All of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, Ranked (Part 3)

Part Two Here!

#16: No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 10 No. 1

I like to call this sonata "Pathetique Lite." It's in the same key, with the same number of movements, and both middle movements in Ab. Actually, now that I'm writing that down, I'm not entire sure the two sonatas aren't actually the same one, just published a year apart.

 

#15: No. 6 in F major, Op. 10 No. 2

I don't really want to say anything about this sonata. So on to #14.

 

#14: No. 26 in Eb major, Op. 81a "Les Adieux"

This is likely Beethoven's only "programmatic" sonata. In case you don't know because your brain is filled with useful things, there's "absolute" music and "programmatic" music. Absolute music is every other piece on this list - it just exists and we're supposed to sit in dark auditoriums and listen in silence and not clap between movements. Programmatic music is exactly the same only it's supposed to tell a story of some kind. Those are the only two kinds of music because that's what they teach you in music school. There, now you know. Now something useful in your brain was deleted to know that fact. Isn't learning fun?

 

#13: No. 12 in Ab major, Op. 26

This is the first of Beethoven's sonatas to really experiment with form and harmony. It's like the start of a new era of his musical development, like we've left his early period and started his middle one.

Hold on, let me check my notes.

Nope, Wikipedia says the middle period started later. Ignore all that. It's easy to divide an artist's work into neatly structured periods and there's no real transition periods. I just got my dates wrong. Silly me!

 

#12: No. 18 in Eb major, Op. 31 No. 3 "The Hunt"

In case you're wondering where the titles of some of these sonatas come from, the answer is "not Beethoven." Most of the time, other people made them up and we're stuck with them. Nowhere is this more obvious than with "The Hunt." Like, what are we even hunting?

 

#11: No. 31 in Ab major, Op. 110

If the "Hammerklavier" sonata were good, it would be this one. Both have a similar structure, but op. 110 knows when to just shut up and be done already. Every movement is a superior version of the previous sonata. The opening is light and fantastic without overstaying its welcome; the scherzo is brilliant and angular and full of wonderful syncopations; and the final movement captures the grandiose - if pretentious - element with a meandering arietta and fugue.

 

#10: No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 "Pastorale"

Both this sonata and the 6th symphony bear the name "Pastorale," and it's because they share this one weird thing in common: both pieces are really good.

 

#9: No. 25 in G major, Op. 79 "The Cuckoo"

If you're reading along, wondering to yourself "are there any sonatas here that I, an amateur, can play?" then this sonata is for you. It's not the easiest but it's close, and it's one of the most fun to play. There, don't say I never don't help nobody or nothing.

Oh, and if you're reading along and not thinking that, then ignore the entirety of the previous paragraph.