How should I consider this part ?

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Is there something different that we should hear, or that should appear when I play apart from the regular scale ?

Why aren't the notes organized regularly 4-4-4 or 8-8 ?

2 Answers 2


The notes would be grouped 8 - 8, except that the notation in the first bar shows (by the stem directions and the rests) that the left hand plays the first 7 notes (written with stems down) and the right hand the remainder (with stems up).

Beethoven wrote this concerto to perform himself, so the notation that shows how the notes are split between the hands is probably by Beethoven himself, not a later editorial addition.

Notation conventions say that you shouldn't write dotted rests, so it makes sense to beam the first 7 notes in groups that match up with the three rests.

In the second bar, the beaming of 4 - 5 is easier to read than a single beam over 9 notes.

This has nothing to do with "Mixolydian mode". It's just a scale that happens to start on G in the key of Ab major, over an Eb7 chord. The scale doesn't start on Eb for the rather prosaic reason that when Beethoven wrote it, the lowest note on his piano was F - the compass had not yet increased beyond 5 octaves F to F.

The beaming in the third bar may be following a notation convention that was common in Haydn and Mozart, where the length of the beams tended to correspond to what would now be marked by short slurs. If Beethoven was following that convention, beaming the triplets in 4 groups of 3 would have implied something different from 2 groups of 6.

Contemporary evidence suggests that Beethoven was somewhat "mathematically challenged", so perhaps one shouldn't read too much into the notation of triplets rather than sextuplets!

  • Would it be fine then if my right hand take over at the first Eb in the second bar, conventionally ? Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 7:56
  • In that second bar, it has to be beamed 4 and 5, as the 5 make a quintruplet, so couldn't be joined with the 4. I like the last bit, but the'd only get played in one way regardless.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 8:12

Guessing the time sig. is 4/8, it is written regularly. the 1st bar shown has two lots of four semidemis (7+rest) probably played with l.h., then eight beamed together, played r.h. No problems there.

Next bar is 8 semidemis beamed together, then four, but the last 5 are played in the time of 4, so no other way to write it.

Bar 3 - they're all triplets, admittedly not written perfectly clearly, but you'll play 6 in the time of 4, and again to finish the bar off.So, the notes are structured in 8+8. They couldn't be in just 4+4+4 without another +4.

The scale seems to be an Eb Mixolydian mode run.Regular Eb scale, but with a flattened 7.

Hope that all clears up the confusion!

  • Not really Mixolydian - the cue notes at the beginning suggest that the scale is a prolongation of an E♭7, i.e., V7 of IV. In fact, the subsequent solo passage is a prolongation of this, ending with a statement of IV in root position. The time signature is 2/4, which your explanation fits well.
    – user16935
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 18:31
  • @Patrx2 - Isn't Eb Mixolydian made up with the exact same notes as Eb7? Yes, of course, the dominant of Ab (IV) using notes from Eb, with the flattened 7. All leading up, as Ludwig often did, to the IV. Same thing, in reality.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 18:50
  • Not really - the cue notes show only a small part of the orchestral accompaniment, which sets the scale with a held dominant seventh on E♭ (with the seventh D♭ held by the violas, 'cellos and contrabasses). The dominant seventh sonority isn't stable enough in Beethoven's language to act as a tonic, not even as a modal final - the implication is fairly clearly A♭ major.
    – user16935
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 21:20
  • The thing to remember sometimes is that mode != scale - a mode is articulated by a lot more than just a scale.
    – user16935
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 21:27
  • @Patrx2 - fair enough, but I only had that snippet to go on, and if those notes only are played, it's not a scale, but I felt it would be recognised as the notes from Eb Mixolydian. Of course it's in Ab; that's where it's all going, but doesn't Eb Mixolydian use the Ab notes? Is that wrong?
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 7:19

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