Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Part 2 Course Reviews

Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Part 2 is a Coursera course by Jonathan Biss that delves into four of Ludwig van Beethoven's early-period piano sonatas.

Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Part 2 Course Reviews
Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Part 2 Course Reviews

The course consists of 7 modules, each dedicated to one of the sonatas, as well as an introductory module that provides historical context.

Throughout the course, Biss offers insights into the structure, form, and interpretive challenges of each sonata. He shares his own experiences in performing the pieces, and provides demonstrations and analysis of key musical passages.

In addition to the video lectures, the course includes supplemental materials such as recommended readings and listening, discussion forums, and quizzes to test understanding.

Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Part 2 offers an engaging and informative exploration of some of Beethoven's earliest piano sonatas, suitable for both pianists and classical music enthusiasts alike.

Course Content:

The course Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Part 2 on Coursera is divided into 7 modules, each focusing on a different aspect of Beethoven's music.

The total number of lectures in this course is 41, with each part consisting of approximately 8-15 lectures. In addition, the course includes quizzes and assignments that allow students to practice and improve their analysis and evaluation skills of Beethoven's works.

Module 1: Welcome to Class!

We’re happy that you’ve joined us for Part 2 of Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas course! This course is considered Part 2, with a brand new and separate set of lectures. In Part 2, we will cover Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Op. 2, No. 3, Op. 13 ("Pathetique"), Op. 53 ("Waldstein") and Op. 90 . Please remember that it doesn't matter if you have taken the first part of the previous Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas course. You can jump in here with Part 2 and start learning right away. And if you'd like, you always have the option of going back to take Part 1 of the original course at any time. The items you see here will enable you to get the most out of Part 2 of the course. Please note that there are previous offerings and resources as part of Part 1, and we encourage you to reference those additional items as well.


Module 2: Op. 2, No. 3 (9 videos + 1 reading)

The course kicks off with Beethoven's Op. 2 No. 3, an exuberant work full of youth and ambition. The work was a huge statement for 26-year-old Beethoven, and in this lecture Mr. Biss examines how Beethoven starts to innovate the sonata as a musical form, even in his very first opus for the solo piano. In doing so, we'll also lay some groundwork for the next few sonatas to be covered in the course.

9 videosTotal 68 minutes
  • Getting Under the Hood1 minutePreview module
  • Aiming for the Gallery3 minutes
  • 1st mvt: Muscularity and Humor10 minutes
  • 1st mvt: Athleticism as the Movement's "Glue"5 minutes
  • 1st mvt: Cadenza!11 minutes
  • 2nd mvt: The Music in the Silences7 minutes
  • 2nd mvt: Sonic, Harmonic, and Emotional Variety10 minutes
  • 3rd mvt: "Scherzo" means "Joke"!7 minutes
  • 4th mvt: And Yet Again, The Curlicue10 minutes
1 readingTotal 10 minutes
  • Key Terms/Concepts: Op. 2 No. 310 minutes


Module 3: Op. 13, "Pathetique" (9 videos + 1 reading)

The course continues with Beethoven's Op. 13 Sonata, nicknamed the "Pathétique." Known for its high drama and pathos, the "Pathétique" is a gem from Beethoven's early period and is one of Beethoven's most popular piano sonatas. In this lecture, Mr. Biss uncovers how Beethoven achieves these intense characters within the context of a classical sonata.

9 videosTotal 65 minutes
  • A Groundbreaking, Overexposed Masterwork4 minutesPreview module
  • 1st mvt: The Slow Introduction as a Major Addition to Sonata Form6 minutes
  • 1st mvt: An Exposition in Constant Upward Motion8 minutes
  • 1st mvt: The Introduction's Complex, Revolutionary Role9 minutes
  • 1st mvt: Subverting Expectations until the Bitter End5 minutes
  • 2nd mvt: Beethoven at his most Sublimely Lyrical9 minutes
  • 2nd mvt: The Emotional Power of Structural Simplicity7 minutes
  • 3rd mvt: Introducing an Element of Ambiguity3 minutes
  • 3rd mvt: Tying the Movement to the Rest of the Work, Devastatingly10 minutes
1 readingTotal 10 minutes
  • Key terms/concepts: Op. 13, "Pathetique"10 minutes


Module 4: Op. 53, "Waldstein" (15 videos + 1 reading)

The Op. 53 Sonata, nicknamed the "Waldstein," is a monumental achievement and a cornerstone of the piano repertoire. In this lecture, Mr. Biss explains how Beethoven breaks apart conventions in harmony and form to write one of the most adventurous and thrilling compositions of his middle period.

15 videosTotal 96 minutes
  • Rescuing a Masterpiece from Ubiquity3 minutesPreview module
  • 1st mvt: Establishing the Character -- Immediately7 minutes
  • 1st mvt: Using the Mediant -- and Changing Musical History9 minutes
  • 1st mvt: Orchestrating on the Piano2 minutes
  • 1st mvt: The Darkest of Beethoven's Developments, Part 16 minutes
  • 1st mvt: The Darkest of Beethoven's Developments, Part 24 minutes
  • 1st mvt Recapitulation: Restoring Harmonic Order7 minutes
  • 1st mvt Coda: Hard-Earned Triumph5 minutes
  • 2nd mvt Introduction: Pointing the Way to the Finale, and the Late Period8 minutes
  • 2nd mvt Introduction: Accentuating the Sonata's "Misterioso" Nature5 minutes
  • 2nd mvt. Introduction: Towards a Profound Simplicity6 minutes
  • 2nd mvt: At Last, Harmonic Stability8 minutes
  • 2nd mvt: Leaving the Reverie, and Returning4 minutes
  • 2nd mvt: Going Briefly Off-Script7 minutes
  • 2nd mvt Coda: Taking the Material to its Limit7 minutes
1 readingTotal 10 minutes
  • Key terms/concepts: Op. 53, "Waldstein"10 minutes


Module 5: Op. 90 (8 videos + 1 reading)

The final sonata in this course is Beethoven's Op. 90. As Beethoven had not written a piano sonata for five years prior to the composition of Op. 90, Mr. Biss examines this work as a beginning of a late, mature style and a harbinger of great things to come. We will also uncover how Beethoven, ever the innovator, manages to elevate the sonata form into a new, unfathomable realm.

8 videosTotal 64 minutes
  • No Rhetoric; No Third Movement6 minutesPreview module
  • 1st mvt: Anger and Resignation, Juxtaposed9 minutes
  • 1st mvt: Intensity and Nuance in a Highly Concentrated Form8 minutes
  • 1st mvt: Using Harmonic Ambiguity to Create a Peculiar Power7 minutes
  • 1st mvt: A Devastating Resolution6 minutes
  • 2nd mvt: Rebirth; The Sonata's Movements as Yin and Yang6 minutes
  • 2nd mvt: Repetitiveness as a Virtue6 minutes
  • 2nd mvt: Paving the Road to the Late Period12 minutes
1 readingTotal 10 minutes
  • Key Terms/Concepts: Op. 9010 minutes


Module 6: Listening to the Sonatas

To supplement your learning during the course, enjoy free access to several of the Jonathan's Beethoven Sonatas recordings.


Module 7: Feedback Please!

We hope you enjoyed the course. Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts with us.




As a former student of Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Part 2 on Coursera, I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in classical music and Beethoven's works in particular. Jonathan Biss is an outstanding professor who provides a comprehensive and engaging analysis of Beethoven's piano sonatas, covering all aspects of the music from historical and cultural context to musical structure and interpretation.

The course is well-structured, with each part focusing on a specific aspect of Beethoven's music, allowing students to deepen their understanding of his compositional style and evolution throughout his career. The lectures are delivered in an accessible and enthusiastic manner, making the complex concepts and musical terminology easy to understand and enjoyable to learn.

The quizzes and assignments provided are also useful in consolidating the knowledge gained from the lectures and practicing analytical and evaluation skills. Moreover, the Masterclass section, where students perform and receive feedback from Professor Biss, is a unique and valuable opportunity for students to receive personalized feedback on their piano playing and interpretation.

Overall, I would highly recommend Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Part 2 to anyone interested in classical music, piano performance, or the works of Beethoven. The course is informative, engaging, and well-designed, and Professor Biss is an exceptional professor who is passionate about the subject matter and dedicated to his students' learning.

At the time, the course has an average rating of 5 out of 5 stars based on over 155 ratings.

What you'll learn:

Upon completion of Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Part 2 course on Coursera, students will have gained a wealth of knowledge and skills related to classical music and specifically Beethoven's piano sonatas. These skills and knowledge include:

  1. A deeper understanding of Beethoven's compositional style: The course provides a detailed analysis of the various compositional techniques and stylistic elements Beethoven used in his piano sonatas. Students will gain a deeper appreciation for the structure, harmony, melody, and rhythm used in these works.

  2. Historical and cultural context: The course explores the various historical and cultural factors that influenced Beethoven's music. This includes studying the political and social environment during the time of the composition of the sonatas, as well as the broader musical influences on Beethoven's work.

  3. Analytical skills: The course provides ample opportunity for students to develop their analytical skills in evaluating and interpreting musical works. Students will learn how to analyze the structure, harmony, melody, and rhythm of Beethoven's piano sonatas and how to evaluate their effectiveness in conveying emotion and musical ideas.

  4. Piano playing skills: The course also focuses on developing students' piano playing skills, with an emphasis on interpretation and expression. Students will have the opportunity to study and practice various techniques used in Beethoven's piano sonatas.

  5. Appreciation for classical music: The course provides a comprehensive overview of classical music and the piano sonata genre. Students will gain a deeper appreciation for the beauty and complexity of Beethoven's works, as well as for classical music as a whole.

Overall, completing Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Part 2 will provide students with a solid foundation in classical music and an in-depth understanding of Beethoven's piano sonatas. Students will come away from the course with improved analytical and playing skills, as well as an appreciation for the richness and depth of classical music.


Jonathan Biss is an American pianist and educator known for his exceptional skill and interpretation of classical music. Born in 1980 in Bloomington, Indiana, Biss began playing the piano at a young age and went on to study at Indiana University and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Biss has received numerous awards and accolades for his performances, including the Leonard Bernstein Award and the Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award. He has also performed with many renowned orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic.

In addition to his performing career, Biss is also a respected educator and author. He has taught masterclasses at institutions such as the Royal Academy of Music in London and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has written extensively on music and its significance in society.

Biss's expertise in classical music and his passion for sharing his knowledge with others are evident in his course Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Part 2 on Coursera. His lectures are engaging and insightful, providing a deep understanding of Beethoven's music and the historical and cultural context in which it was composed.

Overall, Jonathan Biss is a highly accomplished pianist and educator with a deep understanding and passion for classical music. His expertise and engaging teaching style make him a valuable resource for anyone looking to deepen their understanding and appreciation of the genre.


The detailed requirements for Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Part 2 course by Jonathan Biss on Coursera are as follows:

  1. Proficiency in basic music theory: As the course is aimed at intermediate-level musicians, it is recommended that students have a solid foundation in music theory, including the ability to read sheet music and an understanding of basic musical terminology.

  2. Access to a piano or keyboard: The course is primarily focused on piano performance, so it is essential that students have access to a piano or keyboard for practicing and completing assignments.

  3. Open-mindedness and curiosity: The course explores Beethoven's music in-depth, including its historical, cultural, and artistic context. It is essential that students approach the course with an open mind and a willingness to explore and engage with the material.

  4. Strong English language skills: All course lectures, materials, and assignments are presented in English. It is important that students have a strong command of the English language to fully participate in the course.

  5. Access to a computer or mobile device: The course is delivered entirely online, so students must have access to a computer or mobile device with reliable internet connectivity to participate in the course.

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