(MUSIC) So, to the matter at hand: the sonata opus 2 number 3. The third of its opus, and Beethoven’s third sonata, altogether. Other than the “Grand” Sonata, opus 7, this is the biggest and longest sonata of the early period – in fact, the word “grand” would be just as apt for it. All three of the opus 2 sonatas are a statement of Beethoven’s ambition in the genre – the fact that they each have four movements is already ample demonstration of that – but number 3 is by a wide margin the biggest and most ambitious of the set. Again, Beethoven very often composed works in trinities: the three sonatas opus 2 follow three piano trios opus 1. Like the opus 2 piano sonatas, the opus 1 trios are all generously proportioned, and show Beethoven as fully mature and brimming with confidence. Further like the opus 2 sonatas, the third of the opus 1 trios really breaks the mold, in ways that the other two do not. Its intense, misterioso character and harmonic daring were so out of step with the music of the time, in fact, that Haydn, Beethoven’s mentor and booster, advised him not to publish it. Beethoven, incidentally, was none too pleased and ignored the advice; and history has vindicated him. The sonata opus 2 number 3 breaks the mold in a very different way. Through 8 lectures, one of the biggest focuses of this course has been form as a source of character and, in particular, the remarkable formal innovations that Beethoven was responsible for. Opus 2 number 3 is certainly not devoid of formal experimentation, and we’ll get into that, but that’s not really the main issue here. No, the really unprecedented aspect of this music is its muscularity, and its virtuosity. Haydn and, particularly, Mozart wrote plenty of difficult music, but relatively little that is overtly virtuosic, and almost nothing that one would describe as muscular. After the very successful premiere of his piano concerti K. 413-414-415, Mozart wrote a very revealing letter to his father. Quote: “These concertos are a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being vapid. There are passages here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less discriminating cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why.” End quote. Beethoven, by contrast, was not interested in “happy mediums”. He was interested in testing limits: the limits of the forms he utilized, the limits of the instruments he wrote for, and of the technique of the people playing them. Mozart’s music is difficult precisely because it is not really supposed to sound difficult: his pursuit of a healthy balance means that, for all of its emotional complexity, his music is meant to sound balanced. The saving grace of playing Beethoven is that even though it is difficult, very difficult, it is meant to sound difficult. It is fine – necessary, even – for it to sound taxing. These early piano sonatas, unlike the first symphonies and concerti, were not conceived as concert hall music, but they still have an “aim to the gallery” quality. And that becomes much more pronounced with this third sonata of opus 2.