Sonata No. 23, "Appassionata" - Ludwig van Beethoven

Sonata No. 23, "Appassionata", is a popular and much-beloved solo piano piece composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. One of Beethoven’s last great works, it is constantly ranked as one of the world’s most beloved compositions. With a running time of approximately 21 minutes, it is also one of the longest of Beethoven’s piano works.

History and Release of the Piece

Beethoven composed the piece between 1804 and 1805. It was published early in the following year, 1806, and a revised version was made within the same year. Both the first and second versions were given a dedication to Beethoven's pupil, the Archduke Rudolf of Austria. This pupil is believed to have given Beethoven 8 revisions with suggestions on how to improve the piece.

The printed edition that was acquired by the publishers was not well-printed and many errors were present throughout. Scholars would later work to fix these errors and make a much more organized edition. Another important fact is that the title of the piece is rarely found in any versions of the late 18th/early 19th century as the piece began to be known as the “Appassionata” well after its release.

Simplified Analysis of the Composition from the Point of View of Music Theory

The sonata has three musical movements: The first movement, Allegro assai, is one of the most vigorous, thoughtful, and contrapuntally developed compositions of Beethoven's late period. The second movement, titled Andante con moto, is much more tranquil and reflective in nature, with serene and intertwining melodic lines. The third movement, Allegro ma non troppo, is similarly vivacious and brilliant in mood, returning to the dynamic energy of the opening movement.

The piece has a cyclical structure, with the first and second movements connected by the fragments of a musical phrase. The third movement contains musical phrases that were used in the first two. Beethoven makes use of harmonic devices like modulations and chromatic alterations, as well as an array of musical motifs and phrases throughout.

Why is it so Popular

Beethoven's unique style, coupled with the emotional expressiveness of Appassionata, have helped make it an enduring favorite. Fans of all levels of ability and knowledge can find something to appreciate and enjoy in the piece. It is an accessible yet complex work - it demands technical proficiency but is also emotionally engaging. Its timeless themes and bold structure have made it a modern classic.

Appassionata was one of the few late works Beethoven was able to hear himself performed before his death in March of 1827. Its continued popularity and influence on subsequent generations is evidence of its greatness. Appassionata is one of the greatest works of piano music, and continues to be a favorite among audiences today.


Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23, "Appassionata" is a masterpiece of the classical era. It retains its strong emotional power that is instantly recognizable even to those with no knowledge of music theory. Its blend of technical sophistication and lyrical beauty, combined with its emotional resonance, is what makes Appassionata such an enduring favorite.

Publication date: 22. 02. 2023