for piano, Op. 13, Rondo, Allegro (third movement)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 8 Tracks 33-42
My youngest sister wore the most cherubic blond curls you could ever see when she was a toddler. Just to hear her laugh I would put on extended puppet shows from behind the living room couch. My sound track would always be a Beethoven piano sonata. My father had tapes of several of them performed, if memory serves, by Peter Serkin. They were incredible. Not the puppet shows, that is, but the sonatas.
On its own this movement testifies to Beethoven's fine craftsmanship and provides a delicate entertainment. It opens with a sudden wakefulness that reminds me of Mozart's 40th symphony. As the rondo continues the listener is never taken far from the comfort of the original key and theme. And each event is short and quickly carries the listener toward the apotheosis.
The ease of this piece belies the complicated, operatic, drama that is any Beethoven piano sonata in full. In the context of the Sonate pathétique
this rondo is a breathtaking episode in an inspired tragedy our fiery composer put to paper with the joy known only to those whose talents are entirely engaged. And because of this joy, in spite of the minor key, a Beethoven sonata can serve as a world to a toddler.