Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


Free Lectures on Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas by Jonathan Biss


Happy New Year, everyone!  It’s good to be back after a very busy holiday season.

Great news for piano music lovers!  Pianist Jonathan Biss is back with his third series of lectures on Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas on  Biss is in the process of recording all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas.

This series, like the previous two, is designed for everyone—no prior knowledge is needed.  And if you missed the first two lecture series, they are also available on Coursera.  The first series provides a wealth of background information to understand Beethoven’s world and the sonata form.  I wrote about series one here.  The second series focuses on the exploration of individual sonatas, including the Waldstein and Pathétique.

Here are links for the three lecture series on Coursera

Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas

Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Part 2

Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Part 3.

Need more Beethoven?  This post provides more resources for learning more about Beethoven.

Here is a video of Biss playing a portion of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor.

You can hear the entire sonata here.


Image attribution:  Beethoven, Painting by Carl Jäger (1833-1887), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons,

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Explore Beethoven Piano Sonatas with Jonathan Biss on Coursera

Ludwig van Beethoven Jonathan Biss, photo by Benjamin Ealovega

Pianist Jonathan Biss has created a new set of lectures on selected Beethoven piano sonatas on  The course is free, and is designed “for people of all levels of experience with Beethoven’s music (including no experience at all!).”1 This set of lectures will cover Sonata No. 3, Op. 2, No. 3; Sonata No. 8, Op. 13 (“Pathetique”); Sonata No. 21, Op. 53 (“Waldstein”); and Sonata No. 27, Op. 90.

This course, Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Part 2, will begin in mid-January, but you can enroll now.

The first course, Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, will begin again on January 2, but you can enroll now as well.  This course provides an overview of the 32 sonatas, and contains a wealth of detail on the sonatas themselves and music history.

I took the first course, enjoyed it, and learned a lot.  You can read more about the course in an earlier blog post.  You may learn more about Jonathan Biss at his website, which contains the least serious biography I have ever seen.

Biss is in the process of recording all 32 of the Beethoven piano sonatas, and several CDs have already been released.

Follow this link for my post containing more free Beethoven resources.

Follow this link for my post containing more on Beethoven’s late string quartets.

And now, here is Jonathan Biss performing Beethoven’s Sonata No 5 in C Minor, Op. 10, No. 1.





Image attributions: Beethoven, Painting by Carl Jäger (1833-1887), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons,  Jonathan Biss, photo by Benjamin Ealovega,


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Haiku Wednesday: Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonatas To Match Your Mood

Portrait of Domenico Scarlatti painted in 1738 by Domingo Antonio Velasco

Melancholy? Blue?
Domenico Scarlatti
Wrote something for you.

Overjoyed? Happy?
Domenico Scarlatti
Wrote something snappy!

Need soothing and mild?
Domenico Scarlatti
Lulls you like a child.

Whatever your mood,
Domenico Scarlatti
Has that attitude.

A few nights ago I heard a keyboard sonata by Domenico Scarlatti at a student recital, and it caught my ear.  It was bright and delicate, and simply wonderful.  So I went home and listened to a bunch of Scarlatti.

It’s easy to do.  Scarlatti wrote over 500 keyboard sonatas, and they are short pieces, typically one movement (nonetheless, the Scarlatti Complete Sonatas box set by Scott Ross consists of 34 CDs!).  So if you look long enough, you’re sure to find something to match your mood.

Looking to start your day with something light and cheerful?  Try the Sonata in G major, K. 2.

Or perhaps you’re in the middle of your day, and ready for something really lively.  How about the Sonata in C major, K. 159?

Maybe you’ve already finished a full day of work, and are looking for something soothing.  Here is Vladimir Horowitz performing Scarlatti’s Sonata in B minor, L. 33 (K. 87), one of my favorites.

If you’re a Horowitz fan, there are a number of videos of his performances of Scarlatti, and it’s a delight to watch his fingers dance across the keys.  If you’re a fan of Glenn Gould, Andras Schiff, Mikhail Pletnev, Ivo Pogorelich, or, going back further, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, they made fine recordings of Scarlatti keyboard sonatas, each with their own take on the music.

Want to hear all of them on virtual harpsichord?  John Sankey has all the Scarlatti sonatas available for listening or download on his websiteClaudio Colombo has recorded them on a digital piano.  You can also hear and download Scarlatti sonatas on this beautifully illustrated Czech Radio site (they have a project underway and hope to offer all of them at some point).  The latter site has useful categories such as melancholic, cheerful, hit song, fast, slow, and…difficult (for you keyboard players who would like to road test them).

So why not do a little exploring?  You’re sure to find something to suit your mood!


Image attribution: Portrait of Domenico Scarlatti painted in 1738 by Domingo Antonio Velasco. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons