♫ So with the previous two sonata form movements, I skipped over the recapitulations entirely, as they did nothing unexpected. That seems destined to be the case in the finale again, but things do take a surprising left turn. At just the moment where in the exposition we move from E flat major to B flat major – from tonic to dominant, ♫ the moment where, being in the recap now, we expect to stay firmly planted on the tonic, Beethoven has a different idea. ♫ G flat major! Just like that opening of the development, ♫ which launched so many adventures. I think this “incorrect” appearance of G flat major in the recap is a kind of a joke – his way of saying “Fooled you!” And unlike some of Beethoven’s other harmonic pranks, this one has some staying power: the entire second theme area remains in this g flat major, and that’s where the closing theme starts, forcing Beethoven to do a little dance to finally get us back to E flat. ♫ Once again, he’s not taking any chances: fifteen (more) dominant arpeggios before we can get onto the business of the coda. I love this coda: it manages to heighten both the drama and the sense of play of the movement as a whole – remember, they’re more related than one might think. At the start of the movement, the two statements of the opening theme are just an octave apart. ♫ Now, in the coda, he puts the accompaniment in the middle, and stations the two main voices at the far ends of the keyboard, turning it into a competitive, almost argumentative dialogue, as it starts to move around harmonically. ♫ And there, again, comes a hard stop, a crashing fermata. It refers to the end of the exposition, ♫ and again, in a more oblique way, to the hesitations in the previous movements. Codas are meant to tie things together, after all. This stop – or, I should say, these stops, because there are two of them – are the most dramatic of the piece, partly because of how we lead up to them, but mostly because they come on these diminished chords, which just cry out for resolution. ♫ But instead, the replies are shy, lacking in both confidence and momentum. ♫ …until, finally, the confidence and momentum come back, in spades, bringing the movement and the piece to a thrilling close. ♫ Crisis averted! And so op. 31 no. 3 comes to an end. It’s not an easy piece (to play, or) to write a concluding paragraph about, because while it is absolutely full of character, the character is complex and sort of “in the cracks”. It moves this way and that way, unlike the preceding two sonatas, which are simultaneously more revolutionary and more straightforward. But op. 31 no. 3 fully belongs in this set of “new paths”. Not just for its beauty, or for the sophistication with which Beethoven binds a motley assortment of movements, but exactly BECAUSE it is emotionally a bit elusive and hard-to-pin down. One of the stories of Beethoven’s progression from early period to late is the story of his increasing willingness to be elusive. I wouldn’t say that opus 31 no. 3 is a particularly elusive piece – first movement aside, perhaps – but its subtlety and ambiguity are not qualities one associates with really any of the early period sonatas. It's a wonderful work, and one which, in its unassuming way, has much to say about where Beethoven would go in the years to come.