BEETHOVEN'S PIANO SONATAS
SONATA N0. 10, OP. 14/2
ON ITS MUSICAL CONTENT




What opinions will we encounter with respect to the second sonata of this work group?  In our look at this topic, we follow again our 'usual' pattern, which offers you comments in the following sequence:


 MUSICOLOGISTS AND BEETHOVEN RESEARCHERS

ACTIVE MUSIC CRITICS

ACTIVE, PERFORMING ARTISTS


Each category can be reached directly by clicking at the above links.  In this way, you can delve into the musical content of this work according to your own choice! 


MUSICOLOGISTS AND BEETHOVEN RESEARCHERS


While, in his look at the musical content of Beethoven's 9th Piano Sonata,  William Kinderman traced Mozart's influences on it, here, he is 'in pursuit of Haydn': 

"Another striking parallel with Haydn is offered by the Andante and variations in C major forming the middle movement of Beethoven's G major Piano Sonata op. 14 no. 2, a work completed shortly before the quartets, in 1799.  The artless simplicity of Beethoven's Andante tune is underscored by repetitions of its openin phrase, one eminent critic was even provoked into describing the movement as 'stupid'.  Yet the expressive heart of the piece lies in the tension between the apparant naivete of the theme and its reinterpretation through the addition of syncopations and dissonances in Beethoven's variations.  This tension is sustained until the very end of the coda, with Beethoven's humorous intent confirmed once and for all in the surprising fortissimo outburst of the final chord.  In these variations, Beethoven enlarges on the famous musical joke contained in another Andante movement in C--the slow movement of Haydn's 'Surprise' Symphony (no. 94).  Instead of placing the shocking chord in immediate juxtaposition to a soft and harmless theme, as Haydn did, Beethoven reserves the disruptive gesture until the close, challenging the sober listener to question the seriousness of the entire msuical discourse, while also forging a transition to the finale--a playfully humorous rondo bearing the unusual designation 'scherzo'" (Kinderman: 55).

Also Barry Cooper refers to Beethoven's sense of humor:

"The second sonata is unusual in having a finale headed 'Scherzo'.  It is not a scherzo and trio, for it is in sonata-rondo-form, but it is full of Beethovenian wit and humour, with a main theme that is rhythmically extremely disorientating (Ex. 6.3)" (Cooper:  86).

 

ACTIVE MUSIC CRITICS

Joachim Kaiser looks at this sonata from two aspects: from that of its sense of humor and from that of its "chatty" character, the best interpretation of which he discusses: 

"Sonate in Beethovenschem Parlando.  Beredt improvisatorisch im ersten, witzig-verhuscht im leichgewichtigen letzten Satz, einem >>Scherzo<< in Rondoform.  Das Variationsandante baut auf den schlichten, unergründlichen Zauber reinen Wohlklangs.  Keine weitreichenden Interpretationsprobleme sind hier zu lösen, sondern auf den Klang, den spezifischen Konversationstonfall und reaktionsschnelle Improvisationsfreiheit kommt es an"

"Für die Interpretation der Sonate Opus 14 Nr. erbrachte Beethovens Hinweis, die Sonaten Opus 14 hätten >>einen Dialog zwischen Mann und Frau oder Liebhaber und Geliebter<< zum Inhalt, wenig.  Aber es scheint möglich, den Begriff >>Dialog<< zur Erklärund des Parlando-Charakters der Sonate Upus 14 Nr. 2 heranzuziehen.  Das >>Parlando<<, die rasche Beredsamkeit des Kopfsatzes und des Finales, findet auf der Ebene geistreicher Konversation statt.  (Die nichts zu tun hat mit jener völlig andersgearteten Musik-Sprach-Ähnlichkeit, jener sprechenden, rexitativischen Dringlichkeit in Opus 2 Nr. 1, Opus 31 Nr. oder Opus 100.)  Die Wendungen reagieren hier, im ersten und auch im letzten Satz von Opus 14 Nr. 2, gleichsam punktuell aufeinander, sie gehorschen weniger dem Gesetz übergeordneter musikalischer Form als der inneren Logik reaktionsschneller Improvisation.  Zur Intimität, zur elegischen Emfpindamkeit, zum etwas derben Finale-Humor von Opus 14 Nr. 1 bietet diese Sonate das Gegenstück:  einen eleganten Kontrast.  Sie hat mit der E-Dur-Emfpindsamkeit weniger zu tun als mit dem Charakter zweiter anderer Beethovenscher G-Dur-Werke:  nämlich mit dem bezeichnenderweise >>Komplimentier<<-Quartett genannten G-Dur-Streichquartett Opus 18 Nr. 2und mit der G-Dur-Sonate Opus 31 Nr. 1.  Gäbe es einen Ort, der den Begriff des >>Kammer<<-Musikalischen, des >>Galanten<<, des >>Gesellschaftlichen<< und >>Früh-Salonhaften<< umschließt, dann wäre diese zart und übermütig parlierende G-Dur-Sonate in ihm zu Hause.

Galant, Parlando, Salon, Tonfall:  diese Umschreibungen müßten mit dem Ausdruck aufrichtigen Bedauerns zurückgenommen werden, wenn der Leser aus ihnen etwas Ungalantes, etwas Diskriminierendes herausläse.  Zugegeben, natürlich:  mit den tiefsinnigsten Augenblicken großer Kunst (mit dem >>et incarnatus est<< aus Bachs b-Moll-Messe oder dem Adagio aus Beethovens Hammerklaviersonate) brächte man Worte wie >>galant<< oder >>beredt<< gewiß nicht in Berbindung.  Doch wo sie am Platz sind, braucht es trotzdem noch lange nicht platt oder unernst zuzugehen.  Auch im Salon können sich Tragödien (melancholische, kokette) ereignen.

Zwischen dem Sprechcharacter mancher Beethovenscher Komposition und dem Parlando-Charakter des Kofpsatzes von Opus 14 Nr. 2 besteht, we erwähnt, ein grundsätzlicher Unterschied:  Die gewaltigen Gesten, die sprechenden rezitativischen Pausen jener anderen zur begriffslosen Sprachähnlichkeit vordringenden Musik zielen auf ein Äußerstes.  Die Selbstgenügsamkeit rein musikologischer Ausdrucksweise scheint da momentweise überwunden, zerstört, verstört.

Von >>Verstörung<< kann im ersten Satz der G-Dur-Sonate Opus 14 Nr. 2 nicht die Rede sein.  . . . " (Kaiser: 154-155; --

-- Kaiser describes this as a sonata in "Beethoven parlando", thus in Beethoven's "conversational tone" and refers to the first movement as being improvisatory and to the last movement as witty, fleeting and light-weight, and as a Scherzo in Rondo form, while the "middle" movement, a "variation andante" in his view, is built on the simple magic of pure sonority.  He further states that no far-reaching interpretative problems are to be solved here; rather, the "point" of this sonata is its sonority, its conversational tone and its quickly reacting free interpretative style.

Kaiser then points out that, with respect to the interpretation of this sonata, Beethoven's indication that the sonatas, Op. 14, had >>a dialogue between man and woman or between two lovers<< as their  content,  is not entirely helpful.  Yet, admits Kaiser, it appears possible that one could use the term >>dialogue<< for the explanation of the parlando (talkative) character of Op. 14, no. 2, and the the "parlando", the quick, talkative style of the first and last movements, takes place at the level of witty conversation, which has nothing to do, continues Kaiser, with the completely different musical language "recitative" language affinity of Op. 2, No. 1, Op. 31 or Op. 100).  Here, writes Kaiser, in the first and also in the last movement of Op. 14, no. 2, the turns react to each other in point form and obey less a law of super-structural musical form than the inner logic of quickly reacting improvisation.  It forms, continues Kaiser, the opposite to the intimacy and sensitivity and to the somewhat rough finale humor of Op. 14, no. 2, an elegant contrast, indeed.  It has less to do, so Kaiser, with the E-Major sensitivity than with the character of two other Beethoven G-Major works, namely with the G-Major String Quartet Op. 18, no. 2 and the G-Major Sonata, Op. 31, No. 1.  If there were, writes Kaiser, a place that would embrace the term of the >>chamber<< musical, of the >>galant<<, of >>social setting<< and of the >>early salon<< style, then this tender and exuberant, talkative G-Major sonata would be at home in it.  

Galant, parlando, salon, tone:  these descriptions, continues Kaiser, would have to be accepted with the expression of sincere regret if the reader would discern in them something un-galant, something discriminating, yet, Kaiser admits that one would certainly use these descriptions in connection with the most profound moments of great art (with the >>et incarnatus est<< from Bach's B Minor Mass or with the Adagio from Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata, but where they are in their right place, the result does still not have to be flat or un-serious, even in the salon, tragedies (melancholy ones and coquettish ones) can occur.

Between the speech character of some of Beethoven's compositions and the parlando character of the first movement of Op. 14 no. 2, writes Kaiser, there exists, as already pointed out, a basic difference:  the grand gestures, the recitative pauses of the "other" kind that strive for near-intangible closeness to speech, are targeted at the outer limits, in which the self-sufficiency of musicological terminology seems to be overcome at times, destroyed, disturbed.  Yet, in the first movement of this G-Major sonata, one can not detect any hint of >>disturbance<<).


ACTIVE, PERFORMING ARTISTS

Anton Kuerti, too, finds Beethoven's sense of humor in this sonata, but also other qualities:   

Allegro

First, he finds that this sonata is full of wit and humor, but also of glowing warmth, particularly in the first movement.  Beethoven's sense of humor finds mostly expression in the rhythm and begins with the introductory theme, continues Kaiser, and if the pianist does not venture into unusual and unnatural, strenuous exercises in order to show us where the >>best<< >>falls<< here, it will, incorrectly, appear to us that the accent lies on the second and sixth note of the first motif, and it is obviously intended that the listener be misled, and that up to the beginning of the fifth measure, where a gentle push will tear him out of his illusion.    

The development, writes Kuerti, is then somewhat more serious and, for the first time, moves into the tonic minor. . . . As Kuerti states, it then ascends to the remote key of A-flat-Major, which sounds as if a music teacher is scolding his pupil somewhat loudly for his prank, since in the bass, the theme is thundered out so angrily that one has to be "clear" about the "correct" rhythm.  Just after this serious lesson is over, continues Kuerti, the pupil begins anew to sing the melody wrong, and after renewed warnings, the teacher recognizes that it is of no use to argue with his pupil, and he changes the rhythm, himself.  (Kuerti: 27).

Andante

Kuerti describes the second movement as a sequence of simple variations, very simple, but not without charm.  Between the second and the last variation, writes Kuerti, Beethoven adds for extra measures, so that the last variation sounds coda-like.  (Kuerti: 27).

Scherzo:  Allegro assai

In the bubbly finale that is described as a scherzo although it is a short rondo, according to Kuerti, we again encounter rhythmic jokes that entertain us through Beethoven's tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, but his serene tenderness also keeps us spellbound until the last note. (Kuerti: 27 - 28).

 

Here, we can offer you a link to a midi listening sample of this work:

Kunst der Fuge: Beethoven-Sonatas


We wish you a great deal of listening enjoyment!

For those of you who want to explore this topic further in a serious manner, we can offer you a link to the Beethoven Bibliography Data Base of the Ira Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies in San Jose, California:


Opus 14/2 - Search