(MUSIC) So again, the point of comparison with opus 2 number 3 should not be so much the other opus 2 sonatas, but opus 7: it's the only other early sonata that matches it in scope, in brilliance, and in the movement-to-movement plan. There is one interesting difference, though: opus 2 number 3 has long been very popular, one of the most played of the early sonatas; opus 7 has not. At the Curtis auditions, and at masterclasses all over the world, opus 2 number 3 crops up again and again, whereas I sometimes go a long while without hearing opus 7 even once. I’m not really sure why that is, as the two works present many of the same challenges, and in fact, I would argue that opus 2 number 3 needs a more sophisticated performance to escape an unappealing kind of aggression. Hopefully avoiding said aggression, here is the exposition of the first movement. (MUSIC) So, one striking thing about this exposition: despite athleticism being arguably its dominant feature, it begins with humor, a quality that returns often. This is SO indicative of Beethoven’s larger personality! (I know, I’ve beat this drum before, and I’ll be beating it a lot more – I think we tend to be too unrelentingly serious about classical music in general, and about Beethoven in particular. Without humor, his music would be absolutely unrecognizable.) Aside from those deadpan silences (MUSIC) the main source of humor and play here is the “curlicue” nature of the opening motive, turning around the third scale degree. (MUSIC) And this will become significant to the piece as a whole– stay tuned. Because the opening is hushed, it feels a bit like stage-setting, and the piece’s true nature seems to assert itself with the fortissimo passage that arrives shortly after, a pot-banging of c major, with little melody or harmony to speak of. (MUSIC) Passages like this – held together by their enthusiasm, not their musical building blocks – are not to be found in Haydn or Mozart’s sonatas. Call it Beethoven Bluster. The end of this passage (MUSIC) has nearly prepared the dominant (MUSIC), and therefore the bridge passage that follows it is not strictly necessary. Listen to the parallel passage in Mozart’s Sonata Facile, K545, which is in the same key and is similar in many particulars, if not in scope. (MUSIC) From this (MUSIC) we go straight into the second theme. So, in the Beethoven, after that scale (MUSIC), we're not really in need of a bridge before the second theme. And yet, there is a significant one. (MUSIC) This is interesting on a number of levels. First of all, Beethoven was just a hop, a skip and a jump away from establishing the dominant before this started, and so this addition to (or perhaps, extension of) the structure, it's really about expanding the scope of the piece. Put another way: it’s not about getting from A to B; it’s about adding dimension to the A and the B. The fact that the passage is in minor (MUSIC), that makes it even more effective in enlarging the scale of the work: First of all, its presence means that there is another key area explored before the dominant major, which is not the case in the more modest stripped-down sonata movement. But also, the minor inevitably adds a new emotional layer to the piece, which just moments ago seemed merely comic and athletic. This is no tragic minor key passage, but it takes us well out of the confidence and the verticality of the opening material, and thus perfectly sets up the second theme. This bridge passage is interesting for another reason: it's a direct quote from the very early C Major Piano Quartet – this ties it to the sonata opus 2 number 1, whose opening theme of the slow movement, as discussed, comes from the same quartet. I find it fascinating that Beethoven could go back to his juvenilia – pieces he would absolutely not have been proud to have written as an adult – and instantly recognize which bits were useful, and could be repurposed in entirely different surroundings. Context (form) is everything in music, so this same passage now sounds entirely different. In fairness, this passage comes from the first movement of the piano quartet, which is not nearly as childish as the second movement, which Beethoven mined for opus 2 number 1, but still, the extent to which this material is elevated by its new surroundings is significant. So anyway, that bridge passage is not really structural – quite literally: it’s not one of the piece’s support beams – but it makes the arrival of the wonderful second theme ever so much more wonderful, its tenderness now a response not only to the square-jawed music near the opening, but to the anxiety of the bridge passage. (MUSIC) It’s a very lovely theme, but it makes its effect in large part because of what it follows. Once again: context is everything. The remainder of the exposition brings the return of the two initial (and primary) characters. First comes the muscular stuff (MUSIC). It’s very revealing that even though this (MUSIC) was not one of the main themes of the movement – or even a “theme” at all, really – and even though it has very little harmonic or rhythmic interest to speak of, it still gets revisited. It’s there really only to bolster the sturdy nature of this music. And then, finally, comes another instance of Beethoven’s winking sense of humor. (MUSIC) Unlike that muscular stuff, this is new material, rather than a reappearance of the opening material. But in mood, it obviously refers to the opening, making the exposition emotionally almost cyclical-- it ends how it began.