Playing Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas

Piano Sonata in A major, Op. 2/2

This work continues the revolutionary thread that runs through Beethoven's Op. 2 piano sonatas. Although the piece is in A major, the weight given to the minor mode is astounding. These dark shades enhance the work's dramatic effect and expand its proportions; the opening movement's subordinate theme, for example, must journey from the dark spaces of E minor to the expected key of E major.

The sonata contains several other features of note: the highly varied textural profile of the Largo appassionato, the third movement scherzo (a witty derivation of the minuet to which Beethoven resorts more and more throughout his compositional career), and the elaborate gestures of the grandiose finale, to which Beethoven appends a fairly extensive coda—a sign of the vast post-recapitulatory structures to come.

I. Allegro vivace

• exposition

NOTES: The opening movement of this work is the first example of a highly unusual form in Beethoven's piano sonatas. To give the main theme shape and direction, it is helpful to treat the first 8 measures as an opening gambit of sorts, followed by two iterations of the same music: the first iteration (mm. 9–20) ends with a half cadence, and the second iteration (mm. 21–32) ends with a perfect authentic cadence.

The atypical subordinate theme, which begins in the unexpected key of E minor, is supported by an underlying sequential harmony that gives the music a searching quality. The exuberant answer to this persistent "questioning" is found in m. 84, when the music burst out in the expected key of E major. One can squeeze much drama from this passage.

II. Largo appassionato - Coming Soon!

III. Scherzo: Allegretto

• scherzo

NOTES: Although it is most intuitive to use 2-1-3-2-5 on the opening right-hand gesture, an alternative fingering–2-1-4-2-5– could lead more quickly to rhythmic precision for some. Either way, ensure that you provide each upbeat with a solid attack, and use the resulting momentum to drive through the gesture. When the sixteenth-note figure is transferred to the left hand, use the following fingering: 3-5-1-3-5.

IV. Rondo: Grazioso - Coming Soon!