(MUSIC) When the second appearance of the B section comes shortly after, Beethoven doubles down on the sense of jubilation. (MUSIC) This was ecstatic music the first time around, but this much longer episode is even more thoroughly ecstatic: it has an infinite, almost manic joy, and after a time, Beethoven seems to exhaust himself, arriving on a dominant, and then sitting on it, letting the pace slow, and the energy diminish, as the music yet again hints at – what else? – the minor mode. (MUSIC) Which leads to a coda: a quite massive coda. A coda of this scope might be unprecedented for a rondo – just as the first movement’s giant coda was without precedent – but once again, it feels fitting, even necessary. Given that the proportions of this rondo so dramatically exceed anything Beethoven had previously attempted, it needs a big coda. It needs “more” – more: music, more conjuring of the infinite – to make us feel that the movement’s material has been fleshed out in the way it demands. And the presence of this bold and dazzling coda is the clearest evidence yet of how this Waldstein rewrites the book on “The Sonata” – reweighting it, decisively, so that it continues to build to its very last moments. This sense that we are building all the way to the end comes not from any earth-shaking new development at the coda – in fact, the coda offers no new material, no new characters, and rarely goes harmonically far afield. It is simply everything that this movement has already been, ramped up further. (MUSIC) Everything is in there: the theme in celestial form, the pedal-blurring, the fantastic extremes of dynamics, running the gamut from totally hushed to earth-shaking, the theme positioned over trills – even MORE celestial than ever (MUSIC) – and finally, the extraordinary sense of celebration. Again, this coda is a structural necessity not because something new needs to happen, but because the material hasn’t been taken to its natural limit. And that’s what Beethoven, an extremist at heart, always does: he takes his music to its natural limits. And beyond. The piece ends with not one, not five, not ten, but nearly thirty C major chords. (MUSIC) It’s as if he’s screaming from the rooftops: C major! C major! C major! Beethoven loves doing this – ending his pieces by shouting the key at us – but more often than not, he does it in pieces whose trajectory is dark-to-light, minor-to-major, meaning that the major feels hard won, and the celebration feels earned, appropriate. Here, the C Major he’s hammering home is the same C Major we started the piece on, twenty-three minutes ago, but it still feels fully appropriate. This entire last movement has been about settling the conflict between major and minor, and about moving past the wanderlust of the first movement and a half, in which the harmonic adventuring and, really, the abandoning of standard harmonic operating procedure are the main sources of the music’s drama. In reaction, the massive last movement is happy – gloriously happy – to remain where it is. And so, the end of the piece puts a crown of C major on this ode to C major. It’s a thrilling conclusion to the piece, but really, the sense of triumph, and the virtuosity of this conclusion should not make one forgot the much more complex shape and emotional nature of what has preceded it. Because really, even among Beethoven’s sonatas, the sonic variety, the ambiguities, and the enormous sense of mystery in the Waldstein are quite fantastic, and the extent to which they can be overlooked is a true pity. If the piece is new to you, I wish you much happy exploring. And if you have known it and admired it but only for its most immediately impressive qualities, I very much hope this lecture might encourage you to peel the onion and see what you find. If your experience is anything like mine has been, you’ll find that it is endlessly interesting.