In my quest to sight-read through all of Beethoven’s Sonatas, I knew I would at one point turn the page and there would be Opus 22 – mocking me, testing me to see if I have grown up yet. It was a sonata that my teacher at University assigned to me, and for the life of me, I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t beyond my technical abilities at the time – I just couldn’t find an emotional connection at all to this movement.
But as I embarked on playing through it a couple of weeks ago, my thought was that now, more than 25 years later, I’ll probably find it a treasure and will shake my head at the foolishness of my youth. I had been avoiding this Sonata ever since I abandoned it for Opus 2 No. 3 a few months – or was it weeks? – after I started it all those years ago.
So I played through it – searching for what I had surely missed. And here’s the thing – I still don’t like the first movement. However, I played through the whole sonata, and the other movements are wonderfully meaty and are an amazing showcase of Beethoven’s developing Sonata style. I honestly don’t even remember having read through the rest of the Sonata even once. I like to think that had I actually played or listened to the whole piece, I might have stuck with it.
The most delightful moment came in the fourth movement. All of a sudden – out of nowhere – there was a chord progression I knew well – a quote of the opening theme of his Six Easy Variations, WoO 77, a piece I teach fairly regularly. Turns out Beethoven wrote out sketches for both pieces in the summer of 1800. Why not use a good idea more than once? A lot of the composers did.
And so I continue through his sonatas. The most interesting part of it so far has been seeing the development of his style – watching the melodies get more fragmented and the overall structure grow in a perfect balance. It’s a good lesson in sight-reading, the analysis of form, and perspective. These are complete pieces – all 3 or 4 movements. I’m thinking Beethoven never intended for one particular movement to stand alone.