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.
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!