Playing Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas

Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 10/1

Much like the first piano sonata, this work contains a passionate ferocity typical of Beethoven's musical character. Unlike Opus 2/1, however, the contrast is augmented from the level of local dynamic outbursts to the level of the phrase. For example, the schizophrenic main theme (mm. 1–30) is juxtaposed with a soft, melodious transition (mm. 32–55), and the harsh character of the opening theme returns gradually as the subordinate theme drives to its end. The highly-ornamented middle movement, which demands an improvisatory freedom from the strict constraints of musical time, is one of the last of its kind written by the composer. On the contrary, the energetic finale, which showcases Beethoven's fascination with codas in its infancy, requires strict adherence to the underlying pulse until the unexpected shift in character at m. 106.

I. Allegro molto e con brio

• exposition

NOTES: Be careful to give the fortissimo chords a full-bodied sound. To achieve a good sound, plant your fingers solidly in the keys, and direct the motion of your attack at a 45-degree angle. A slight increase in the amount of pedal will give the return of the basic idea at mm. 22 a fresh sound that corresponds with its more forward-vectored motion. The transition, beginning at m. 32 should be phrased carefully—treat the entire section to the downbeat of m. 48 as one long line. Terraced dynamics with inner shaping can be effective here. The left-hand accompaniment of the subordinate theme (beginning in m. 56) contains a beautiful bass line. Bringing out the outer parts of this three-layered texture can be quite rich and effective.

II. Adagio molto - Coming Soon!

III. Prestissimo

• exposition

NOTES: Where as this exposition requires a fair amount of dexterity in the right hand, its demands on the left hand are limited. Make note of the ascending triad that is outlined by the opening four measures and phrase your playing accordingly. The right-hand scale passage that begins in m. 12 is quite simple to play with a good choice of fingering. I prefer to start with 3 on the downbeat of m. 12 (i.e., the high C) and continue as follows: 4(on high D)-3-2-1-3-2-1-4-5-4-3-2-1-3-2-1. This pattern can then be repeated, starting with the fourth finger on D accompanied by a subtle re-attack.

Two more technical pointers are perhaps obvious to some, but can make a world of difference to many: 1) in m.23 (and in analogous places), take the F–A-flat–C with the right hand 2) when practicing the tricky passage in mm. 34–35, accent the first sixteenth note of each beat in the right hand and make sure that it lines up exactly with the first note of each left-hand triplet.