Beethoven's Pedal Markings

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Chi-Fang Cheng


This thesis examines nearly 1000 damper pedal markings in Beethoven's keyboard works, including vocal works. It explores how Beethoven's use of the pedal interacts with aspects of structure, tonality, figuration, dynamics, and text by dividing his pedalling into seven categories: final-chord pedalling, settled pedalling, resettled pedalling, unsettled pedalling, harmonic pedalling, blurred pedalling, and text-related pedalling. The research also considers deviations between different editions, including original sources and Urtext-type editions. These deviations can be divided into the following categories: (1) addition, (2) omission, and (3) misplacement. On certain occasions Beethoven may have changed his mind after finishing the autograph; in other cases, he may have forgotten to put the pedal markings in the autograph and added them later. Copyists or engravers may have miscopied the pedal markings from the autograph. Urtext-type editions are generally reproduced from Beethoven's original sources, but lack thorough proofing in some cases. This thesis also includes brief comparisons between Beethoven's pedal markings and pedalling in pieces written by his contemporaries, such as Dussek, Steibelt, Hummel, Clementi, Wolfl, and Kozeluch, in an attempt to illuminate possible influences on Beethoven's pedalling. In general, Beethoven did not change his pedal technique significantly over time. The exception is in his tendency to continuously hold a single pedal for long durations and his use of the pedal through scale figurations: after receiving a French Erard piano at some point after 1803, and later an English Broadwood piano in 1818, Beethoven stopped holding the pedal for long durations, as in Op. 27/2, and scale figurations with pedal almost disappeared. Beethoven's use of pedal in his keyboard works is largely the same as in the vocal works. However, the pedal in vocal works is used to illustrate the meaning of a certain word or reflect an image in the text, such as a starry scene, billowing waves or the sound of the harp. This thesis aims to develop a better understanding of Beethoven's damper pedal technique. In contrast to the damper pedal, Beethoven mostly uses una corda in longer passages. He utilises tre corde to indicate a new or returning theme or motif. In some 20th-century editions, such as Tovey or Schnabel, the editors insert extra pedal markings to achieve a good performance in relation to musical intuition. However, they do not put the pedal markings in similar places to Beethoven. This study hopes to encourage modern pianists to consider the use of pedal when interpreting Beethoven's early works.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2020