: Musicianship and music theory at City lit which lists our full sequence of musicianship and music theory classes.