I have listened to the scherzo of Beethoven's Piano Sonata op. 2 no. 3 and it is very fugal in nature. It even has a fugal exposition(though it is dominant, dominant, dominant, dominant of dominant, in terms of the key in which each voice appears, which Bach would never do), which I think is unusual, especially for an early Beethoven piece. Now I'm not saying fugal passages aren't common in Beethoven's pieces because they are. But they usually don't have a true exposition and are thus more like a canon in that sense than a fugue(except that a canon wouldn't have countersubjects, just the same melody delayed and maybe also transposed). This scherzo actually has a true exposition.

Albeit, the trio is very much arpeggios over a bass line which is not fugal at all. But the Scherzo part of the Scherzo and Trio movement is fugal in nature.

Could this Scherzo actually be considered a fugue since it has not only imitation and countersubjects(well at least 1 after the first repeat), but a full exposition(albeit it breaks some Baroque 4 part counterpoint rules, but Beethoven was an innovative composer who broke the rules because they deserved to be broken)?

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    This movement follows the harmonic conventions of a fugue exposition, but not the voice structure. Since imitation between independent voices is the defining feature of a fugue, this is definitely not one. Mar 17, 2019 at 11:20

2 Answers 2


This is not a fugue, nor a fugato section within a larger work. I get the comparison with a fugal exposition but I think this is being too loose. Too many expectations of a fugal exposition aren't present. The music doesn't preserve the polyphonic texture, indeed as much of the scherzo's texture is homophonic. This is just free imitation.

The last movements of Op 101 and Op 106 are examples of genuine fugal writing in Beethoven's sonatas.


Polyphony is one of the key parts of a fugue. It is a main part of any Bach work you take.

This would fall under a very loose definition.

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