The next instalment in our Beethoven on Board series is now available on the Online Academy and features Beethoven’s second piano sonata in A major. A stark contrast to his first sonata, this work shows a completely different side to his music and personality. This time the work starts in the much more approachable key of A major to start with with a distinctly upbeat feel, whilst maintaining the unusual four-movement structure of No. 1.

As with his first Sonata, the work comes with an incredibly simple dedication to Haydn, and whilst the influence from his teacher and Mozart are obvious, there is already a clear departure from the established tradition, in terms of harmony, structure as well as dramatic features.

The Mannheim Rocket that fires off his F minor Sonata still presides in this piece, but the effects are entirely different. With an innovative slow movement followed by a delightful Scherzo sandwiched by the more substantial outer movements, there is much to explore in this colourful work.

It is a pity that a lot of Beethoven’s early Sonatas, including this one, seldom gets performed on the concert stage, but left at the ‘study’ stage of any pianist’s musical journey. Although the tricky leaps in the development of the first movement and the extraordinary demand for stamina of focus required over the long lyrical phrases may be off-putting to programme, there is so much beauty and unique features to enjoy in this Sonata.

Beethoven piano sonata in a major

1st Mvt – Allegro vivace

Written in the same year as the previous sonata, the first movement opens with a far brighter mood possibly evoking a pastoral setting with the cuckoo calls. This early work still carries a strong influence of Haydn and Mozart, but there are some developments, including some striking modulations for the time period.

2nd Mvt – Largo Appassionato

The second movement is very different from that of the first sonata and is marked largo, therefore broader than the previous adagio. It starts in the style of a string quartet and features a staccato bass against lyrical chords. This movement is perhaps a foreshadowing of later movements, it’s influence also possibly seen in works by Schubert and Brahms.

3rd Mvt – Scherzo

Although similar to a minuet and trio, which Beethoven inserted as a third movement for his Sonata No. 1 to create a four-movement structure, this movement is marked Scherzo and is the first of such by Beethoven. The A minor trio section adds contrast to the cheerful opening and there is also an unusual second melody in the remote key of G-Sharp minor.

4th Mvt – Rondo

This lyrical movement in rondo form is Mozartian in style, but substantial in that the theme repeated five times in various guises. There is also an unexpected, dramatic section in A minor which further adds to the scale of this movement.

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The full set of twenty videos in which Masa explores background, style, interpretation, technical challenges and practice methods for each of the four movements of this work is now available on the Online Academy. Click here to view or click here to find out more about the Online Academy. Further information on Masa’s videos previous videos on the first sonata are also available here.

Beethoven on Board

Our Beethoven on Board series will ultimately feature all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas and is being filmed on board The Piano Boat. The Piano Boat is a new way of bringing classical music to audiences in and around London, surrounded by the intrigue and beauty of the canals.

The boat, Rachmaninov, is designed for and dedicated to musical events, carrying a beautiful Steinway Model A grand piano in the concert saloon. Seating 12 in an exclusive, intimate setting, it offers an experience where spectacular music is at the forefront of your experience on the canals. Click here to find out more.

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