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Wednesday 8th June, 1700-1930
John Lill

Scherzo: Allegro assai

The two sonatas of Beethoven's Op. 14, written within a year of the Pathétique and published in the same month of 1799, make a matching pair. Both are in three movements, both in major keys and both provide a lyrical contrast with the heady emotions of Op. 13. No. 2, indeed, finds the composer at his most playful, particularly when it comes to tricks of metre and rhythm.

The opening Allegro almost feels its way into a main theme, even fooling the listener as to where the bar line falls, as its broken figures coalesce into a more tangible melody. The movement features one of Beethoven's more elaborate development sections and, after the return of the opening music, comes to an end in a mood of contentment. The middle movement is a set of variations on a simple, staccato theme - Beethoven at his most congenial, though he ends with an attention-grabbing joke worthy of Haydn. The finale, unusually, is a pastoral-style scherzo, but one in rondo form rather than the more common scherzo-and-trio layout, and with a main idea that disconcertingly sounds as if it is never sure whether it has two or three beats to the bar.

Matthew Rye

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