"Pathétique" is a French adjective that translated to "passionate" or "pathetic" in English, conveying the meanings of "pitiable" or "full of sentiment".

In music, "Pathétique" is often used to describe a style of interpretation that is emotional, sentimental, and intense.

The term "Pathétique" is commonly associated with Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13. Beethoven composed this sonata in 1798 and dedicated it to his friend and patron, Prince Karl von Lichnowsky. The nickname "Pathétique" was not given by Beethoven himself but was added later, presumably to capture the intense and emotional nature of the work.

The Pathétique Sonata consists of three movements:

  1. The first movement of the Pathétique Sonata is notable for its powerful and passionate character. It begins with a dramatic and stormy introduction (Grave) that sets the stage for the intense emotional journey to follow. The main Allegro di molto e con brio section features driving rhythms, bold melodies, and dramatic contrasts, showcasing Beethoven's signature style.
  2. The second movement (Adagio cantabile) provides a contrasting mood of calmness and reflection. It is characterized by its lyrical and singing melodies, delicate ornamentation, and expressive nuances. This movement offers a moment of respite and introspection amidst the emotional intensity of the sonata.
  3. The third movement (Rondo) brings a lively and spirited conclusion to the sonata. It features a catchy and energetic main theme that undergoes various transformations and returns throughout the movement. This movement showcases Beethoven's mastery of rhythm, technique, and musical wit.

The Pathétique Sonata is considered a seminal work in the piano repertoire and a testament to Beethoven's musical genius. Its emotional depth, dramatic contrasts, and technical demands have made it a favorite among pianists and audiences alike. The sonata's enduring popularity and significance have solidified its place as one of Beethoven's most celebrated compositions.

Example of Pathétique

Daniel Barenboim plays Beethoven Sonata No. 8 Op. 13 (Pathetique)