♫ So, if the B – or B-ish – section offered some contrast to the over-the-top vocalizing, the C section offers a great contrast – it really is distinct from the rest of the movement, in mood and in sound. This is the one part of the movement that is entirely free from ornamentation, and accordingly, it is much, much less carefree, starting right off the bat with a move out of C Major and into C minor. ♫ And then towards A flat major, which arrives with a warmth and intensity untouched by irony. ♫ But even more significant is the tonal shift – by “tonal”, I mean not tonality, but style and character. This C section is decidedly instrumental, not vocal, and even more so than in the B section, there is much music here that approximates a string quartet: three voices playing chords, while a fourth – first the first violin, and then the cello – takes the lead. ♫ The drama and intensity of this music – drama and intensity of a sort that we don’t find elsewhere in the movement – only build as this C episode progresses. ♫ So, we’ve arrived at a strong, severe dominant, ♫ even though we are barely halfway through the C section. The presence of a strong dominant normally indicates that we are ready to resolve, to return home; here, it launches a VERY long pedal point, the G repeated ominously again and again in the bass, the mode leaning much more towards minor than major. ♫ And only just now, after all of that, does the mode begin to bend away from C minor and towards C Major, bringing us out of this dark, instrumental episode, and back into the music of the opening and the movement’s main ethos: halfway satirical and all-the-way vocal. ♫ Well, maybe just a bit less than halfway satirical, this time. Because even though this return is very much in the same vein as the opening, with the ornamentation continuing to pile on – the left hand is now doubly busy, with sixteenth notes replacing the original eighths, ♫ and the “duet” version of the theme with a different but just as complicated embellishment– ♫ even with all that, the feeling of this return is just slightly different. As ever, context – structure – is everything, and time and the intervening music have had the effect of darkening this theme ever so slightly. It hasn’t lost its wink, not entirely, and as you’ll hear, there’s plenty of operatic monkey business to come. But coming out of that C section, it all feels just a little bit more wistful. ♫ New note of wistfulness aside, this “recapitulation” proceeds as expected. (Recapitulation isn’t quite the right word, obviously, since this isn’t quite a sonata form. What I’m referring to here is the whole second “ABA” that follows the central C section of the movement. As a reminder, it’s not exactly a rondo either: if it was, this second B section would be harmonically modified; it isn’t. It’s just a further embellished replica of the first one.) Anyway, whatever this not-sonata form, not-rondo is, this return sees the ornamentation kicked up yet another notch; when that “cadenza’ comes back, it really hits peak extravagance. ♫ Beethoven is really teeing it up for his bad Italian tenor, here. When all of this ends – when the very last of the A sections reaches its final cadence – a coda begins, a coda of the ample proportions you’d expect from this movement. And it is in this coda that Beethoven achieves the perfect balance between the tongue-in-cheek operatic parody, and the spiritual beauty that we expect from his slow movements. It begins with vocal duets – first soprano and alto, then soprano and bass – with the same kind of decorative ornamentation and oom-pah-pah accompaniments that featured in the movement’s main theme, time and again. ♫ But at this point, the character begins to evolve. As this section reaches its final cadence, and we prepare for a coda to the coda – a codetta, probably – the voices grow a bit more impassioned. ♫ And from this point on – the codetta – the feeling is very different. It remains a vocal dialogue, but one of questions and answers, with the questions growing more fervent and intense, by means of accented appoggiaturas, and then shortened periods, which give a sense of increased urgency, until, at long last, the music settles into a beautiful, final cadence. ♫ The end… …only, not the end. ♫ Still not the end. ♫ And there, finally, this movement comes to rest. It’s a marvelous transformation that takes place in this coda. With this music that is pregnant with silence, Beethoven is stepping away from the operatic jokester persona he’s put on for so much of this movement, and moving far closer to the metaphysical, always questioning, questing Beethoven that makes his slow movements so memorable. That said, he never ENTIRELY steps away from the opera: that final gesture, which floats upward and then simply evaporates ♫ is a real vocal flourish. Beethoven never disavows the bravura operatic writing. Rather, in this codetta above all, he elevates it. This movement may be, at least in part, a parody. But if it’s a parody, it’s one filled with both love and genuine respect.