Beethoven – Piano Sonata 1 – Op. 2

Allegro

The piece starts with a definite “laying out of his stall”, an abrupt arpeggio in time (I didn’t want to say Mannheim Rocket) from the right hand and immediate triad support from the left hand, giving us the theme for the movement. There’s a definite upbeat, positive feel to this and Beethoven continues to explore this main theme to the fullest throughout this first section.

As we move through, the bass part becomes more expressive and exploratory, busy and inventive.

Adagio

The Adagio doesn’t seem to be as theme-based (thematic) as the Allegro, concentrating instead on a wistful, thoughtful collection of melodies supported by a less involved, conservative left hand which occasionally moves into the treble register. The overall humour still seems positive.

Minuetto-Allegretto

The third movement returns to a heavily thematic style with a slightly Eastern hint to the moderate question-and-answer format. Beethoven returns again and again to a “closure” phrase which he uses delightfully, as if it were punctuation. A key change leads us to another joyous/hopeful middle section swaps legato runs between the upper and lower registers, interspersed with collections of chords which are, while played heavily, easy on the ear and very tonal. The middle section also uses a shadow or form of the closure phrase, ensuring continuity.

Prestissimo

Another positive-sounding prestissimo movement rounds up the sonata with fast arpeggios moving throughout both registers, partnered with a rumbling, complex bass part.

The sections seem to have switched sides since the Allegro with the more complex part often being taken by the left hand and the more obviously chordal sequences played with the right. This movement isn’t as thematic as the other three with the patterns that do exist being covered by the bass parts.

A healthy, strong key change to the middle section keeps the listener involved and the return to the main story with some thumping chords and a cascade from both hands bring us back to the primary phrases and a hearty finish.

Hear Barenboim playing it here.

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