Playing Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas

Piano Sonata in G minor, Op. 49/1

Unlike its major-mode companion, this "sonate facile" is musically quite interesting. The Andante provides another early instance of Beethoven flirting with the concept of coda—something that would become a hallmark of his middle and late work.

I. Andante

• exposition

NOTES: It seems especially important in this movement to shape phrases on the theme level. For instance, the main them (mm. 1–8) can be played as one extended dynamic arch with heightened intensity graded as follows: mm. 1–2, mm. 3–4, m. 5, m. 6. Measures 7 and 8 see a decrease in tension leading into the half cadence in m. 8. A sensitive use of coloristic effect is up for grabs at m. 12—the point of modulation. Beethoven leaves out the original held G (see m. 4), paving the way for an A-flat chord to take the music to the relative major. The tedious rocking accompaniment that underlies the subordinate theme (m. 16ff) can be smoothed out by emphasizing the bass line: m. 16–17 (A, B-flat); m. 18–19 (A, B-flat); m. 20 (A); m. 21 (B-flat, A-flat); m. 22 (G, E-flat); m. 23 (F); m. 24 (B-flat), etc.

• development

NOTES: The sheer simplicity of this music makes it difficult to play convincingly. Unlike Op. 49/2, however, there is considerable harmonic and motivic interest in the development section, which makes the pianist's job a little easier. The development breaks down into four principal sections (mm. 34–38, mm. 39–46, mm. 47–54, mm. 54–63); use this to your advantage by "coloring" each of them differently. I find that it helps to imagine how Beethoven might have orchestrated each section. One last point: be careful not to bore your audience with the long standing on the dominant that supports the final section (i.e., mm. 54–63); because the harmony is static here, you'll need to place extra focus on shaping the overall melodic line.

II. Rondo: Allegro - Coming Soon!