Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor “Tempest” Analysis


For the benefit of all pianists learning this work, we present to you a concise and easy to use analysis of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor “Tempest”

First Movement (Largo – Allegro)

Form: Sonata Form. D Minor. 

Beethoven Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor, Op.31 No.2 'Tempest' Analysis 1


Bars 1-6: First Subject in D minor (tonic). The first subject begins and ends upon dominant harmony; the first two bars, “Largo,” play an important part in the course of the movement.

Bars 7-41: Connecting Episode. The connecting episode begins with a continuation of the first subject, ending on full close in the tonic key, Bars 7-21, after which a regular theme in D minor is introduced, the first four notes of which are based upon the figure represented by Bars 1-2; they are repeated in the bass, on notes rising by conjunct degrees from D to E, the dominant of the key of the second subject (see also Connecting Episode, Op. 14, No. 2, first movement).

Bars 41-63: Second Subject in A minor. The second subject, which is in the dominant minor key, instead of being in the relative major (F), is in two parts, Bars 41-55 and 55-62. The rhythm of the first part is suggested in the “Allegro” part of first subject.

Bars 63-90: Coda. The Coda is developed form the second subject.

Bars 91-92: Bars 91-92 form a passage leading to the repetition of the exposition.

Bars 95-96: Bars 95-96 form a connecting passage between the exposition and the development.


Bars 97-147: The development begins with a recitative (Largo), Bars 97-102, derived from Bars 1-2. The greater part of the succeeding Allegro is of the same character as the regular theme in the connecting episode, which is also formed upon Bars 1-2.


Bars 147-156: First Subject in original key. The first subject re-appears, Bar 147, with the two Largo bars (1-2) extended to six bars (147-152), followed by the rest of the subject as in the original.

Bars 157-175: Connecting Episode. The connecting episode begins for two bars as the original one; after this, however, it is of quite a different character. A recitative of four bars, Bars 159-162, gives place to a passage of four bars in F sharp minor, Bars 163-166 (enharmonic modulation, Bars 162-163), repeated (Bars 167-170) in G minor, and imitated, Bars 171-175, ending upon dominant harmony.

Bars 175-197: Second Subject in D minor (tonic). At Bars 193-196 it is thought that the limited compass of the instrument in Beethoven’s time prevented a literal transposition of the passage, Bars 59-62.

Bars 197-End: Coda. The Coda is extended (Bar 223). The last twelve bars consist of nothing but harmony of the tonic chord. It should be noted that the key of the relative major is not used once during the whole of the movement.

Second Movement (Adagio)

Form: Modified Sonata Form. Bb Major. 

Beethoven Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor, Op.31 No.2 'Tempest' Analysis 2


Bars 1-17: First Subject in B flat major (tonic). The first subject consists of two sections: the first eight bars, the second nine bars.

Bars 17-30: Connecting Episode. The connecting episode commences with a four-bar phrase in the tonic key, followed by a modulation to C major upon a pedal point with a characteristic figure.

Bars 30-38: Second Subject in F major.


Bars 38-43: Bars 38-43 take the place of the “working out” portion of the movement, they simply form a passage consisting of dominant harmony upon dominant pedal point.


Bars 43-59: First Subject (varied) in original key. The second section of the first subject has a very elaborate variation in the bass, Bars 50-59.

Bars 59-72: Connecting Episode. The connecting episode is transposed so as to end in the dominant key.

Bars 72-80: Second Subject in B flat major (tonic). 

Bars 80-End: Coda. The Coda is formed from previous material, the passage, Bars 80-89, being taken form Bars 38-43, and the following passage, Bars 89-98, from the first subject. The last six bars are upon a tonic pedal point; the subdominant, followed by tonic harmony, forming a plagal cadence which often occurs in Codas in conjunction with tonic pedal.

Third Movement  (Allegretto)

Form: Sonata Form. D minor. 

Beethoven Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor, Op.31 No.2 'Tempest' Analysis 3

Note that all the movements in this Sonata are written in Sonata Form.


Bars 1-32: First Subject in D minor (tonic). The first subject is founded upon the initial figure of four notes; in fact, the whole movement is constructed upon it and the figure of two notes which commences the second subject.

Bars 32-44: Connecting episode. The connecting episode begins in D minor, the initial figure appearing in the bass; at Bar 36 it modulates to C major, in which key it continues to Bar 43, where by means of augmented sixth on F, it modulates to the chord of E major, dominant of A.

Bars 44-68: Second Subject in A minor. The second subject, instead of being in the key of the relative major, is in the key of the dominant minor (see the second subject in the first movement); it begins with a figure of two notes, Bar 44 (see Bars 1-32 commentary).

Bars 68-91: Coda. The Coda is a development of the latter part of the second subject.

Bars 91-95: Bars 92-95 form a passage leading to the repetition of the exposition, and upon its reiteration into the development.

Double bar and repeat.


Bars 96-215: The development is characterised by the persistent reiteration of the initial figure rhythm.


Bars 215-230: First Subject (curtailed) in original key.

Bars 230-272: Connecting Episode. The connecting episode commences with part of what was originally the concluding section of the first subject, Bars 16-19, it then modulates to B flat major; at Bars 243-246 the initial figure appears in the bass in the key of B flat minor. From Bar 244 it resembles the original episode prolonged with harmonic changes. It ends upon the dominant chord.

Bars 272-296: Second Subject in D minor (tonic). The second subject is literally transposed into the tonic key, excepting that in some bars the melody is slightly altered.

Bars 296-End: Coda. The Coda is extended, Bar 322; at Bar 336 there is a dominant pedal point in the bass, which continues to Bar 351, where it appears also in the treble. The first subject re-appears, Bars 351-382. After a chromatic scale passage the movement ends with a reiteration of the perfect cadence found upon the initial figure rhythm.