♫ So, we’ve had our scherzo; now it’s time for the menuet. Whereas the scherzo, while absolutely scherzo-y in character, wasn’t a “true” scherzo, in structure or meter, everything about this third movement is a menuet – classic as a menuet can be. It’s in the 3/4 time we expect from menuets, it has the stereotypical structure – menuet-trio-menuet da capo and then coda, and to top it all off, the relative length of the sections of the menuet itself are textbook. So, too, is the courtly, somewhat formal character. A piece with a scherzo and a menuet as its middle movements has a built-in…not problem, but reality… of the movements not being as totally differentiated as they would be if one of the two were, instead, a true slow movement. Beethoven addresses this by writing first a scherzo that, while moderate in speed, is as high-spirited and irrepressible as they get, and following it with a menuet that is more-than-usually wistful, nostalgic. Here is the menuet itself, without the trio. ♫ Honestly, there isn't so much that needs to be said about this beyond noting how beautiful it is – a fact you probably already noted yourself! One thing I will mention, because I think it has a lot to do with the character of this menuet, is how there is a general upward trajectory to this music. The first phrase starts, for all practical purposes, on an E flat. ♫ The next phrase begins a step up, on an F, and goes to a G. ♫ Then the next phrase, moves up a futher third, to B flat. ♫ After a brief downward detour, the second half of the menuet accelerates this upward motion. We start with a c flat – a note that both suggests the minor AND clashes with the b flat in the bass, thus doubly darkening the music’s color – then moves up higher. ♫ Then back down to that complex c flat, ♫ but this time when it goes back up, instead of then going back down, it goes higher still. ♫ So, if you had to boil this down, it would be a scale, moving up and up and up, covering a full active and a half. ♫ Part of me hates making these kinds of reductions, because they necessarily omit all the detail that makes the music so beautiful. But in this case, I think it is a useful exercise, because it helps explain how Beethoven gave this music one of its signature qualities – the sense that despite being quite placid on the surface, it is ever reaching, yearning. If the menuet’s upward motion is surreptitious and stepwise, the trio’s is overt and features giant leaps. ♫ I want to point out the irony that with those large leaps, the motion is, essentially, stepwise, as this ♫ reduces to this ♫ But adding in those extra octaves changes the character completely. The questions that many of these phrases are asking become bigger ones – the music itself is bigger. It takes the character of the menuet itself – a melancholy masked by good manners – and puts it on a grander scale. The commonality between menuet and trio becomes even clearer in the second half of the trio. Just as the second half of the menuet began with this c flat – a minor-leaning note that clashes with the b flat in the bass – ♫ the second half of the trio is all about the intrusion of a C flat, in this case doing real battle with the B flat, again and again. ♫ The link to the parallel passage in the menuet is clear, but this music also hearkens back to the sonata’s first movement, first of all because of the hemiola, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 becoming 1-2, 1-2, 1-2. First movement, ♫ and trio. ♫ But even more clearly referencing the first movement is the very next event, a section of brusque b flats, each one an octave below the previous one. ♫ Again, my sense is that these connections are meant to be felt subliminally – when the sonata is over, you are not thinking about the way one movement refers to another. But the presence of these links, even if not felt consciously, help the piece cohere. So, after a very literal reprise of the menuet comes a coda which really emphasizes the dark and intense aspect of this movement, rather than the courtly, patrician one. That half step relationship, ♫ that is the coda’s main subject. ♫ Remember, chromatic writing is usually darker and ALWAYS more intense than diatonic. Compare this, ♫ with what Beethoven actually wrote. ♫ He is making more explicit what was implicit throughout this brief movement – that dignity sometimes masks deep feeling. This tension persists to the end of the movement – perhaps not the right word, because the movement doesn’t really “end”, as such. Beethoven writes “calando”, which means “dying away”, and the movement simply disappears into silence. ♫ It’s not tragic, but it has an emotional subtlety and ambiguity that recall the first movement, and with its dark shadows, it takes us a million miles away from the second.