♫ Agony which will only grow more intense as this movement continues. As that was the closing theme, inevitably, inevitably, we are now ready for the development. As is often the case with Beethoven, this development is not long – in fact, it is downright short when compared directly to the massive exposition. But it lacks for nothing. It may not balance the exposition in its length, but it more than holds its own on account of its emotional depth and the density of its events. Harmonically speaking, it manages to cycle through D Major, C sharp Major, E flat Major, g sharp minor – distant keys, all – before doing the work of bringing us back to bitterest f sharp minor. And all of this harmonic movement occurs in the context of what is possibly the most obsessive use of the falling thirds in the whole piece. Let me play a bit of it. ♫ Those four note figures, ♫ may sound like a falling third and then a rising interval. But the rising interval in question is a sixth, which is really just a falling third, turned upside down. ♫ So that last passage ♫ is really just a barely modified version of this. ♫ Third after third after third after third. The opening of Brahms’s 4th symphony, by the way, ♫ that has to be an homage to this, I’m sure of it. Finally, inevitably, this never-ending chain of thirds does lead us home. ♫ Even though Beethoven marks this passage “smorzando” – “fading away” – the dominant itself is strong. We know, terribly, that we are headed to the recapitulation… And what a recapitulation! It begins with what is probably the most thoroughly and remarkably transformed version of a theme that Beethoven ever wrote. (I’m speaking of themes that come within the context of a sonata movement – variations, which are really ONLY about transformations of themes – are another story altogether.) I am very reluctant to call this “decoration” or “embellishment” because that somehow trivializes what is happening here: the somewhat constricted, shut-in opening theme now finds its full expression. Its thirty-second notes wander the upper register of the keyboard, asking questions without answers, the muted grief of the opening transformed into open-throated anguish. ♫ To play this, in context, is an experience like no other. You are swallowed up by the force of the feeling of the music. Somehow, the experience only grows MORE overwhelming. In spite of being so heavily embellished, the return of the first theme area is in essence a literal one, with every bar and every harmony reiterated. So, inevitably, the G Major phrase ♫ which comes twice in the opening, comes twice in the return as well. And on its second appearance, it launches an excruciatingly long ritardando, extending both the G Major moment of hope, and the snuffing out of that hope that follows. ♫ That silence – that moment at which the music breaks down, unresolved – occurred the first time around. ♫ But now, as the culmination – or, rather, non-culmination, because it offers no resolution – of that long, long ritardando, the sense of not resignation, but dejection, has reached a whole new level. This makes the listener all the more grateful for what follows. In the exposition, the bridge section that followed that silence “resolved” the music – it provided the desolate f sharp minor cadence that the preceding music was leading up to. ♫ Here, in the parallel moment in the recapitulation, comes a ray of hope, in the form of a deceptive cadence: D Major. ♫ I’ll say it for the 100th time: context and expectation are everything in music. And it is our expectation, based on the context of what happened in the exposition, and on the overwhelmingly tragic nature of what has just occurred, that makes this emergence of D Major feel like such a gift, such a life raft.