♫ So, when I say that the scherzo of the Hammerklavier is a bit like the opening movement in miniature, I am referring, above all, to the opening phrase. ♫ For the first few bars, it’s as if you took the opening of the piece, took trimming shears to it, trimmed, and trimmed, and trimmed, until what you were left with was the root of it all – a sequence of thirds, of course. In the first movement, the opening motive is essentially falling third, higher falling third. ♫ Here, in the scherzo, each of the thirds rises AND falls, but the essential components are exactly the same. ♫ The character of this scherzo is, even just on its own and out of context, playful. But what makes it much more comic is the way in which the opening movement – music of immense determination and huge proportions – has been shrunk down into something tiny, and also carefree. This is “echt” Beethoven – he can be silly, immediately after – and before – being as profound as can be. So, that phrase I just played for you, that’s the entire first half of the scherzo, without the repeat! I was not joking when I said this scherzo is economical. It’s all so miniscule, let me just play the scherzo section – meaning everything that precedes the trio – in its entirety. ♫ So, the two halves of this scherzo have some slight but significant differences in shape. First of all, the first half is seven bars long. Seven bars is a highly irregular length for a phrase – four and eight are infinitely more common. This length, combined with the two chords that end it abruptly, gives this phrase the feeling of having a missing piece. ♫ One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. The second half, by contrast, is a longer phrase made up of two eight bars units, giving it both greater breadth, and a sense of symmetry that is lacking in the first half. ♫ But if the phrase lengths suggest that the second half of the scherzo is more stable than the first, the dynamic scheme suggests the opposite. In the first half, each bar has a so-called “hairpin” – a crescendo and then a diminuendo – placing the stress squarely on the downbeat. ♫ Three-ONE-two, three-ONE-two, three-ONE-two. In the second half of the scherzo, by contrast, in place of this hairpin, there is a diminuendo, starting on the upbeat, and moving away from the downbeat. ♫ THREE-one-two, THREE-one-two. So whereas the phrase lengths give a feeling of instability to the scherzo’s first half, the dynamics make the second half feel unstable – the stress on each upbeat makes the footing seem very unsure.