op.2 no.1 The End

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

Why not?

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…

9 thoughts on “op.2 no.1 The End

  1. This is very good! And, I appreciate what you say just as much as any freemasonry connections. It really doesn’t matter, imo, as long as there is some real connection we can make to Beethoven – and you aptly make them all the time. I enjoy reading what you discover. My practice time is somewhat more limited – so i read what you say very carefully and several times. Hopefully, my computer will get working and i can hear the excerpts, too. Completely understand what you say about some days being ‘against’ you – and how Beethoven’s music sooths the soul since it expresses all those thoughts/feelings and yet always seems to end with triumph. My triumph is typically in prayer on those days to accept whatever it is that i’m dealing with – and as soon as i accept it (weaknesses and all) then something works out better than before. It’s almost as if G-d and the universe teach us daily what is really important. It isn’t money. It isn’t things. It’s people. Beethoven expressed this as the brotherhood of man – and that the aristocracy could go and powder their own * wigs. that wasn’t swearing by the way – it was just a ‘bleep.’ Bleepity bleeps never solve anything anyways. You say it and the word hasn’t done a thing. May as well just say ‘yay or nay.’ Beethoven seemed to have a handle on his anger, too. He would put it into music but not take it out on others – excepting slightly and often at odd and funny moments.

  2. I could follow better with the sound – so I plan to go back and listen whenever my son or hubby gets a chance to help me figure out how to get it to sound again. Might get it working today.

    Dissecting the sonatas is helpful to me because it helps me see the inner workings of Beethoven’s mind in composition. He is seemingly so organized until you end up way out in space and have to wonder ‘how did i get there? it was all moving in the circle of fifths or by thirds i thought.’

    The Waldstein seems to have this ‘secret code’ too. All along, I thought it had something to do with Count Waldstein and Napoleon since Beethoven was in favor of his rulership until he declared himself emperor. It was a surprise to learn recently of the very close relationship of some composers at the time and Joseph II.

    One of those emperors pitted Haydn and Beethoven together and asked them both to compose six or seven sonatas – and Beethoven came up with all and Haydn (since he was then an older man) only was able to come out with two. The emperors always had a bit of ‘gladiator sport’ in them – whereas i don’t really think Haydn worried if he was better or worse at composing than Beethoven.

    I think Haydn was happy that Beethoven was taking the reigns and that he so securely understood what Haydn had taught him and moved on to his own thoughts and compositions. Where Beethoven learned counterpoint so well? Probably studied fux and gradus ad parnassum and all that jazz. He was quite a busy young man and learned so much so fast.

  3. Guess that in Vienna he did have a counterpoint teacher. It would be interesting what the methods were at that time. He seems to have mastered the art of the fugue very early, though, if he was only a teenager and had a bit of fugue going on in the Joseph II Cantata.

    Wonder if Beethovenhaus site would have this cantata? I’d like to print and compare it with the Waldstein. Unfortunately, my printer is broke also.

  4. The Beethovenhaus site says ‘there are no documents for this work in the digital archives’ – but you can listen to the Kantate here:


    If you want. Dissecting a work can only go so far, as others have said – but I happen to enjoy doing a bit of cut and paste and comparing one work with another. The comparisons of this Cantata and the Waldstein I am postulating is enormous. Now, the proof of the pudding will come if they have anything in common at all.

  5. I found out an interesting fact to support my theory that the minuets were a cover up insult to the aristocracy – while at the same time Beethoven here seems sincere enough while composing the Cantata for the death of Joseph II. Empress Maria-Therese apparently would not allow the ‘craftsmen’ of the day to get together and become more ‘enlightened.’ Of course, one could consider this an either/or – and i’m thinking she didn’t like the revolutionary aspects and couldn’t care less about the religious implications. But, i could be wrong.

    Here’s what I learned from a book entitled ‘Beethoven’ – by William Kinderman:

    ‘It is essential to address one more aspect of Neefe’s contributions to Bonn cultural life; his role in the Order of the Illuminati, and later in the Literary Society (Lesegesellschaft), organizations closely tied to the enlightenment and not without links to freemasonry. The freemasons lodge founded at Bonn in 1776 soon disappeared in response to Maria Theresa’s suppression of the order, but its role was largely filled during the 1780’s by the two aforementioned societies. The Bonn chapter of the Order of the Illuminati, founded in 1781, included among its members many who stood close to Beethoven, including a horn player (later a publisher) Nicolaus Simrock, and Franz Ries, father of Beethoven’s student and friend Ferdinand Ries. Neefe was one of the leaders of the group. In 1784-85 the Order of the Illuminati was supressed at its headquarters in Ingolstadt, Bavaria; the Bonn circle continued their activities in the following years in the Lesegesellschaft. Although there is no evidence that Beethoven belonged to the Lesegesellschaft, many of the key players surrounding him during his last years at Bonn were members, including not only Neefe and Ries but also Count Waldstein. One reflection of its importance for Beethoven is the fact that it commissioned the Joseph Cantata.’

    Now, the connection here seems to be that Waldstein wanted to continue the order of the Emperors while at the same time be enlightened. I could be wrong. However, Beethoven openly supported Napoleon up until the time that he declared himself emperor. The Order of the Illuminati exists down to our time and has been the backbone of who is in power in any world government – and from internet sites – who is elite also in the banking industry as well as government.

    We know that George Washington was a freemason – and it may have meant the same to him as Beethoven – merely a chance to get together and discuss enlightened subjects but not to leave G-d out entirely. Beethoven was sure there was a G-d – it was just that he was mad at him for the problem of his deafness (*my suppositions). Beethoven expressed many of his personal feelings about many things in his songs for voice – and one was ‘I can’t hear, Doctor, I can’t hear.’ He knew that no physical doctor could heal his hearing like G-d could and he was the Doctor’ in the song, imo. Why the deafness? Nobody truly knows or understands the complexities of life and the challenges it brings. Kind of like Lance Armstrong breaking his collarbone after winning many world records and beating cancer. It’s just another challenge to be overcome.

  6. Can anyone translate the words to the Cantata? Just wondering. My daughter is taking German III this year. Maybe I should ask her. I don’t want to take one word or phrase at a time and put it through the internet translator ‘Babblefish.’

  7. I like that letter, Per! What a wonderful gift a composer can offer in a letter, just like that – a little piece of music, just for fun … If I got such a letter from a composer, I would die with pride. (Well, almost.)
    I love these little music excerpts you offer. Actually the “bad” recording offers a better sense of authenticity, like we are back in the days of Mr B himself … I know the piano is a bit different but still.
    I also think I have got a much better understanding of him by now. A person who is able to put so much emotion, jokes, moods etc in his music, certainly has to LOVE what he is doing. Which means he probably was not an unhappy person at all, because he did something he loved to do. There is so much youthful enthusiasm in this! So, I have no idea whether he had some hidden messages in his composing (sorry Susan, but I prefer not to think like that) but I can still follow the different moods. It’s like following the thoughts of a personality, without having the background facts, or any words or images. I think that is quite fascinating.

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