Analysis – Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 10 in G Major

This is my analysis of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 10 (op 14)

View the score that goes with this analysis [download here]

Note on analysis labels: m63b2 = Measure #63, quarter note beat 2

In this analysis I will briefly touch on certain form/structural motivical ideas, neighboring relationships between sections, themes etc, use of rhythmical elements and atypical uses of harmony. First off, the Beethoven Piano Sontatas have always been a great collection of works that many theorists and pianists have been studying and playing for a long time. They might all seem to take on many different characteristics and musical elements, but in retrospect one would see that the principle organization of his sontatas is the tonality. You could easily say that he saw tonality as a key to any composition since it leads to true understanding of the musical form. This is evident in this particular sonata. Like any other sonata, No. 10 in G remains true to the sonata form with some very interesting compositional devices. Beethoven introduces his three themes plain as day in the exposition with your basic classical tonal progressions and pivot chord modulations. (m14 modulating to D Major) In this piece Beethoven uses pedals throughout, some obvious and some are pretty subtle and hidden within the implied four-voice harmony. You can see the first instance of this in (m36) As the last theme comes to a perfect authentic cadence, it begins a new canonic section using 4 voices. This fugal technique is not necessarily a theme in my opinion, but just another section with similar harmonic ideas and motivical shapes. At the break of the canon starting at (m58) You can almost see that it’s almost some sort of pedal, but it doesn’t actually hold out. It does keep the same harmony, and it wasn’t so much related to any of the themes, canon or anything later on. I saw that this was some sort of cadential extension that helped push out of the first section leading into the development with an “expressive delay” or suspension of harmony. (m62-m63) Following this is a direct modulation into the key of G Minor which is the development. This is a parallel relationship to the original key Beethoven started with. In the first theme, he uses a two voice canon using only a one beat phrase (m69b2) Beethoven often uses transitional material which is usually a series of passing tones in a scale/run. (m72-73) Oddly, this brings us to theme three, then returning to theme one prime and inverted with the melody in the bass. (m81) This also introduces a rhythmic hemiola (16th note triplets over straight 16ths) which we will see throughout the piece later. Beginning on that same measure, it is our first encounter of modal interchange harmony. In this measure we have already modulated to Bb, but we see an Ab Major chord. This is a borrowed chord from Bb natural/melodic minor and is appropriately analyzed as bVII. Another chord we see from modal interchange is the minor v chord (m91) Now back to theme one now in Eb major we see expanded ideas that were only briefly introduced in previous sections. Using a dominant pedal back in the key of g minor (m108) In this case it’s interesting to take note that this dominant pedal is directly related not only to the overall tonality of the piece, but this particular key at this moment as well. D dominant pedal serves the same function to both G major and minor. This dominant pedal is a basic I – V/i -V progression, but is really there to help bring out the fast scale passages to be more effective. After this we see a prolongation of the dominant in this next passage (m115) Using the harmony of V and prolonging it, not strictly in modulation, but the tonality of dominant V. We also see here the same rhythmical and melodic shape motif from theme one. This leads into transitional material again (m121) going back to the same material from the beginning which is the recapitulation since it is essentially the exposition again and in the same key. If we look back at (m68) you will see that in the bass there is descending bass chromaticism, this only briefly touched on, but is soon brought back more developed later in (m140b2) Using this idea, you can almost expect Beethoven to run into some mode mixture (m141) Dominant pedal is seen again in (m147) and (m163) bringing back the minor v we’ve heard numerous times by now (m167) The next canonic section will lead this piece into a closing section where you only hear theme one’s motif over a tonic pedal that appropriately resolves the overall underlying harmonies of V that we heard throughout the piece. In retrospect you can easily outline the larger sections of the piece and see it’s relationships clearly. When you take a closer look, as we have analyzed, some ideas that Beethoven brought out only for a short moment were eventually expanded and became more developed. A French composer, Vincent d’ Indy said that with Beethoven, a musical theme turns into an concept that spreads through the whole work making it easily recognizable even if harmonic, modal or tonal aspects change.

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