Form in Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas (IX) – No. 17 “Tempest” 1st Movement

Although Beethoven did not originally give a title to this sonata, the word “Tempest” is a well-chosen title in order to depict overall atmosphere of whole work.

The first movement starts with a looser main theme in terms of form. Bars 1-6 include 2 bar Largo and 4 bar Allegro phrase which is ended with a HC. Bars 7-20 is a counterstatement which includes again 2 bar Largo and, this time, longer Allegro phrase which is ended with a PAC in home key. Although their internal organization is looser, these two phrases have an antecedent & consequent relation. Transition starts in bar 21 with a forte dynamic. There is a dialogue between soprano and bass line with a tremolo accompaniment in the middle line. Bar 41 is where the “Medial Ceasura” is achieved. Subordinate theme group is a quite longer one and should be divided into several parts. The initial part occurs as it stands on the dominant of subordinate key. The musical material is from the very beginning of main theme. The initial part is concluded with an 8 bar phrase (55-62). The continuation part starts with the material from the previous 8 bar phrase but continues with a scale like run in the bass part. It does not end with a PAC but rather links to the closing part of subordinate theme. The closing part is only about standing on dominant and tonic-dominant resolutions.

Development (starts in bar 93) is “primary based” as its musical material is from the main theme and transition of expo. It starts with the Adagio figure of main theme and modulates to f sharp minor. This key can be thought of as a remote one from the home key, but when it is considered that the development starts in D Major, then f sharp minor is not a remote one since it is the mediant degree of it. As it was the case in expo, the Adagio figure is ended with an Allegro section which is based on transition. Again the soprano and bass line are in dialogue that is accompanied with a tremolo figure in the middle line. After the “core” is presented, the core motive is fragmented and, through some secondaries, the fragmented motive is repeated with sequences until it reaches the dominant of home key. Retransition occurs in bar 121 as the music starts to stand on dominant.

Recapitulation starts in bar 143. Main theme and transition are a bit altered. The Adagios of main theme are lengthened with recitativo like phrases. These are generally performed “ad libitum” because of that “instrumental recitative” quality. In bar 159, transition starts. This one is different than the transition of expo. It is recomposed. The mediant degree takes again its role as the transition starts in f sharp minor. It ends in bar 171 on the dominant of home key. In bar 172, subordinate theme group starts and continues same with the exposition. There is no alteration in the rest of movement.


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