♫ So, for a time, the progression from variation to variation bears a certain resemblance to the way the last movement of Op.109 unfolds. This means, at first, an already extraordinary but still orderly progression away from the calm purity of the theme and towards something much more energetic, even wild. In Op. 109, this meant the chorale-like theme, ♫ evolving into this very slow sort of dance – a landler – ♫ and then a playful exchange between the hands, marked leggieramente, ♫ and finally a joyous, almost headlong version, marked Allegro Vivace. ♫ In op. 111’s variations, the progression is even more straightforward – as strange as it seems to use that word to describe music that is so wondrous. But whereas in op. 109, Beethoven keeps the harmonic plan from the theme but tosses pretty much everything else out the window as he moves from variation to variation, in 111, the triplet-y long-short-long-short of the rhythm remains absolutely consistent in variations one, two, and three. In fact, unlike in op. 109, even the tempo remains the same: Beethoven just increases the note values so that the music sounds faster – ultimately dramatically so. (This is accomplished in part due to a complex kind of metric modulation that people have spilled far too much ink on – the only thing you need to know to understand and appreciate what is happening here is that in each variation, there are three main beats to each bar. There are just far more notes per beat as we go along.) So, the technique may be simple. But what results! The additional notes that each variation brings take the theme’s chorale to a series of places, one more extraordinary than the next. In the theme, the long-short triplet already featured prominently, but it was not a permanent feature: many beats are simply held notes and the triplet only ever features in the top voice. ♫ In the first variation, however, the long-short, long motion appears in every single melodic beat, and in the left hand, all three triplets are played, each beat. This does not only have the effect of increasing the rate of motion – though it does do that, of course – it also takes the purity of the theme’s chorale and transforms it into something more improvisatory and exploratory. ♫ Beethoven is finding spaces in between, around, and behind the theme’s notes, here. Hear how he takes the opening C to G falling fourth, ♫ and transforms it, approaching the G from both below and above before landing on it, ♫ and in the process creating intervals with new emotional resonances. However transformed this first variation might be, its basic shape is the same as the theme’s. That is to say: the only harmonic event comes at the start of the second half, which turns to a minor, before a (not triumphant, but at least) cathartic return to the C Major. ♫ It's amazing how many new layers the theme acquires in this variation, even though the harmonic scheme remains the same, as do the tempo, meter, and even, to a great extent, the note values. The changes from variation one to variation two are a bit more fundamental, and more dramatic. While the time signature does change, to 6/16 (again, this is really not a detail worth worrying about), the basic meter remains the same – three big beats per bar, as it is throughout the movement. But within each of those big beats, there is a significant increase in the level of activity. First of all, one short-long triplet ♫ has been doubled into two. ♫ This means that while the basic pulse hasn't changed, the music now moves twice as quickly. And perhaps just as significantly, the counterpoint becomes much more intricate. In the first variation, there were, most of the time, only two active voices – and one of them functioned as an accompaniment. Here, in the second variation, those two voices have become three, and all three take prominence at different points. ♫ I bring up all of these changes, well, for the same reason that I’ve brought up everything in this course: because of the changes in character that they bring with them. The theme of this movement is remarkable for the sense of absolute contentment – peace – it brings, in the direct wake of the emotional storm the first movement created. Two variations in, that peace has been traded for something more complicated: urgency, want, exhilaration… …and boy, are those qualities about to be enhanced. In Op. 109 it was with the third variation, ♫ that the forward motion of the first half the movement reached its apotheosis. Op. 111’s third variation is a more extreme version of this, with the triplet motion once again doubling in speed, resulting in music that has blown listeners’ minds for a couple of centuries for very good reason. ♫ This variation has, time and time again, been called “the invention of boogie-woogie”, or “a premonition of boogie-woogie” or something like that. Now, let me first say that I understand why. As if the very fast triplet motion ♫ weren’t boogie-woogie enough, the tied version is jazzier still. ♫ And I swear to you, it’s not any kind of snobbery that makes me reject this description: jazz is a great art form, and Beethoven was profoundly ahead of his time – so he may have loved boogie-woogie, had he lived a century longer and heard it. But I simply don’t think it’s a description of this music that gets to the heart of its character. Boogie-woogie, to my ear, anyway, has the laid-back quality that defines much of the best jazz – it can be very fast, very virtuosic, but it never seems to be in any great hurry. It's music for watching the world go by. This variation is NOT like that. The result of one, then two and finally three increases in the speed of this movement, it has an ecstatic, unstoppable force. This is felt not just through the sheer rate of motion, but through the reaching for the top of the keyboard, from C, ♫ to F, ♫ and finally to G. ♫ It's felt through the offbeat accents – not a feature of the earlier variations – which add an element of rhythmic combat to the music. ♫ Still, if I’m gonna be a killjoy and reject the idea of incipient jazz here, I want to stress the more important notion – that this music is way ahead of its time, and it is crazily EXTREME. Whatever it is expressing – and I feel sort of powerless to name it, as exhilaration is part of it, but it is so much more than and so far beyond mere exhilaration – it's expressing it to the nth degree, to an extent that cannot be increased.