Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Ludwig van Beethoven

This is the shortest of the three sonatas from the Op. 10 group and generally regarded as the least important. Still, it is hardly without significance and features many masterful strokes. The finale, for example, is one of Beethoven's most attractive creations among his early piano sonatas. The composer himself was quite fond of the work, probably relishing its humor and quirkiness.

The work is cast in three movements: Allegro, Allegretto, and Presto. It was not unusual for Beethoven to exclude a slow movement. The first movement begins with two emphatic chords answered by a triplet figure that contains a mischievous turn, which literally invites the next statement. It comes, though this time the first chord is lower. After this opening banter, another short theme is introduced, and it easily, despite its lyrical nature, joins the playful scene. A second theme group now appears, headed by a happy but brash melody: rising in a hurry, it proceeds to generate other busy ideas. The material is repeated, after which comes the development section, launched unexpectedly by the triplet figure that appeared after the opening pair of chords. Fairly complex, this section is based less on previous materials and more on new ideas. The recapitulation follows, but, surprisingly, in the remote key of D. The movement ends without a coda, its thematic material being exploited colorfully and brilliantly right up to the close. The second movement is actually a scherzo, though Beethoven did not designate it so. It begins with emphatic chords treading upward ominously from the lower ranges. When the higher register is reached, the mood reaches a somewhat higher plateau. The theme is immediately repeated, then appears two octaves higher, lighter in texture but deeper in feeling. A brief trio section is presented: it is both jovial and comforting and contrasts well with the more serious tone of the previous section. The finale may be the most attractive movement of the entire work. It begins with one of those memorable, frantic humorous themes, so typical of Beethoven. The melody seems to build upward with several turns along the way, the left hand beginning, the right hand entering to suggest fugal properties. Playful and roguish, driven by tremendous energy, the musical narrative proceeds with gusto, the main theme generating subsidiary ideas and second thoughts. Toward the end of this process, chords in the bass register suggest an entirely new idea, but the narrative momentum is maintained by a fragment of the initial theme, eventually leading, following a repetition, to a variation of the theme. After an elaborate development section and a reprise, a brief but brilliant coda closes the work.