Beethoven: Piano Sonata Op 2 No. 3

Piano Sonata in C major Op 2 No 3
Allegro con brio
Adagio
Scherzo: Allegro
Allegro assai

At nearly 10 minutes longer, the third piano sonata is the weightiest of the three Opus 2 works and is generally recognised to be the first of Beethoven’s virtuosic sonatas.

The first movement begins rather like a gentlemanly conversation before dissolving into an animated discussion. There are several motifs and themes presented, varied upon and developed and one can really start to see the young Beethoven breaking away from the strict sonata structure of the late Classical period. In this movement he is beginning to breakdown the traditional idea of theme in favour of rhythmic and melodic motifs. This is a technique that he used very successfully in the opening movement of the Fifth Symphony and one that Wagner would exploit to the extreme 100 years later.

Although it is nearly twice as long as the Adagio of the two previous sonatas, this movement contains very little in the way of surprise. The opening theme is first heard undecorated like a Bach chorale and is varied upon along with the second theme throughout the movement.

The scherzo opens with a delightfully fugal presentation of the first theme. The second section is much more lyrical and features sustained legato arpeggiation that contrasts nicely with the more formal opening section. The style of this short movement is indicative of the stylistic direction the scherzo would take in later works of Beethoven and his contemporaries.

The final movement is a charming Allegro full of virtuosic variations and pianistic fireworks. It is easy to imagine Beethoven setting a theme and then seeing how outrageously he could vary it just because he could.

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