BEETHOVEN'S PIANO SONATAS
SONATA NO. 3, OP. 2/3
ON ITS MUSICAL CONTENT




In our look at the musical content of this sonata we follow the pattern indicated in our introductory comments on music criticism offered here.  This pattern offers you comments in the following sequence:  


 MUSICOLOGISTS AND BEETHOVEN RESEARCHERS

ACTIVE MUSIC CRITICS

ACTIVE, PERFORMING ARTISTS

Each category can be directly accessed by clicking on the above links.  Therefore, if you prefer one kind of comment(s) over another, you can make your own selection.   


MUSICOLOGISTS AND BEETHOVEN RESEARCHERS

Unfortunately, we could not find a suitable comment for this section.  


ACTIVE MUSIC CRITICS

Joachim Kaiser has this to say with respect to it: 

"Erste große Konzert-Sonate Beethovens.  In ungezwungenem Nebeneinander erscheinen kammermusikalische Differentziertheit, klassizistisch helle Schärfe, C-Dur-Glanz und dunkel schweifende Seelenerkundung.  Der langsame Satz, das Trio des Scherzos, aber auch die Kadenz des Kopfsatzes und die phantastisch modulierende Freiheit des zweiten Themas aus dem Finale offenbaren einen neuen Erfindungsreichtum.  Die Lakonik von Opus 2 Nr. 1, die klavieristische Brillanz von Opus 2 Nr. 2 sind hier aufgehoben in leuchtender Rationalität und zarten Finsternissen.  In allen Sätzen, auch im konzertant und keineswegs bruchlos zusammengesetzten ersten, erscheint das Formschema subjektiviert, zu einem musikalisch-psychologischen Ablauf gesteigert"   (Kaiser: 66; --

-- Kaiser describes this sonata as Beethoven's first great 'concert sonata' that displays an unforced next-to-each-other of chamber music-style differentiation, bright, classicistic sharpness, C-Major brilliance and dark, meandering soul-searching.  In the slow movement, the Trio of the Scherzo, but also in the cadenza of the first movement and in the fantastically-modulated freedom of the second theme of the finale, he sees a new inventive spirit at work, where the laconic mood of Op. 2 no.1 and the pianistic brilliance of Op. 2 no. 2 are cancelled out by bright rationality and 'tender' darkness. In all movements, writes Kaiser, also in the concert-like and by no means seamless first one, he sees the pattern of form as being presented in a subjective manner and as being accelerated in the form of a musical-psychological process).

And he continues to elaborate as follows: 

"Die C-Dur-Sonate Opus 2 Nr. 3 ist das bekannteste Werk aus Opus 2; sie gehört überhaupt zu den meistgespielten Klaviersonaten Beethovens.  Sieht man ab von den populären Sonaten, die einen Beinamen haben (Mondscheinsonate, Sturmsonate, Appassionata und so weiter), so kann man sie ohne weiteres der >>elite anonyme<< unter den Beethovenschen Klaviersonaten zurechnen.  Unsere C-Dur-Sonate ist der D-Dur-Sonate Opus 10 Nr. 3 verwandt, als jugendliches Gegenstück zu Opus 78 und 109 darf man sie bewundern und lieben" (Kaiser: 66; --

-- Kaiser continues by pointing out that this C-Major Sonata, Op. 2, no. 3, is the best-known work of Op. 2 and that, in general, it is one of the most often-played Beethoven piano sonatas.  If one disregards the popular sonatas that have a name (such as the 'Moonlight' sonata, the 'Storm' sonata, the 'Appassionata', etc.), one could certainly group this sonata with the so-called >>elite anonyme<< of Beethoven's piano sonatas.  He considers it somewhat similar to the D-Major Sonata, Op. 10, no. 3, as a youthful counterpart of Op. 78 and 109, as which one can admire and love it).

Kaiser's further discussion of this Sonata deals again with interesting insights gained by great pianists of the 20th century.  


ACTIVE, PERFORMING ARTISTS

'Our' host in this section, Anton Kuerti, also refers to the popularity of this sonata, the reason of which he sees in its brilliant pianistic effects, but also remarkd that "the same devil who spoiled so much of the music of Weber, Liszt and others, and led many composers down a path of great worldly acclaim straight to oblivion", namely "the devil 'virtuosity for its own sake'" (Kuerti: 16), which can also be seen at work in this sonata.  However, he also points out that most of Beethoven's contemporaries would have been proud of this achievement, with the exception of Franz Schubert, since in this sonata, the lyrical element  is developed to the least extent and that it, therefore, represents the very antithesis to that which Schubert's lyrical style is all about.   Is it not interesting to ponder such different views with respect to this Beethoven sonata?  With respect to the individual movements, Kuerti comments as follows:  

 

Allegro con brio

"It starts in a perfunctory, almost academic fashion with a nod first to one side, then the other.  The most salient feature of the theme is the double note trill, but ultimately the upward bounce (20) preceding the pause turns out to be more significant"  (Kuerti:17).  Kuerti continues by pointing out that one should pay attention as to how this upward bounce is 'caught' by the responding beats and how it is applied three times in a legato-like, calming manner, quasi as an apology for the fact that we have been 'bounced' so brusquely, before.  

"Without warming Beethoven boldly plunges into pianistic fireworks (30) totally unrelated to the opening both in substance and in spirit.  He behaves musically like a young lover who can't wait to prove his prowess.  Having recovered from this attack, a flowing, lyrical second subject is commenced (31), but 12 measures later we are off and running again, this time with a display of scales" (Kuerti: 17).  A further theme is introduced, continues Kuerti, followed by a brisk passage of pianistic-athletic exercises, and one could almost predict how it would have to continue after the last-introduced theme that was dominated by trills, and that at the first opportunity in the development. 

Fortunately, continues Kuerti, in the recapitulation, Beethoven does not repead this "tour de force", but rather replaces it by a short excursion into a foreign key and by the introduction of a somewhat rough cadenza.   In this movement, Kuerti is really not very pleased with Beethoven, since it is the only movement in which the composer has included pianistic 'tours de force' for their own sake.  Whenever Beethoven does so, elsewhere, then he does so for a good reason, but, unfortunately, not here.  

 

Adagio

"The Adagio makes up in dignity and warmth for the lack of these qualities in the first movement.  It is in a slightly abbreviated type of sonata form, very common in slow movements, which generally demands greater structural economy than fast ones because each portion of the structure occupies a much larger time space" (Kuerti" 17-18).

Scherzo: Allegro

"Beethoven's scherzos are an outgrowth of Haydn's, who had sensed the need for a light and gay movement in contrast with the heavier and more complex opening and slow movements of his symphonies.  Haydn gradually moved the menuetto quite far from its original stately mood by introducing humour, unexpected pauses, faster tempos and the frequent reiteration of short motives" (Kuerti: 18).  Actually, so Kuerti, he wrote scherzos and still called them minuets.  Beethoven's scherzo of this work, according to Kuerti, is very contrapuntal and form the first step on his way to the extremely contrapuntal scherzos of Op. 101 and the Ninth Symphony.   

Allegro assai

"The last movement is an effervescent, whirling rondo, filled with every manner of surprise.  Thus the last three movements do much to rescue this sonata and we are left exhilarated by the breathless chase of flying chords and runs" (Kuerti: 18).  

With this, Kuerti's introduction to the third Beethoven Piano Sonata ends, and it appears that he is overall less impressed by it than by the first two sonatas.  

In conclusion, we can, again, offer you a link to a midi sample of this work:  

Kunst der Fuge: Beethoven-Sonaten


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 2, Nr. 3 - Search