BEETHOVEN'S PIANO SONATAS
SONATA N0. 7, OP. 10/3
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: 


 MUSCIOLOGISTS 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. 


MUSCOLOGISTS AND BEETHOVEN RESEARCHERS

Also to this third sonata of this work group, William Kinderman provides a brief overview:

"The design of the D major Sonata op. 10 no. 3 is unusual in that Beethoven maintains the tonic major or minor throughout all four movements.  One reason for this tonal plan is found in the expressive relationship between the inner movements--an extended Largo e mesto of tragic character in D minor, whose solemn darkness is broken by the beginning of the gentle Menuetto in the major, marked dolce.  This wonderfully sensitive and gradual effect of light dispelling darkness depends crucially on the use of a common tonality.  A different sort of complementation holds between the bold and energetic, first movement, marked Presto, and the grave slow movement in the minor.

The very opening of the sonata, in unharmonized octaves, presents material that in itself is not particularly distinctive:  its initial descending fourth, D-A, and subsequent ascent through tonic triads of D major represents commonplace elements of Classical tonality (Ex. 13).  The sparse, elemental nature of this opening lends itself well to reinterpretation and reworking, however, as is soon evident in the exposition, where extended passages are given over to developmental processes.  The sudden interruptions and contrasts characteristic of this movement are carefully coordinated with a logical, progressive unfolding and development of the basic thematic material.  Only after a contrasting episode in B minor and a brilliant transition passage does Beethoven present the main part of his second subject-group, in A major.  He incorporates here a new version of the opening motif in smaller note values, with the descending fourth D-A given three times in the major and three times in the minor before the music dissolves into silence.  The motif is then absorbed into a contrapuntal phrase leading into an exciting developmental continuation of modulating sequences and persistent syncopations.  The cadential themes are just as clearly based on the initial phrase of the movement, notably on the thematic motto of the descending fourth.  The exposition of this Presto, as well as the remainder of the movement, shows an intense and internal dynamism that strains the formal framework of the Classical sonata and expands it from within--a hallmark of Beethoven's forceful early style.

In the following Largo e mesto in D minor Beethoven exploits the contrast between thick, dark chords (with frequent use of the diminished-seventh sonority) and a more transparent, recitative-like voice in the upper register.  This slow movement is one of the great tragic utterances in early Beethoven, and it displays a sense of abortive struggle and resignation in his treatment of the sonata form.  The mood of brightness and hope at the beginning of the F major development is soon negated by the fortissimo diminished-seventh chords that lead back into the minor, while their register and motifs recall the movement's opening theme and allusions to the registral disparities between its low chords and the extracted motif of a semitone in the highest register.

If the ensuing transparent Minuetto leaves behind the gloomy depths of the slow movement, the concluding rondo is characterized by an unpredictable humour.  Here the dynamic stops and starts from the Presto become a game of hide-and-seek for the theme itself (Ex. 14).  Indeed, is the theme ever found?  The rondo seems to suggest a process of seeking, doubting and evasion.  Its prominent deceptive cadence on B minor (bar 7) is later developed in an entire central episode built upon a more jarring deceptive cadence on B-flat.  This episode, in turn, leads to a false recapitulation in that key, and to a transition based on the crucial interval of the fourth--no less important in this movement than in the Presto.  The final episode is like a quest for a more substantial but unattainable goal, and its sequences rise ecstatically into the highest register of the piano before falling back in a short cadenza.  In a peculiar way we seem not to have left the original ground:  the opening motif returns yet again, now assuming the minor mode and reminding us of the tragic slow movement.  A series of chords based on the rhythm of the initial motif follows, and the sonata ends quietly with repetitions of the motif in the bass, heard beneath chromatic scales and arpeggios in the right hand.  Like op. 10 no. 1, this D major sonata has an open, dissolving conclusion, as befits its commitment to emerging process and ongoing development, as well as the deft circumspection of its wit" (Kinderman;  40 - 43) 

 

ACTIVE MUSIC CRITICS

After Kinderman's overview, let us take a look at Kaiser's comments, and it will not take long until also here, we will be confronted by 'wit': 

"Mehr als ein großes, erfülltes, kühnes Musikstück, nämlich ein Werk mit unverwechselbarer Physiognomie, ein Drama aus Heiligkeiten und Finsternissen, mit besänftigendem, witzig pointiertem Schluß, kurz: >>die<< D-Dur-Sonate.

Opus 10 Nr. 3 ist keine Sonate mit einer Nummer, sie ist, trotz mancher Mutwilligkeiten im Finale, ein lebendiges, unverwechselbares Stück Kunstwirklichkeit. Musikfreunde lieben sie, wie Theaterenthusiasten >>Romeo und Julia<< lieben, wo die etwas sorglos motivierte Unglücksverkettung (ein Brief erreicht den Romeo zufällig nicht) der Tragödie selbst ja auch nichts anhaben kann.

Und warum wirkt die D-Dur-Sonate Opus 10 Nr. 3 so lebendig unverwechselbar? Vielleicht darum, weil der erste Satz keinerlei Differenz mehr erkennen läßt zwischen relativ neutralem, konventionellem Material und spezifisch Beethovenscher Gebärde. Prestoenergie und ein Einheit stiftendes Konstruktionsgeheimnis prägen den Kopfsatz. Das Largo e mesto ist große, schwarze Bekenntnismusik, ein manchmal melancholisch fahles, manchmal grell auffahrendes, zum Phantasietrauermarsch sich verdichtendes Stück, etwas Neues in der Geschichte der Sonate. Dem Menuett glückt es fast, die Largoverzweiflung in milde, flüchtig süße Empfindsamkeit zu transponieren. Menuett-Trio und das geistvoll mutwillig bunte Rondo setzen der expressiven Kraft der ersten beiden Sätze zarten, bizarr verspielten Esprit entgegen. Keine Apotheose" (Kaiser: 140; --

-- Kaiser writes here that this sonata is a great, fulfilled, bold piece of music, namely a work with an unmistakable physiognomy, a drama that consists of the sacred, of darkness and of a calming, wittily pointed conclusion, and, in a nutshell, he describes this sonata as 'the' D-Major-Sonata.  

Opus 10 No. 3, continues Kaiser, not not just a sonata with a number, it is, in spite of all deliberation in its finale, a lively, unique piece of artistic reality, and that music friends love it as theatre buffs love >>Romeo and Juliet<<, where the somewhat carelessly motivated chain of unhappy events (a letter accidentally does not reach Romeo) does not take anything away from the tragedy, either.  

And why, asks Kaiser, does this D-Major-Sonata appear to us so lively and unique?  And he wonders if it is not, perhaps, due to the fact that the first movement does not allow us to recognize in it any difference between relatively neutral, conventional material and specific Beethovenish expression.  Kaiser continues by stating that Presto energy and a 'compositional construction secret' that creates unity, are the main characteristics of the first movement, and he describes the Largo e mesto as a great, 'black' confessional music, sometimes melancholy bleak, with occasional outbreaks which almost develops into a fantasy funeral march, while the following minuet almost succeeds at transforming the 'Largo' despair into a mild, fleetingly sweet loneliness, and while the witty and colorful Rondo contrasts the expressive power of the first two movements with a tender, bizarrely playful esprit.  Kaiser concludes his initial description  with the summation that it is not an apotheosis).

In his further discussion, Kaiser elaborates on the, in his opinion, existing difference between the first three movements and the last movement:

"Bewunderer dieser Sonate -- sie gehört zu den originellsten der Klavierliteratur -- verteidigen immerfort das Finale. >>Der letzte Satz, ein Rondo, darf beim Vortrag in keiner Weise abfallen. Die Phantasie des Spielers muß sich das Fragen und Antworten ... lebhaft vorstellen<<, fordert Edwin Fischer in seinem Buch über >Beethovens Klaviersonaten<. >>Dem Largo an Stimmung und Charakter entgegengesetzt, aber ihm gleich an Originaliät der Erfindung, ist das Rondo<< -- behauptet Reclams Klaviermusik-Führer. Der Pianist Alfred Brendel schrieb, dieses Finale sei >>ein geistreicher Spaß. Sein burlesker Fortgang wird nur zweimal von Anwandlungen erhsthaften Zweifels angerührt.<< Aber eine >>überwiegend chromatische Sechzehntelpassage<< -- am Ende des Finales -- lasse uns dann doch spüren, daß die Pein des langsamen Satzes nachträglich gerechtfertigt ist, >>daß sie nicht umsonst durchlitten wurde<<.

Was diese und zahlreiche andere >>Verteidigungen<< des >>Rondo Allegro<< ausdrücken -- kunstvoll, witzig, brillant, überraschend subtil -- entspricht eben doch nicht dem überwältigenden Rang der ersten drei Sätze. Edwin Fischer: >>Der Schlußsatz ist voller Humor und erinnert daran, daß Beethoven Späße und Wortspiele liebte.<< In der Tat: ein keckes Motiv, wie die B-Dur/g-Moll-Entwicklung des zweiten Zwischensatzes (siehe Beispiel 101) im Rondo, läßt sich weder mit dem spirituellen Glanz des ersten Sates noch mit dem Tiefsinn des Largos noch mit der innigen Zärtlichkeit des >>Menuettos<< vergleichen. Das gibt sich mutwillig, witzig, pianistisch, barsch. Doch man kann darüber meiner Ansicht nach nicht im gleichen Tone sprechen (denn es spricht seinerseits nicht im gleichen Ton) wie von den übrigen Sätzen dieser Sonate.

Das Rondo aus Opus 10 Nr. 3 so distanziert beurteilen heißt gleich zwei unangenehme Vorwürfe in Kauf nehmen. Nämlich den der Respektlosigkeit (gegenber Beethoven) und den stumpfer Humorlosigkeit (gegenber einem bunt-Bizarren Satze.) Aber zeigt es denn wirklichen Respekt, sich verehrungsblind darüber hinwegzutäuschen, da die D-Dur-Sonate eben doch keine Final-Sonate ist, oder sein will? In Opus 10 Nr. 3 hängen die ersten drei Sätze zwanglos, aber zwingend miteinander zusammen. Zum Abschluß komponierte Beethoven dann ein von zarter Absurdität keineswegs verunsichtertes, banales, sondern witziges Schlußstück. Das war weder ein >>Kunstfehler<< noch ein >>Versagen<<, sondern ein durchaus bewußter, gutgelaunter, bestimmt nicht apotheosenhafter Hinweis darauf, daß das Leben weitergeht. Kein majestätischer Fortinbras-Triumphmarsch. Dieser Schlußsatz, er dauert ohnehin nur etwa dreieinhalb Minuten, holt uns aus dem Bezirk höchster Musik zurück ins virtuose Klavier-Leben, das sich schon im Trio des Menuetts ebenso brillant wie unvornehm gemeldet hatte, optimistisch und ernüchternd zugleich. Die Sonate endet also relativ leichtgewichtig und verwirrend. Auch das gehört zu ihrer Physiognomie, zu ihrer Jugendlichkeit. Später, in einer anderen D-Dur-Sonate ließ Beethoven nach einem vergleichbaren langsamen Satz immerhin ein zwar improvisatorisch beginnendes, aber dann störrisches und dichtes >>Allegro fugato<< folgen (Cello-Sonate Opus 102 Nr. 2). Der harmlose, noch nicht auf Sonaten-Ausgewogenheit bedachte Schluß von Opus 10 Nr. 3 indessen beabsichtigt kaum, >>schwer<< zu sein -- er ist nur schwer zu spielen, klingt aber unbeschwert. Er setzt das Drama nicht fort, sondern die Hände (des Pianisten und der Klatschenden) in Bewegung. Zwischen ihm und den ersten Sätzen der Sonate existiert ein Abstand -- trotz aller motivischen Beziehungen, die bei genügend scharfem Hinsehen bestimmt nachzuweisen wären (und auch nachgewiesen wurden)" (Kaiser: 140 - 142; --

-- Kaiser writes here that admirers of this sonata--and he concedes that it belongs to the most original sonatas of piano literature--always defend the finale of this work, and he refers to Edwin Fischer's demand (in his book, >>Beethovens Klaviersonaten<<):    >>Der letzte Satz, ein Rondo, darf beim Vortrag in keiner Weise abfallen. Die Phantasie des Spielers muß sich das Fragen und Antworten ... lebhaft vorstellen<<, (Fischer writes here that the last movement, a rondo, should not fall of in the work's performance, and that the fantasy of the performer has to lively imagine the questions and answers it contains), while Reclams Piano Music Guide (Reclams Klaviermusik-Führer) writes,  >>Dem Largo an Stimmung und Charakter entgegengesetzt, aber ihm gleich an Originaliät der Erfindung, ist das Rondo<< (here, it is maintained that the rondo is, in mood and character, the opposite of the largo, but equal to it in its originality and inveentiveness).  Kaiser also refers to Alfred Brendel who wrote that this finale is  >>ein geistreicher Spaß. Sein burlesker Fortgang wird nur zweimal von Anwandlungen erhsthaften Zweifels angerührt<< (Brendel writes here that this finale is witty and funny, and that its burlesque nature is only twice touched by serious doubts) and that a  >>überwiegend chromatische Sechzehntelpassage<<  (mainly chromatic passage of sixteenth),  at the end of the finale, lets us feel that the pain of the slow movement is not--retroactively--justified,  >>daß sie nicht umsonst durchlitten wurde<< (that it was not suffered through, for nothing).

Kaiser writes that what these numerous and other >>defences<< of the >>Rondo Allgegro<< express, referring to expressions/characteristics such as artful, wittyk brilliant, suprisingly subtle--does n o t  correspdon with the overwhelming rank of the first three movements. He quotes Edwin Fischer again with: >>Der Schlußsatz ist voller Humor und erinnert daran, daß Beethoven Späße und Wortspiele liebte.<< (Fischer writes here that the final movement is full of humour and reminds us of the fact that Beethoven liked jokes and puns).  Indeed, continues Kaiser, a bold motif, such as the B-Major/g-minor development of the second interim movement, can neither be compared with the spiritiual glow of the first movement nor with the depth of the Largo, and neither with the intimate tenderness of the >>Menuetto<<.  It, continues Kaiser, presents itself as witty, pianistic, brash, and that, in his opinion, one can not talk of it in the same tone--after all, writes Kaiser, it is not held in the same tome--as one would speak of the other movements of this sonata.  

Kaiser continues by stating that such a distanced opinion of the Rondo of this Sonata means that one will be confronted by two unpleasant allegations:  namely that of a lack of respect (for Beethoven) and that of a numb lack of a sense of humor (with respect to a colorful, bizarre movement).  However, argues Kaiser, does it really show respect to blindly ignore this out of reverence for the composer, since, after all, this Sonata is not a >>Finale Sonata<<, nor does it want to be one.   In Op. 10, No. 3, argues Kaiser, the first three movements are loosely, yet inevitably, connected to each other.   As a finale, Beethoven then composed a witty piece that was not filled with platitudes. That, argues Kaiser, was neither an >>artistic mistake<<, nor a >>failure<<, but a conscious, good-spirited, certainly not >>apotheotic<< hint at the fact that life goes on.   . . .  This final movement, writes Kaiser, which, in any event, only takes about three-and-a-half minutes, leads us back from the realm of highest music into the virtuoso piano environment,  that, already in the trio, announced itself both brilliantly and in a down-to-earth manner, optimistic and sober, at the same time.    The Sonata, so Kaiser, thus ends relatively light-weight and confusing, but, in his opinion, this is part of its physiognomy, of its youthfulness.  Later, in another D-Major Sonata, Beethoven, after a comparable slow movement, followed it by a stubborn and tightly woven >>Allegro fugato<< that, nevertheless, begins in an improvisatory style (in his Cello Sonata Opus 102 No. 2). Yet, writes Kaiser, the harmless finale of Opus 10 No. 3 that is not yet oriented towards a "balanced" sonata style, certainly does not intend to be >>heavy<<, its only difficult to play, yet it sounds >>light<<(hearted), and it does not continue the drama, rather, the hands of the pianist and of the applauding audience, are set in motion.  Between it and the first three movmeents of the sonata, there exists a distance, concludes Kaiser, and that in spite of all motivic onter-relationships that, if one were to pay close attention, certainly could and, indeed, were proven).

Is it not interesting to enjoy the difference of opineion that is expressed in William Kinderman's and Joachim Kaiser's comments? 


ACTIVE, PERFORMING ARTISTS

How does 'our' active pianist, Anton Kuerti, round off our look at the musical content of this sonata?  

"Listening casually to Op. 10 No. 3, one would be struck by a certain operatic glamour, a cool clear brilliance and a sumptuous variety of moods and ideas. Listening more attentively, one will be astounded to note how very parsimonious Beethoven has been. Especially in the outer movement, almost all the thematic material is derived from short, concentrated motives. This reflects Beethoven's growing determination to provide logical, meaningful interconnections to bring together a work" (Kuerti:25; ).

Do we not, again, realize that Kuerti looks at this work from several viewpoints, namely from that of his study of the score, from his reflected listening experiences and also from his own work with it?  Let us read what he has to say to the individual movements:

Presto

"The kernel of the first movement is the motive of four descending notes which opens the main theme. There are two answers to the four-measure opening question, the first sweetly soft (15), the second audaciously brilliant (16)--and both start with interlocking repetitions of the four-note motive" (Kuerti: 25).

After a playful and dark transitional theme, continues Kuerti, we reach a colorful and great second subject that consists of several themes, and a careful look proves that these themes are also closely related to the introductory theme, and in a remarkable passage, the motif that contains of four notes is completely present, again.  The first theme of this extended second subject, continues Kuerti, has a rhythm that is identical with the introduction that consists of four meassures, without, however, applying the motif.  This airy rhythm, concludes Kuerti, also dominates the robust development.   

Largo e mesto

In the Largo e mesto, writes Kuerti, we face the first really tragic movement of Beethoven's piano sonatas:  aside from the incomparable Adagio from the Hammerklavier Sonata, this is the only profound, full-length minor movement.   The development, continues Kuerti, brings an unexpected contrast between new F-Major material, expressed in warm octaves of the middle section of the piano keyboard.  The Coda, writes Kuerti, presents the theme deep in the bnass, while the accompanying figure that lies above it, takes command and forces its way aupward through a remarkable sequence of parallel, diminished chords.   This intense and great outbreak then, according to Kuerti, moves slowly back into the background, while it applies the ever shorter fragments of the main theme, until the movement ends with naked, single notes  .  .  .

Menuetto: Allegro

"The Menuetto quickly dissolves the tragic gloom, returning to major with a warm, songful theme. Its noble character is unexpectedly interrupted by a contrapuntal section (25) of great urgency which proves to be contagious, for when the opening material returns (26) it too becomes urgent and highly expressive. Eventually it subsides again, faint and ever so gracious. The Trio (27) finds Beethoven in a most endearing mood, trying to dance in an awkward, ungainly but very good-natured manner. His inner grace shines through his outer roughness" (Kuerti: 26). 

Rondo: Allegro

"If the first movement was economical, with its four-note motive, the last is downright stingy with its terse three-note motto. This very clever Rondo, full of surprises, suggests the following scenario:

A novice magician incants three magic words (opening motto), cautiously and fearfully; after glancing around, he tries again, but still there is no effect, one only hears a glistening flute replying (28) with great sweetness. He tries again, more boldly, finally shouting the three words, but all remains calm, and the Rondo's first episode (29), with its non-thematic scale passages, quickly passes. A second series of magic incantations suddenly rouses the spirits, and they rebut the novice with tumultuous anger (30) for his impertinence in disturbing them. Only after a further incantation (31) (the three notes appear in the bass, with their accompaniment now transferred to the treble) a magic spell is finally cast, portrayed by a quivering, distant passage (32) which repeats the magic rhythm again and again, with uncanny, jazz-like harmonies. Thereby the magic formula seems to have been neutralized, for the sonata ends with its muttering continuously in the bass while the accompanying right hand nonchalantly bubbles away and vanishes in complete calm" (Kuerti: 26).

Again, a quite different description of the last movement.  While we, here, can not offer you a listening sample of Kuerti's rendition of this sonata, we can offer you a link to a midi file listening sample: 

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 10, Nr. 3 - Search