Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 "Pathétique"
by Ludwig van Beethoven
We've talked about Beethoven a few times now. Here is another piano sonata from his collection of compositions.
In 1798, Ludwig van Beethoven wrote this piano sonata that he, himself, named Pathétique (pronounced pa-theh-TEEK). The publisher actually expanded the title to Grande sonate pathétique, and Beethoven approved. The word pathétique is French, and, although it sounds like the English word "pathetic", the two words don't quite mean the same thing. "Pathetic" means to arouse pity, or to make you feel sorry for something. Pathétique means "passionate" or "emotional". This is what Beethoven had in mind when naming this piece.
As this is a sonata, it has three movements. The first movement is marked Grave - Allegro di molto e con brio, which means "Slowly, solemnly" (grave), then "quickly with much vigor". The second movement (which we'll be listening to) is marked Adagio cantabile, which means "slowly in a singing style". The last movement is marked Rondo: Allegro. "Rondo" is a particular form, but "Allegro" means "quickly, lively".
Jon's Introduction to This Piece:
I would have discovered this piece about the same time as I did the "Moonlight" Sonata (see December 2009 Music of the Month). It is very common for recordings of Beethoven piano sonatas to include: "Moonlight", "Pathétique", and "Appassionata" (typically in that order as well). We had a recording of these three sonatas, and I believe it was Vladimir Horowitz performing them. I was probably about eight years old, when I started listening to it.
"Moonlight" was my favorite of the three, but I did come to love and appreciate "Pathétique" over time. I also remember Schroder playing the second movement in "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" (more on that in the Extra Credit section).
To keep things short for those with small attention spans, I'm just going to assign you the second movement from the sonata. It is easily the most well-known, and it is very quiet and soothing. Enjoy!