I'm learning the Tempest sonata, and I don't know how to read measures 72-73:

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In the measure right before the crescendo, that A-C chord with the right hand: is the A sustained while the C is released to hit the B-natural, or are both the A and the C released at the same time, i.e., is that line connecting the A's a tie or a slur?

It looks like a tie to me, but I've consulted many editions, and some write it as a slur, and others as a tie.

  • According to the context, I guess it should be a slur, i.e. you should play the A note twice, to follow the pattern of the bars around. However if I were the editor, I would have the slur/tie curve removed to avoid misconception.
    – hillin
    Nov 10, 2017 at 5:11
  • What do you mean by "some write it as a slur"? Aren't two-note slurs indistinguishable from ties? Nov 10, 2017 at 7:47
  • @Kilian Forth, at least on Musescore, the tie tends to hug the notes more closely than the slur.
    – Dekkadeci
    Nov 11, 2017 at 1:12

3 Answers 3


Your best guide would actually be to listen to recordings & read the writings of acknowledged Beethoven specialists. That said, analysing the lines in the right hand provides some insight.

If we remove the octave transpositions & the rests we have this progression in the 4 bars you provided: reduction of the OP right hand So you can see from what's happening in the counterpoint, both the A in 2nd & 3rd bars and the B♮ in the 3rd & 4th bars should be tied: the A being a suspended 7th on the prevailing B-dim harmony, delaying the onset of E-maj to the 4th bar. So re-striking the notes in both instances would undermine the harmony & counterpoint in the passage.


I listened to a few recordings & concentrated on the passage in question.

  • Schnabel: doesn't re-strike the A & B♮ (tie)
  • Brendel: doesn't re-strike the A & B♮ (tie)
  • Barenboim: doesn't re-strike the A & B♮ (tie)
  • Pollini: doesn't re-strike the A & B♮ (tie)
  • Grimaud: re-strikes the A & B♮ (slur)

So, in my non-representative sample the majority interpret the A-A & B♮-B♮ joins as ties.

Also, another clue is provided by the editor in the choice of rendering the A against B♮ in the 3rd bar in 2 voices. Some other editions have all of the chords in a single voice through this passage, others are rendered as yours.


The A would be held as a tie through the bar and the C would change to a B natural. If there was a marking like staccato on the second a there would be a break but since there isn't it would just be sustained. I also think the C to B would be a slur, so it would not be released in between.


Judging by the preceding and following two note 'chords' that all change, but with both notes changing, it should sound more uniform to replay the A at the beginning of that bar.

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