What is “Subito Piano” in Beethoven?

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If you’ve played Beethoven you might be familiar with this term. It permeates throughout his music and it’s a very important but sometimes misunderstood term. Many people might overlook its importance but we are going to discuss this today and I will offer some insights to help you achieve a true subito piano to great effect!

Subito Piano means “suddenly soft”: Subato means “suddenly” and piano means “soft”. This is a big trademark of Beethoven’s writing. A lot of times you will see a crescendo going to piano (which might seem counterintuitive) but Beethoven employs this method in a lot of his music. He builds up the music with a crescendo only to suddenly bring it down. If employed properly the effect is wonderful!

A lot of people have the tendency to avoid this notation and simply smooth out the dynamics. This is certainly not playing it as intended and if you listen to any number of examples in which subito piano is performed properly, you will see how powerful and immersive it can be. For the example, in the video above I use the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

You can really appreciate this by hearing the example provided in the accompanying video posted above.

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729