Movement 3: Allegro vivace
Form: Scherzo with a trio (A-B-A)
As time passes, Beethoven often replaced the Menuet with a Scherzo as the third movement in a four movement work. A menuet would certainly be out of place in this work, as it implies music of the noble classes and its mannered environments, rather than the folksy and natural character of the sonata.
This Scherzo is witty and fast, which is logical since it is surrounded by no movement of a faster tempo. It is also very short.
Beethoven starts out by playing repeated F sharps in different octaves… Oh wait. Repeated? Here we go again. The piece starts with repeated notes in the bass, in the second movement there are those repeated notes in the melody, and here we have the main motive with four repeated notes.
There is another thing I would like you to pay attention to in this beginning. Beethoven writes four notes in different registers. I think he wants to create on of his favorite effects: a kind of “echoing” or something being repeated from different spots in the orchestra. It creates a sort of humorous, light atmosphere. Let’s hear an example from the “Eroica” symphony. The second theme is a motive being repeated from different woodwinds, and then in the strings. He does that a few times before he lets the whole orchestra come in (which in itself is a great effect). First the oboe, then clarinet, then flute and finally violins play this little three-note motive:
Notice also the relaxed and, well almost I could say,”pastoral” character this gives.
One little musical joke is to be found here (amazing how much we can find in four repeated f sharps, isn’t it?). Going back to the second movement, it starts with two notes, slurred, an interval going upward:
It is clearly a slur that indicates a phrasing, slightly emphasizing the first note (more on this in the instruction video). The motive actually comes back at the very end, but in a whole different context and played faster:
Now, when the next movement starts, which is obviously the Scherzo, Beethoven takes that motive and slur… and turns it upside down:
All of a sudden we have gone from the deep, heavy feeling this gave us in the second movement, to a light, humorous feeling. With basically the same motive. Beethoven the wizard!
Here are the three different parts, beginning of the Andante, end of the same, and the great difference in character when the Scherzo starts:
This is also part of something that Beethoven developed more and more as time went on: the different movements in a work were less and less independent of each other, but very much working together in creating one whole piece. They support each other, and interact with each other.
The rest of the Scherzo flies by in a quick tempo, in the score this movement covers just about a page. The slur we talked about is played around with, as is the “echo” effect. As for the Trio, it is very short, and I will just play it here for you, it flies by quickly (and with a rather tricky left hand). I will get back to this passage at the end of the last post, on the Finale.