(MUSIC) So, onto that great finale! It is true that, in its original conception, it stood alone, but it is absolutely perfectly prepared by that introduction, which at the last moment finds a calm, purity, and openness that is magnificently continued here. (MUSIC) Now, beyond its otherworldly beauty – at first serene, ultimately ecstatic – there are two main points to be made about this music. The first is that it is extraordinarily, perhaps even uniquely, harmonically stable. What I just played is the A section of the rondo: it's 63 bars long, and it features exactly three chords – the tonic (MUSIC), the dominant (MUSIC), and the tonic minor (MUSIC). By the way, it is fitting – and surely no coincidence – that this music of extreme harmonic stillness and stability still flits between the major and minor (MUSIC). Even pared down to the barest harmonic essentials, the minor still gets prominently featured. The blurring of the line between the major and minor modes is just part of this sonata’s DNA. Be that as it may, three chords in the entire A section? It’s impossible. Let’s contrast that with the last rondo discussed in this course: the one from the Pathetique. Here, as a reminder, is its A section, slowed down a bit to hear all the harmonies. (MUSIC) That example is by no means extreme in the other direction, but depending on how you count, there are between 5 and 7 chords, in just 17 bars! So you can see, the Waldstein’s three chords in 63 bars, without so much as a passing harmony, that represents something well out of the norm, and ensures that this music has an extraordinarily settled quality – it is as settled as the first movement and a half are not! And motivically, as well, this is incredibly “open” music, with lots of thirds and fifths: consonant intervals. (MUSIC) The movement is an ode in, and to, C major. The other remarkable thing about this opening is the pedal marking. It’s very interesting: at the beginning of Beethoven’s life, he simply did not give pedal indications: the first time one appears in his piano music is in the sonata op. 26, which is already the sonata no. 12. But once he got started, the pedal quickly became a beloved tool: beginning right away with opus 27, he starts to use the pedal frequently, in a personal and even radical way. Specifically, Beethoven loves blur. He might have a genius for structure, and he surely would have appreciated performances that had clarity of intention, but he appears to have been attracted to wild swirls of sound, and the smudging together of seemingly non-complementary harmonies didn’t bother him a bit. In the opening movement of the Moonlight sonata, he takes the remarkable step of asking the pianist to hold the sustaining pedal down the entire time, and in the slow movement of the third piano concerto, his markings create quite a haze. (MUSIC) Here, in the opening of the Waldstein’s finale, he asks for the pedal to be held down practically for the entire theme. (MUSIC) Now, because this theme has only three chords, the blur effect is in one sense not as bizarre or revolutionary as those other examples. Rather, the holding down of the pedal puts a spotlight on the harmonic stasis: It begins with that bell-like C in the bass, and because the C is sustained in the pedal, it makes the whole theme sound as if it were part of the C’s resonance, its overtones. (MUSIC) And the long pedal also heightens the sense that we are hovering between the major and minor – that the boundary between the two is indistinct. (MUSIC) Even without the pedal, this theme would have a celestial affect; with the pedal, that side of it becomes far more prominent. Saying that the theme is celestial is another way of saying that while it is very soft – seeming to emanate from a far-off place – it's aiming big, telling a big story. And indeed, each of the many times it comes, the theme grows and grows and is eventually declaimed fortissimo. (MUSIC) In a good performance, one should feel that when this fortissimo comes, the sound has not gotten louder, but rather expanded. This was the last piece on the last recital that Artur Schnabel played in New York, at Hunter College, when he was already extremely frail. His biographer Cesar Saerchinger wrote of how Schnabel “conjured the infinite” with those trills, and I always think of that when I play or hear them.