Spring Sonata - Tips and tricks?

September 27, 2016 at 05:10 PM · Hi all,

I just wondered what advice people had for learning Beethoven's Spring sonata (no.5). I gather it's high on the list of pieces that are far more difficult to pull off than they appear at first sight :)

Particularly interested to hear recommendations of performances to look out! Thanks in advance.

Replies (12)

September 27, 2016 at 05:54 PM · Aaron Rosand's interpretations of the Beethoven sonatas have been my favorites, perhaps because they were my first favorite:


I love this sonata. It is accessible and interpretable in different ways. Even practicing it alone can be a real joy. Deciding how you want to interpret it can vary ("mature"?) over one's lifetime.

For me it was first a matter of reading through it before I ever heard it performed (although I think I may have heard my father practice it when I was a kid) - but I did attend a performance by Szigeti shortly after I first read through it and over the years since I have had opportunities to play it a few times with several pianists over the decades; the last time was probably 15 years ago.

If you do it the way I did, you will play through it before you spend a lot of time listening to others and then listen to them and perhaps watch them if that will help find yourself within it. Back in my day the only way I was going to hear this performed was either in a recital or in 5 -minute segments on each side of 78rpm 12-inch records. - and people really did not buy the Beethoven sonatas that way. Now I probably have 10 versions in my iTunes.

September 27, 2016 at 06:03 PM · Fall is not the best season to learn it. Wait for early spring!

September 27, 2016 at 08:36 PM · Beethoven's Spring sonata is a harder piece than one thinks when reading through it. None of them are particularly easy, technically or musically. Of course one can play them, but it requires a lot more than that. And getting a good ensemble with the piano needs careful work as well.

I still think the recording of the complete sonatas (10) played by Oistrakh and Oberin, which were recorded in Paris in the 1950's - are unequalled.

September 27, 2016 at 09:18 PM · Hi,

I agree with Peter that this sonata is more demanding then it seems, and is especially challenging ensemble-wise - that last transition in the first movement to the recap is particularly something.

There are many great recordings of the Beethoven sonatas, and listening to as many as possible is good idea. For me, I have to confess that I have a particular drawing to the one by Arthur Grumiaux and Clara Haskil.

As for learning, like anything else, slow, intelligent and controlled practice is the way to go.


September 28, 2016 at 01:18 AM · I like the recordings by Grumiaux and by Mutter. I tried this piece some years ago and I knew I was doomed when I had trouble just getting the string change completely clean in the very first phrase. :) I think I could do it much better now.

September 28, 2016 at 01:18 AM · Well this double-posted on me, not sure why, but the Scherzo movement is a joy. Nice three-octave scale there.

September 28, 2016 at 12:58 PM · Nice three-octave scale there.

Yes, Paul - can you give me a fingering for that? I've tried every possible one, and I think I've cracked it, but maybe you have a better one. It has to work at tempo - about metronome 120 - and one in the bar.

September 28, 2016 at 05:52 PM · Thanks for the responses all :)

So for that 3-octave scale I'd shift up to 3rd position for the G on the D-string, then to 5th for the F on the A-string, then to 6th exploiting the semitone between E and F on the E-string. Which I think is nearly a standard Carl Flesch fingering.

Coming down I wouldn't shift at all until the start of the arpeggios, shifting back to 5th to accomplish the last bar or so on the D.

Any better ideas?

September 28, 2016 at 06:42 PM · This is the trio in the scherzo I presume. This is different but probably not better!

3rd bar I do 1 on the D and then from 3rd pos 1 on the C bar 4 - and then 4-4 F-G at the top - and then 3 on C coming down and 3 on A 1st pos. The arpeggio is 1st pos 1-3-ext 4 for the f. It works when I'm sober ...

This is a sort of Ricci fingering but don't tell him I said so ...

September 29, 2016 at 03:09 PM · Peter, so for the F-G-F at the top you'd do 4-4-3, right? Generally I am a fan of glissando fingering but is it really appropriate at this very fast speed? I think Chris's fingering is really solid (including the "restez" for going down which is great because the finger pattern is then the same on the E and the A string, and the fourth finger is at the exact same spot on E, A and D, which all makes it quite safe for intonation). In general I really like fingering discussions, thanks guys! For people who would like to chime in, here is the passage we are talking about: (with yet another fingering, suggested by Joachim)

September 29, 2016 at 03:19 PM · My fingering works fine for me at about crotchet equals 120 but I wouldn't force it on anyone against their will. All fingerings and bowing's are personal and what is secure for one is not necessarily for another. All our brains work differently, but I'm still looking for mine. (Brain that is ...)

This fingering may lean towards suggestions by Ricci (extended 4th finger etc) - but don't tell him I said that ...

September 30, 2016 at 04:34 AM · I think the fingering in Jean's post is about what I played.

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