♫ So, onto the last movement: a rondo, a proper one this time. As I said, op. 31 no. 1's humor grows more subtle as it progresses, and this finale takes that progression one step further. In fact, unlike the first two movements, there is little in this rondo that is FUNNY, per se; when I say that it is humorous, I mean that beneath its genial surface, it has not only wit – which it does have, in spades – but also a slightly mysterious aspect, like a riddle, or a koan. In this way, I think its closest relative might be the finale of Op. 10 no. 3– ♫ they aren't really similar on the surface, but both busy themselves asking unanswered, and perhaps unanswerable, questions. So, here is the main theme of Op. 31 no. 1's rondo. ♫ It’s a bit like a child’s poem, with its very simple rhyme, and its unchanging rhythm from line to line. ♫ But there are certain elements which throw this child-like, hummable theme a bit off-kilter. First of all, there’s the pedal point that the whole thing unfolds over – and not a tonic pedal, ♫ but a dominant one. ♫ This lends this theme a questioning, quizzical aspect, which is reinforced when that dominant D is reiterated, with a sforzando, on the weak beat. ♫ It has a sort of teasing quality, as if to say, “things may be more complicated than they seem…” …which is borne out, in the second half of the theme. ♫ So, the pedal point has moved comfortingly to the tonic, ♫ but the theme itself hovers between major and minor. The first part loudly and prominently features the flatted sixth, e flat, ♫ suggesting the minor; Beethoven then provides a quiet correction of e natural, ♫ reinforcing the major. ♫ None of this flirting with the minor mode is meant to be seriously threatening or foreboding; like the rest of the movement, it’s about looking at life’s mysteries as fodder for comedy, not drama – and certainly not tragedy. Now, before going any further into the rondo itself, I want to talk about a very specific way in which this movement was influential: it became the model for the final movement of Schubert’s A Major Sonata, D. 959 – the middle of a staggering trinity of sonatas he wrote just months before he died. Now, this is in one sense not surprising: just as painters have always copied the works of the old masters, there are many examples of composers using the works of earlier greats as inspiration for their own music. Beethoven’s quintet for piano and winds, op. 16, pretty obviously takes Mozart’s work for the same ensemble and in the same key as a model. And Beethoven's string quartet Op. 18 no. 5 owes just as much to Mozart’s Quartet K 464. But Schubert’s appropriation of Beethoven’s op. 31 no. 1 is striking for two reasons: first of all, because of just HOW closely his sonata hews to the original – I will demonstrate some of the ways in which Schubert copies even small details of the Beethoven time and time again. But the really interesting thing about the relationship between the two works is that in spite of the sequence of events in each being SO similar, it can't be a coincidence, they share nothing in terms of character. The Beethoven, once again, is witty; the culmination of a comic work; the Schubert is extraordinarily warm-hearted, the capstone to a work which asks life-and-death questions and which, in its slow movement, features frightening, almost hallucinatory music which seems to stare death in the face. In the last movement, Schubert somehow, magnificently, recovers his equilibrium, with music of tremendous generosity. ♫ So, clearly the thematic material and the general ethos of the piece owe nothing to Beethoven. I find it utterly fascinating that Schubert could and would choose to use the old master’s compositional techniques, and then repurpose them to completely different effect.