Free Online Course on Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

In collaboration with Coursera, the online learning company, and starting September 3, The Curtis Institute will be offering at no charge the course Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, taught by Curtis Institute's Neubauer Family Foundation Chair in Piano Studies Jonathan Biss.

The course will last five weeks, with an anticipated workload of 1–2 hours a week. Jonathan Biss studied at Indiana University and at the Curtis Institute of Music, and he has embarked upon a multi-year project to record all Beethoven's piano sonatas.

Biss states: "This course takes an inside-out look at the 32 piano sonatas from the point of view of a performer. Each lecture will focus on one sonata and an aspect of Beethoven's music exemplified by it . . . Its main aim is to explore and demystify the work of the performer, even while embracing the eternal mystery of Beethoven's music itself."

There are no prerequisites or assigned textbooks. For those who wish to dig deeper, Biss recommends the recorded performances of Arthur Schnabel and Richard Goode (footnote 1); biographies of Beethoven by Thayer and Lockwood; Beethoven's letters; and Charles Rosen's musicological analyses.

Students who successfully complete the online course will receive a Statement of Accomplishment. Registration information can be found at

Footnote 1: In related news, remastered versions of Canadian pianist Robert Silverman's complete set of Beethoven sonatas, which Stereophile editor John Atkinson recorded in 2000 and are long out of print, are available for download at 99 cents per track. File formats available are MP3, MP3-320, and FLAC.

volvic's picture

What a great thing to study and learn more of, I have Wilhelm Kempff's mono and stereo versions and love them, as well as Daniel Barenboim's complete set from the 80's with DG.  Of course the Gilels are fantastic as well, but incomplete due to his untimely death.  If I were unemployed I would so register for this terrific course, thanks for sharing.  

John Marks's picture

Admittedly, I do not know what your personal circumstances are, but, if you re-read my news article about the course, you will see that the course is (1) FREE, and (2) that the anticipated work load is 1-2 hours a week. Coursera uploads the lectures, and you have (usually) a one-week window to watch them at your leisure. If you don't care whether you get a Statement of Accomplishment, you can just ignore the pop quizzes after the lectures. Based on my previous experience, Coursera will not cut off your access to the lectures if you do not keep current in the quizzes.

If you read a newspaper or online news source, or listen to talk radio or NPR (which is the eternal drone in some peoples' lives, it seems), all you have to do is substitute 20 minutes a day of listening to the Beethoven Piano Sonatas lectures for 20 minutes of alleged news.

There will be wars, and rumors of war. But there will also be piano sonatas.

You get to choose!


John Marks

volvic's picture

50 hour work weeks minimum, and a new born are taxing, but you know what,  I think I will do it.  Thans for the push.  Cheers 

John Marks's picture

They cross a bridge, and the sign indicates they are crossing over the "Crimea River."



volvic's picture

LOL!!! Love it!


Done! Registered, classes begin Sept 3.  

jimtavegia's picture

I am really looking forward to this class.  I really enjoyed the Berklee School of Music class, but this one should give me a deeper appreciation of Beethoven's work.  

It will also come in handy that I bought years ago the 32 Sonata Beethoven Set from JA and Robert Silverman. It will come in handy now. 

I know that was contract law, but I can almost see a Professor Kingsfield entering the room.  "Mr. Hart, ......

jimtavegia's picture

Beethoven Sonatas in order of writing, earliest to last:
9, 2, 3, 1, 20, 4, 5, 6, 7, 19, 8, 10, 11  (13 in first group)  
12 - 32 , except 19 & 20 which are in the first group chronologically. 

Sonata No. Opus number(s) Written date     Pub. Date
1                      2/1                       1795             1796
2                      2/2                       1794/95        1796
3                      2/3                       1794/95        1796
4                      7                          1796/97        1797 Grand Sonata
5                     10/1                      1796/98        1798
6                     10/2                      1796/98        1798
7                     10/3                      1797/98        1798
8                     13                         1798             1799
9                     14/1                     1778/79         1799 *
10                  14/2                      1798              1799
11                  22                         1799/1800     1802
12                  26                         1800/01         1802
13                  27/1                      1800/01         1802
14                  27/2                      1801              1802
15                  28                         1801              1802
16 G Maj       31/1                     1801/02          1804
17 D Minor    31/2                    1802               1804
18                   31/3                    1802               1804
19                   49/1                    1797               1805
20                   49/2                    1795               1805
21                   53                       1803/04          1805
22                   54                       1804               1806
23                   57                       1804/05          1807
24                   78                       1809               1810
25                   79                       1809               1810
26                   81a                     1809/10          1811
27                   90                       1814               1815
28                   101                     1816               1817
29                   106                     1816/17          1819
30                   109                     1820               1821 
31                   110                     1821               1821
32                   111                     1821/22          1823

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