♫ And what tool does Beethoven use to begin to lead us, ever so slowly, BACK home? The chain of thirds. This time falling, this time in the bass. ♫ To me, each of these pairs of chords ♫ is like a man in the pitch dark, reaching for every light switch, one by one, in search of the one that will give him his bearings. There is still some residual trauma in this music -- how could there not be, given the immensity of the tragedy that has only just ended – but above all, this music has a palpable sense of wonder. And Beethoven ensures that this passage of wonder unfolds VERY deliberately, uncertainly. In the last lecture, I mentioned that all of the metronome markings in this sonata are notably, surprisingly fast – even the slow movement, marked Adagio Sostenuto, is given a metronome marking of 92 to the eighth note, which is a very flowing speed. Well, there is an exception to that rule. This introduction to the finale – marked “Largo”, which technically only means “broad”, not even “slow”, is almost excruciatingly slow, if one follows the composer’s explicitly stated instructions. If there is one metronome marking in the Hammerklavier that Beethoven clearly carefully considered, it is this one. He takes the extraordinary step of making the unit of pulse the sixteenth note – four times slower than the quarter note one would expect. And in case this wasn’t clear enough simply because he marks the music “sixteenth note equals 76”, Beethoven ALSO writes, in Italian, “per la misura si conta nel largo sempre quatro semicrome” – “in the Largo, always count four sixteenth notes”. Beethoven does not want this misunderstood. He wants every one of these very slow – because 76 to a pulse is slow – sixteenths. ♫ One two three four, one two three four, ♫ One two three four, one. This whole passage sounds very improvisatory. But its halting, irregular rhythm is actually meticulously written out, and playing it in Beethoven’s slow tempo with great rhythmic precision is the key to getting the effect he asks for. “Composed freedom” or even “composed chaos” is the term for this. In spite of this “chaos”, this improvisatory quality, this introduction does have a kind of a structure. There are four passages like the one I played which launches the introduction, ♫, with those descending thirds in the bass. Each of those four passages leads us to a new key area, and each is followed by a very different kind of exploratory music, each wilder than the preceding one. The first is, in fact, totally un-wild, music that seems to follow naturally out of what precedes it, that also evokes the emergence of light, perhaps the beginning of the sunrise. ♫ The second of these responses is still a song of the early morning, but it is much more active: it's at a faster tempo, and its counterpoint covers far more territory. ♫ With the third response phrase, we have a far more decisive change of character. This phrase arrives prematurely, interrupting the chain of thirds in the bass, and breaks into a fugato. The languorous quality of the first two phrases has been replaced with vigor and, especially, rigor – for the first time in this introduction, we have a true premonition of what is to come in the finale. ♫ And now, the final passage: this one is far longer than any of the preceding three – perhaps longer than all three combined – and it goes totally off the rails. It spans the whole keyboard multiple times, and finally, in its utter frustration at still not having found any sort of harmonic or motivic destination, goes absolutely berserk, with an accelerando moving us all the way from largo to prestissimo in a matter of moments. ♫ This introduction has now been going on for several minutes, and while it has taken us far from the world of the slow movement, it has provided no stability – no answers, just a series of ever more frustrated questions. And then all of a sudden, really without warning, comes the answer. ♫ We are HOME. In B flat major, and into the fugue finale itself.