About this work
Beethoven wrote numerous short piano pieces for his students; the most famous of these is probably the Bagatelle in A minor, WoO 59, known as "Für Elise." The pair of pieces entitled, "Lustig-Traurig" (Happy-Sad) probably has a similar origin and may have been meant to contrast playing in parallel major and minor modes.
Both "Lustig" and "Traurig" are in 3/8 time, "Lustig" in C major and "Traurig" in C minor. "Lustig" consists of two repeated, eight-measure phrases, the second of which begins on the dominant, G major. Beethoven's attention to balance and organicism is clearly evident even in these simple, jolly tunes, in which the close of each is an inversion of the opening.
In "Traurig," Beethoven conveys a sense of "sadness" somewhat superficially through the minor mode, but also in the poignant A flat of the third measure. Unlike "Lustig," the first phrase of "Traurig" moves convincingly to the dominant and the second part is rounded by a return to the opening. Not to end on a sour note, Beethoven directs a return to the C major "Lustig" episode.