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Beethoven Pathetique - Sonata 3rd Movement - Teaching Notes

Pathetique Sonata in C minor Op.13 

3rd movement - Rondo / Allegro 

Ludwig van Beethoven.

Teaching Notes:

Phrasing and articulation is important to observe to really capture the intentions of the composer. For example the opening phrase starts with three staccato notes that become a feature throughout this movement.

Be careful also to release the ends of slurs in bars 5-7 and 9-11.

The trill of bar 16 will probably be sufficiently served with just four notes.

Another point to note in this opening section is the dynamic, which is probably softer in general than many would initially imagine with a crescendo starting only at bar 12.

The “fp” of bars 18 and 22 are achieved naturally through the natural instant decay of the piano after a note is struck. Just be careful that the next note is dramatically softer.

Again another dolce section doesn’t allow for much loud playing although the crescendo in bars 31, 32 have another “fp” kind of effect as the sudden “p” of 33 comes unexpectedly.

Some careful fingering will be needed to hold the top B flat tied from 29 to 30.

From bar 33, the “sf” are isolated accents and again are in the context of a quieter dynamic.

Bars 41, 42 offer a rhythmic challenge to the student to transition accurately from triplet to duplet and  in the next bar be sure to observe the rests.

Bar 44 should be played “semi staccato” without pedal and interestingly this articulation is used also on the minims of bar 46 indicating separation but not in a bouncy manner.

Note the overlapping notes of bar 49 which build the dynamic up to a powerful cadence only to give way again to a subito “p” in bar 51.

After the pause in bar 61, make sure there is a silence for the quaver rest  before the rondo theme restarts.

Bar 79 introduces new material which starts very simply and becomes increasingly complex with the overlapping notes and descending legato 6ths scales bars 89, 90, 93,94 which will require some thoughtful fingering top maintain the smooth effect.

From bar 95 to 97, note that the phrasing between the hands is very independent often one hand ending on a staccato or at least a “quasi staccato” at the end of a slur while the other hand continues the legato.

This independent articulation continues with the staccato scales against the legato melodies in bars 98 to 105. Some editions transition to a legato touch for the quavers from the second half of bar 105.

Bar 106 needs a dramatic decrescendo so that we start soft enough for the big build up from 107 to 111.

In the RH arpeggio figures from bars 113 to 115, note the “sf” on the top note each time.

The return of the rondo theme at bar 120 will require similar treatment as described above, but this time there is a variation where the LH takes the melody in bar 129. Other than obviously bring this melody out, again pay attention to the articulation, releasing the last notes of slurs in bars 129 to 132 for example.

The delicate dolce section from bar 134 requires good fingering to sustain all minims. However there is one problematic bar which is impossible to play as written. In 142 the LH D is required to hold the crotchet D while the RH needs to play it a quaver before the end of this note. To get round this, a dab of pedal on the first beat will let you release the LH in time.

Notice there is a crescendo in bar 140 with no other dynamic written until bar 153. This would imply what is becoming typical of this piece; a forte cadence before the “subito piano” on the last beat of bar 153.

Bar 154 returns to the semi staccato theme we saw in bar 44, but this time attention is needed to observe all the tied notes over  every bar line from 160 to 167.

Bars 168 to 170 are marked “calando” and to get good tonal control, especially for those with smaller hands, one might consider playing the top semibreves with the LH hand crossing over.

Make sure the restart in 171 is soft enough to let the following crescendo be effective in 179. And again / typically we drop and build in 182 and 189.

The final section from 193 needs to be very angular making sure that the first chord up to 198 is very short, but that the accent is on the 2nd beat of each bar. 

After the thunderous descending scale in bars 199 to 201, more drama is needed to make the ending effective. Firstly it is common to play the “p” section  from 204 to 208 “meno mosso” even calando, with no sense of hurry, giving rests their full length so that the final scale of the piece enters completely by surprise and unannounced.

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