Op. 2 No. 1 Part four

The second movement is in F-Major, which is a key that Beethoven uses often for serene, pastoral melodies. One of my favorite moments in Beethoven’s symphonies is the fifth movement, called “Shepherd’s song – feelings of joy and gratitude after the storm”:

Have to tell that the strings here are Cleveland Orchestra during the golden years with George Szell…I listened to a few other orchestras and not even Karajan and Berlin is even close to this superb string sound.

So here is the beginning of the second movement of our sonata: although not as utopian in character as the theme from the Pastoral Symphony, it has warmth and is very, very beautiful:

Many people would say it’s a violin “disguised” into a piano, but I rather see it as coming from the human voice, pretty much owing its heritage to a baroque aria, like this one by Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach:

If you liked that music you’re not alone. Beethoven adored the music of C.P.E. Bach.

This would be an example of the so- called sensitive style (empfindsamer stil). Two major styles were dominant in Europe at this time: the sensitive style and the galant style; both of them a reaction to what was thought as an un-natural, affected style. It mirrors the time in Europe, which was heavily leaning towards being less artificial and in many ways less intellectual.


For example, if you see pictures of Mozart and Haydn, all but one of Mozart (below) has them wearing a wig.

Beethoven would never wear one, these were times when “au naturale” was the thing, and it highly influenced the arts as well.


As a contrast, and with no warning whatsoever (which was also a trademark of C.P.E. Bach) Beethoven starts a highly anguished part, like someone feeling good until he realized his wallet is lost…or feel free to add your own metaphor:

So, is this the second theme? Perhaps, but: his theme never comes back. It is simply not possible to have that again in the recap, so…the theme that is the follow-up is the one coming back in the recap, here it is the first time:

It is filled with what we call the Mannheim sigh, which was a heavy first note in a pair of two, the first being higher: it sounds like a sigh, kind of, here is the same aria by C.P.E. Bach, and they are all over the place:

Now, go back to the Beethoven-sighs and you will find them in both hands, pretty much everywhere, too:

Beethoven has them sounding quite desperate, but…when it comes back in the recap, the same place will sound more subdued.


The main parts here has had one theme starting going up:

…and one going down:

And they balance and complement each other in a way that is amazing and this is something you will see again and again in Beethoven’s music : to create a conflict which ends up in a wonderful balance.

Some sidenotes on this movement:

1) Carl Philip Emmanuel\’s music is pretty good stuff…

2) In the “wallet lost”-theme, the left hand has this accompaniment where it leaves out the first beat, just as in the first theme of the first movement.

To Christina‘s comment, I tried to put a comment with some links but that didn’t work, so I put it here:

Oh but yes, the human voice can trill, well, not me, but good singers can!

Not that far ago before Beethoven wrote this (and if I remember things right, he actually thought so himself) the voice was considered the purest way to perform a melody (that’s why there is a lot of acapella in church music). Then instruments got better, first the violin and later the piano.

Let me show you a little example of how a tune goes from voice via violin to piano:



Ond my goodness, are those three great musicians…Gilels is perhaps my piano idol, if I have one. He had red hair, too!

7 thoughts on “Op. 2 No. 1 Part four

  1. Oh dear, Mannheim sighs … Then I know a whole song consisting of them, and also of “reversed” sighs: “Lament” by Ola Salo (from Lema Sabachtani). Have you heard it, Per?

    I think I understand why the piano is called a disguised violin in your second example. It is probably because of all the trills, or what do you think? A violin can do them; a human voice cannot (or should avoid it … 😛 ) So I don’t quite follow your idea of human voice there. On the other hand, the theme in Shepherd’s song has what you today would call a great hit potential. Many modern songwriters would kill for a melody piece like that. I suppose it has been borrowed quite a few times already. Or at least it should have …

    Yes, great music fills you with emotions, and as they are so strong, they always feel a bit mixed.

  2. Enjoyed reading and listening to this. Interesting on the similarity of the CPE Bach aria and this movement. Salieri is said to have helped Beethoven at a later point with vocal intricacies – but Beethoven had it pretty well down at an early age. He also liked to stretch the limits of vocal range and in this Adagio – and in measure 21 we see the high A. But, Beethoven – instinctively gradually moves up so that the singer can adjust and accomodate over time the higher and higher notes. He is very perceptive of what demands he is making on the singers.

    Some say that in Fidelio, he was less perceptive and more instrumental in his conception because some parts/arias are hard to sing. He, himself, suggested that some parts were to be spoken actually in combination with singing. A sort of declaration. Perhaps the difficulties lie not just with the ranges in Fidelio but also the back and forth between speech and singing? Anyways, i haven’t heard the whole opera and am curious what ‘mature’ opera and singing was like vs. the early Beethoven where he is naturally commanding attention but not exceeding terribly the bounds (is he?)

  3. It also seems that we have both voice and violin since at measure 4 there are seven sixteenth notes that lead into the vocal aria again that could be ‘filler’ and played by violin. It shows up again at the end of every vocal phrase. At the end of measure 6 making it seem more and more like a duet between violin and voice as the violin part takes more stature and takes over between 23 and 26 and 29 to the end may be a contrast to the vocal start by ending with an instrumental? Beethoven didn’t like what vocalists sometimes did with his dynamics and preferred to let instrumental do the double pp’s i think.

    It is interesting, also, that the piano figures so highly in all of this – and the highest note could be not even for voice at measure 21 – but a coming in of the keyboard with the ‘octaves’ being noticeable for the first time.

  4. hi! id like to say i greatly enjoyed reading and listoning to this sonata. i am preparing this work (and some others) for a recitcle and i just started the Adagio. reading about the sonata form and then hearing a clip in relation to the reading was very useful to the point that i took notes in my own score. do you have any other suggestions for learning this piece?? this would be my first complete sonata to learn in full. just wanna say thankyou much for your time and knowlege!

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