Movement 4: Rondo. Allegro, ma non troppo
We have come to the final movement of the Pastoral Sonata, and in many ways the Finale starts as the whole sonata did. We hear the drone bass back in the beginning, now with a swinging motion in the left hand which makes the music even more folksy, and certainly very pleasant. While the melody in the beginning of the first movement is of a noble character, this beginning has a melody which you could be humming while taking a walk:
There is almost a physical element to this tune, and with that I mean that it passes the “wiggle-test”. And with THAT, I mean this: if you sing the melody, to me it makes me move my head from side to side to the rhythm of the music. A little like when you sing a lullaby to a child, see what I mean? It is inviting and worry-free music. Very far from, say, the dramatic agony of the Appassionata.
All in all this is, to me, music that is “gemütlich”, a word that symbolizes something we might learn from: be happy with the simple things in life, and enjoy them with a peaceful mind. On that note, do you know the scene in The Jungle Book when Baloo the bear is singing to Mowgli about “Bare necessities”? (I admit it took me an embarrassing time to get the pun there…)
He is singing about how you should be happy with a simple life, right? Well, this is sort of the mantra of the finale of the Pastoral Sonata. And I laugh every time I see the cat in the tree, worrying too much and grimacing as he listens to Baloo. That’s most of us, folks.
Do you know what this song’s name is in German? Probier’s mal mit Gemütlichkeit which means “Consider trying Gemütlichkeit”. Boom.
We have touched in other posts on earlier sonatas (Op. 10 No. 2, for example) the influence of the Enlightenment and what it could mean to music. Away with the “learned” and complicated, in with the natural. Out with wigs and mannerisms, in with free roaming hair and informality. In a way, this sonata is an example of this. But Beethoven would not be Beethoven if he didn’t make a turn to the unexpected, to make the piece a sort of a contradiction of itself.
The Rondo is in a ordinary A-B-A-C-A-B-A-Coda form. The B-section has the fingers dance over the keyboard in a pleasant way:
When we come to the C-section, however, we hear this:
Now, what was considered the most “learned”, least natural way of writing music? Yes, counterpoint. Bach’s fantastic music was not “in” at this time because of this (his sons’ music was, however). But here, in the middle of this gemütlich movement, Beethoven throws in a section with a fake fugue, where one of the entrances has this immensely powerful moment when the “fugue-theme” is played in the bass, which always makes me think of a church organ ( Beethoven was an organist as a child).
Ready to finish the musings on this wonderful sonata with some more motivic madness?
We will focus on the very first melody of the sonata, which starts with a falling sequence of notes, starting with and A, and step by step falling down:
It actually falls down a full octave, but we want to concentrate on the first five steps, which is a fifth. This falling fifth is one of the building blocks, one of the musical bricks Beethoven is using, and in a very subtle way he uses it in all the movements, almost like a little signature of the peace.
How about the second movement? It does not start with a fifth, that is correct. But, after that first slurred interval upwards, he immediately falls down in a sequence of notes exactly as in the beginning, save for it being in minor instead of major.
The third movement then? It starts with repeated notes, yes. But, then comes the trio. And the trio starts with…a falling fifth, step by step:
And when we come to the Finale, it is simply the same notes as in the beginning again, just with a little “dancing around it” at the end:
Coincidences or real motivic connections? A writing geek trying too hard to find things? I don’t know, but it is fun to share what I found in any case. Happy listening!