Beethoven's Experimental Figurations and Exercises for Piano

  • Sian Derry

Student thesis: Phd


The numerous piano figurations, exercises and experimental ideas that are found throughout the leaves of Beethoven's sketchbooks remain a largely unexplored area within the field of Beethoven sketch-scholarship. Their existence is commonly known, but the purpose for which they served the composer has not been explored fully. Moreover, there has been little attempt to catalogue these ideas in order to make them more accessible and approachable. This study is divided into two parts. Part one provides the biographical context in which the subsequent analysis of the figurations is based. It presents an assessment of Beethoven as a student, performer and teacher by evaluating contemporary sources and including a discussion on performance anxiety. This evidence is used to demonstrate that Beethoven could be prone to lapses in technique; that he undertook his studies with complete dedication; and that he also created exercises for some of his pupils, which supports the notion that a number of the figurations could have been designed as piano exercises. Part two analyses the figurations, classifying them by type and grouping them into themes related to specific areas of piano technique. The analysis establishes that many of the figurations are highly inventive; that occasionally developments can be traced (in particular the evolution of the 'Beethoven' trill); and that in many cases there are parallels with Beethoven's published works for piano, which proves that a single classification for the figurations is often problematic. The analysis further reveals that a significant number of the figurations were written in 1793 and, in conjunction with the earlier biographical study, strongly suggests that Beethoven's move to Vienna was a major impetus for their creation. Volume two presents a separate catalogue of the transcribed piano figurations, some of which are previously unknown. Within the catalogue, the figurations are arranged by type to correspond with the categories discussed in the analysis and ordered chronologically to enable them to be examined alongside the accompanying text.
Date of Award1 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorBarry Cooper (Supervisor) & James Garratt (Supervisor)


  • Pianist
  • Student
  • Exercises
  • Figurations
  • Sketches
  • Beethoven
  • Piano

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