So, I'm in the middle of orchestrating Beethoven's Piano Sonata no. 1 in F minor and I'm at the transition in the recapitulation of the first movement. In order to fill in that bass register that Beethoven didn't write(because it would be absurd not to if arranging the sonata for an orchestra), I need to know what the harmonies are, otherwise, it's going to sound horribly wrong. However, the first 2 chords, especially the first one is confusing me. I don't know what to call it, I don't know what that harmony on the Gb is supposed to be. With the one in the bar afterwards, I at least know that it's some sort of secondary dominant chord because it spells a diminished triad on C. Here's the passage in question:

Beethoven Op. 2 No. 1 mm. 109 – 120

And here's my attempt at a harmonic analysis of it:

Beethoven Op. 2 No. 1 mm. 109 – 120, with analysis of mm. 111 – 119

Already, I know I'm probably wrong on at least the Gb chord and maybe the diminished chord as well.

My intuition is telling me that the diminished chord is probably a secondary vii°7 chord. Specifically, vii°7/iv. Now, I have seen Beethoven use this exact harmonic relation in his other bookend sonata, Piano Sonata no. 32 in C minor Op. 111, which uses 3 different diminished seventh chords in the first movement. So I know it could be vii°7/iv. And I know that the chord after it is V7/iv.

A move from vii°7 to V7 is quite common, as is the other way around, V7 to vii°7, as they both have the same function and have 3 common tones. However, you don't usually see chords like vii°7/iv or especially vii°7/vi. Usually when you see those kinds of harmonies, the composer has modulated and so it's better to view it in terms of the new key. Beethoven is not modulating here, he's staying in F minor. And there's another thing that's making me second guess my vii°7/iv analysis. The root of said chord isn't present at all, there is no A natural in the diminished chord.

That's the less confusing bit. The Gb right before the diminished chord, I just don't know how to analyze it. It looks on the page like maybe a shell voicing of a major seventh chord? But a major seventh in a minor key? On the Neopolitan of said minor key? That seems strange and like it's probably incorrect.

So, what are the first 2 chords of the transition after the F minor arpeggio? Is it in fact bIIM7 and vii°7/iv? Or is the diminished chord not a vii°7/iv because it lacks the root? Or is the GbM7 not really a GbM7?

1 Answer 1


Both measures are Eb minor, with the "bass" F being a suspension from the previous measure, resolving in the next. This is consistent with the rest of the analysis: iv/iv leading to V7/iv.

The C that otherwise appears to be part of a rootless diminished chord is not part of the chord at all. Rather, it's an anticipation of the following measure, where it is part of the chord.

Consider that Beethoven follows a similar harmonic plan (using ii/iv rather than iv/iv) at the same transitional point in the opening of the piece, in measures 11 – 14. Measure 11 initially appears to be an F minor chord – the i chord — in second inversion. However, it's actually Bbm7, with the C being a suspension that resolves in measure 12.

Beethoven in these bars in on his way to Eb major. Relative to that key, bars 11 and 12 are ii7/IV, followed by V7/IV and then IV.

Beethoven, Op. 2 No. 1, mm. 11–14
(SOURCE: IMSLP, Schenker edition)

  • Beethoven in Bars 11-14 is on his way to V of A flat major, not (I of) E flat major. While he only conclusively lands on I of A flat major on Bar 22, that is preceded by a fairly lengthy dominant preparation, rather like its equivalent in the recapitulation, where I similarly cannot support Beethoven moving to C major and must support him moving to V of F minor instead. I'll note that this 1st movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 1 is in fairly conservative sonata-allegro form, including sticking to home key-relative major in the exposition and home key-home key in the recapitulation.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 14:35
  • @Dekkadeci That's true. Since OP already recognized the arrival on V, I felt it simplified the analytical language to treat it as though we were moving toward the "key of V", which, locally, we are.
    – Aaron
    Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 16:27

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