Movement 1: Presto alla tedesca
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Vivace
The Presto alla tedesca (‘In the German style’) designation of the sonata’s opening movement looks forward to the Alla danza tedesca third movement, likewise in G major, of Beethoven’s late String Quartet Op 130. Curiously enough, the quartet’s theme is an exact inversion of the sonata’s opening subject. Beethoven’s sketch for the sonata’s initial subject shows it in a dance-like form, and in a regular eight bars. The final version is less symmetrical, but Beethoven appears not to have forgotten his simpler original idea, and he returns to it in the movement’s coda, where the melody’s phrases are shared between the pianist’s two hands. Beethoven clearly enjoyed the notion of ending the movement with what sounds for all the world like a contredanse, and he even added acciaccaturas (‘crushed’ notes which make it sound as though two adjacent notes are being played simultaneously) to the melody, as though in imitation of a village band. As for the movement’s central development section, it is mainly based on the main theme’s ‘cuckoo-call’, involving some crossed-hands gymnastics which are by no means easy for beginners to negotiate.
The middle movement is a melancholy barcarolle in the minor, and the sonata comes to a witty close with a rondo whose theme looks forward to another of Beethoven’s late works: its harmonic outline is the same as that of the opening subject in the Sonata Op 109. Following a central episode rather like some miniature ‘Rage over a lost penny’, Beethoven returns to the rondo theme in the middle of a continuing phrase, so that the reprise seems to begin in mid-stream. It is a witty touch, and one that is matched by the charming effect of the work’s gently understated ending.
from notes by Misha Donat © 2010