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Def Grafin Anna Margarete von Browne gewidmet
Komponiert 1796/1798
by Ludwig van Beethoven

Presto

The opening D major theme feels good under the fingers, rising up to the sforzando A. We are in the world of Haydn and Mozart; the sound is bright, the key is major, the diversions to minor passages are brief, they add variety; they don't seem forboding. This movement is full of life, optimistic. The world is rational. All of the old forms are here: exposition, development, recapitulation. This is comfortable music - driving, exuberant - but comfortable, we know how it will end, and as the fingers reach the final fortissimo D Major chords, God's in His Heaven, All's right with the world.

Largo e mesto

The warm, comfortable feeling of the opening movement is gone. The opening D minor chord sits like an anchor, fingers don't fly or move, but plod heavily on the doleful theme. As the movement unfolds, the brief snatches of hope, perhaps a measure, quickly dissolve into mourning. The sound builds to pounding, leaden fortissimo chords, and these break into soft, disintegrating, descending triplets. The world has changed, some kind of terrible knowledge has been exposed, and there is no returning to the bright world of the presto. A final swelling of emotion leads to the dissolution, this grief cannot be maintained, and the music shrinks away. How can the ending two notes be played softly enough? - they must almost not be heard.

Menuetto

Back to D Major; we're in public now, we're putting on the best face possible, we're making smalltalk at the dinner table, we're telling a joke. But all of this is appearance, we can't return to the innocence we knew in the first movement. Nonetheless we clean ourselves up, ignore the grief, and go out for the night.

Rondo

The D Major theme is happy, but broken, tentative. The form is a Rondo - we can still pretend to live in Haydn's world. But now, all of our optimism will be tempered by the awful knowledge gained in the second movement - each rush of joy is cut short, it doesn't last long; and finally we sneak off piano, softly, playing a D Major arpeggio, the final mood optimistic, the musical line descending.

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