I never thought this would happen but it just did. The Beethoven rondo I am referring to is the one in G major, widely known as "Rage over a Lost Penny". There is a 20 measure section starting at measure 291 where Beethoven uses pretty much just chromatic diminished sevenths with 2 measure breaks of the major scale. This is the section where I am emotionally challenged.

When I hear A dim7 going to A# dim7, internally I'm like "I want to stop here, there's just too much tension. Why did Beethoven use chromatic diminished 7ths at forte and accent them?" I mean that A dim7 would rather go to C minor than A# dim7. And yet Beethoven does not give me the expected resolution at all until the final diminished 7th resolves to an Ab major arpeggio. I know Beethoven to use fast diminished 7ths but for 20 measures?

And it is like in the performances, it just sounds like a decoration of G major, not very dissonant at all because it simply goes by too fast to hear it as a dissonance. Like the tempo is comparable to that of CPE Bach's Solfeggio in C minor. But when I practice that section, because I am at more of an Andante tempo right now, it sounds so dissonant, so tense, that it makes me want to stop, especially because the diminished 7ths are chromatic. Same diminished 7th over and over again like in his 5th symphony does not give me the tense to the point of stopping that I get with this rondo.

I know I have to overcome this wanting to stop as soon as I hear chromatic diminished 7ths if I am to ever get good at playing this piece. But I don't know how. I mean there is just so much dissonance with that. Not to mention that there is a part of that section where you have F7 -> AmM7 3rd inversion -> F7 -> Bbm which is very unexpected. I mean with the F7, I expect it to go to Bb major. So going to A minor is surprising but understandable because it is a mediant of the dominant. Going to the parallel minor of the tonic of that short section though, that is very surprising, And that is a chromatic mediant of the tonic of the piece.

The C minor resolution before it seems much more understandable, much more expectant.

But how can I overcome all this internal tension with the chromatic diminished 7ths? I mean I usually see diminished 7ths used as a pivot chord to literally any key, major or minor. So C dim7 -> Bb makes just as much sense as C dim7 -> Cm. What doesn't make sense is 1 diminished 7th leading to another diminished 7th with all the notes a half step up or down from the previous chord.

  • 1
    Can you listen to the 1st movement of Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata without wanting to throw in the towel in a similar manner? I believe it's got similar runs of fast diminished 7ths.
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 7, 2019 at 6:19
  • Yes, I can listen to the Appassionata Sonata without throwing in the towel. That internal tension only really comes in when I am playing the piece and I'm going slow to make sure I get the notes right. Because I go slow, the diminished 7ths last long enough to register as a dissonance and cause internal tension when it moves to another diminished 7th. But when I listen to the piece, those same diminished 7ths go by so fast that they feel more like a decoration of the key than a true dissonance.
    – Caters
    Feb 7, 2019 at 6:41
  • Huh--I find that the Appassionata Sonata arpeggios are so extended that they register as dissonances at full speed. But then, I'm pretty used to listening to dissonances in tonal settings...and I believe the root of your problem lies there.
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 7, 2019 at 12:25
  • Don't get over it. Find Beethoven's descendents and sue them for the Mental Health issues his music has awakened in you! Yes, Beethoven does this sort of thing. If it causes you distress, play something else.
    – Laurence
    Feb 7, 2019 at 17:25

1 Answer 1


Beethoven tends to postpone release of harmonic tension until later in his pieces. Just wait until the whole thing finishes. (Whether playing or listening.) Everything gets resolved eventually (either directly or indirectly). It's a characteristic of Beethoven's compositional style. Not many composers run up the harmonic tension and then are able to achieve resolution. Beethoven generates more expectations than most other composers but his eventual resolution always seems correct after the fact.

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