Piano Sonata No.5

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No.5 in C minor

Op. 10/1

About this work

Beethoven began the other two sonatas comprising the Op. 10 group in 1796, but may have started this work toward the end of 1795. Marked Allegro molto e con brio the first movement opens with a probing theme, based on a C minor chord, which introduces a questing, questioning mood, not unlike the opening of the "Pathetique" Sonata. Here, however, the initial tempo is brisk and the inital utterance appears more direct. However, as the musical discourse unfolds, the straightforward beginning yields to unexpected developments. For example, in the first theme group, Beethoven introduces an interesting element: a mysterious descending phrase bringing what seems as both consolation and triumph. After the initial material is restated, certain differences become apparent: for instance, the "question" phrase is not followed by an "answer," this absence introducing a general feeling of ambiguity and uncertainty. The development section is unusual, for, despite some expansion of previously stated themes, most of the music here is new, thereby violating the conventional rules of sonata form. The recapitulation presents an abridgement of the exposition and an effective transformation of the second theme. In the second movement (Adagio molto), one hears two themes, the first a flowing melody that becomes inwardly agitated as it rises, and the latter a somewhat hesitant invention that seems to seek serenity, but is hampered at times by figurations played by the left hand. The stormy transition separating the two themes is quite interesting -- seemingly a harbinger of darkness that never arrives. After the reappearance of the thematic material, in slightly altered form, there is a coda based on the opening melody. The finale is a vibrant Prestissimo, essentially driven by a mood of typical Beethovenian anxiety yearning for joy. This movement's first theme is a decidedly ominous six-note figure, possibly a precursor to the famous "fate" motto of the Fifth Symphony. A variant of the first, the second theme is nevertheless its opposite in effect, expressing a spirit of joy and humor. A brief development section leads to a recapitulation, and the movement is completed by a coda.

Done