Opus 31 no. 3
This is the end of Beethoven's middle period and it's in his favourite key signature 3 flats! The sonata - although very traditional in form - really is of Beethoven's middle period beauty. It even is that traditional to form that there are four movements.
No hidden genius ideas then? Oh sure, they are there! For instance the whole first theme works as a grand introduction opening towards the second theme, which is a very Haydnish jolly tune, sort of...
The second movement is also true to form. The scherzo is in fact a tempo indication and not a character indication. After all we have a minuet as third movement. Although entirely true to form? It tries to be an aria in variation form, but really Beethoven suggests sonata form and rondo. It would work very well as a final movement.
The Menuetto suggests a very simple Haydnish dance in 8 bars binary form, but after all the Trio is not in minor, but just part of the Menuetto. In fact you might be tempted to interpret this minuet as just a German Dance thrown in for good measure. Let Andreas Schiff play it and it's beauty is immediately apparent.
The last movement is also true to form, albeit true to Beethoven's form, because it is one of his rondos in sonata form. And yummy! A presto as well!
Exactly the speed of this movement has earned it the nickname 'the Hunt'. But beware! As always with Beethoven's fast movements it never is an invitation to rush. Especially here below the speedy long lines slumbers the same spiritual depth as in the first three movements.
Hence although this sonata at first glance seems very down to earth and playful, it really has the spiritual character of Beethoven's middle period and is a worthy closure of it.
Vladimir Ashkanazy mvt 4
Daniel Barenboim plays mvts 3 and 4
Andreas Schiff mvts 3 and 4
(lightyears ahead of the other two!)