After the slow movement we get to the menuet, and it’s the first movement that starts with a main movement going down. Even if the first movement’s rocket is in minor and therefore not exactly a happy one, it has a certain energy and drive. Here, the beginning is the first one which has a more “given-up” character.
The middle part, which is called the trio is in a contrasting character.
A little history here…menuet is a dance, named from the latin minutus and menu, meaning small, slim. Probably it was because one used very small steps when dancing it. You can actually see someone showing the steps HERE
Often two menuets were played together, first the first one, then the second one and then the first one again. The second menuet was normally played by a three musicians only, and therefore it was, after a while, called the trio.
Now, all this is somewhat interesting because it’s a movement of music from an era that did not really go too well with Beethoven’s music: the era when musicians, and composers were servants to “great” people such as Emperors, Counts etc. A menuet was originally played to make people dance to it, and not at the center of anyone’s attention.
This changed around the 1780s…bit by bit, composers were being considered “great men” and Mozart became a legend after his death.
Beethoven was quite careful to guide his career in a way that he would avoid being seen as a servant to anyone. Poor Haydn, even after his Symphonies gained him rock star treatment in London, he went home and was ordered by his employer Esterhazy to make sure that the wigs of the musicians in the orchestra were well-powdered, or they would be fired!
After this menuet, Beethoven instead used the term Scherzo. And who was starting to use that term? Haydn. At least as far as I know.
The finale, is turbulent, almost violent, explosive and virtuosic. All you can ever want from a young composer making a statement in the music world.
Its main motive is simple to the extreme: PAM PAM PAM. Repeatedly. That’s it:
But it’s pretty powerful, no?
(Again, sorry for the sound, it’s just a little mic in my practicing studio. But in two weeks I will record for real…)
Now, I’m going to have a little fun, and this is just complete speculation on my part, as Garrick Ohlsson puts it “this would not stand in the court of law”.
Susan suggested something symbolic in the op. 2 no. 2 sonata, with the knocking on the freemason door, which is three times. I actually tried to look that up, but couldn’t find the three knocks. However, I started thinking of those PAMPAMPAM as knocks, but then I went in another direction.
Beethoven wrote funny and very entertaining letters. Sometimes, if he liked someone and felt like giving a little extra greeting, he composed, just on the spot, a little thing where he puts in a text referring to the letter. Here is a letter to count Graf, in which he writes a lot of things like “my dearest count”…it starts with “My dearest, triumphant but also sometimes missing count” and ends with this little song:
Sorry if it’s a bit blurry, but he is just Graf over and over again, and the tune is quite funny.
Now, put something to this?
What did you get? My answer is HERE…
Well, this movement is just a whirlwind:
Then, in such a wonderfully typical fashion, he just stops…
And now comes this wonderful melody. If you listen to the left hand it has the same accompaniment as the beginning of the whole sonata. That is not a coincidence, it’s things like this that “glues” a long piece together. Here it is:
The way he ends it is abrupt, and with a clear movement towards the darker colors of the piano. Again, it’s almost violent. And such a dynamic end to a sonata:
22 sonatas and some 10 years later, Beethoven would write a similar ending to “Appassionata“. Same principle, but it’s very expanded compared to the first sonata:
But, now we are getting ahead of ourselves…