About this work
Originally intended as the slow movement of the "Waldstein" Sonata, this piece was excised and left to exist on its own. It is lovely but diffuse music, and has gone through alternating periods of affection and neglect. Its opening theme consists basically of a simple phrase repeated a few intervals apart with increasing (but still slight) elaboration toward the end. After its first statement, it receives a short, more ornamented variation, then appears again as before. Another variation ensues, more wayward and slipping into the minor mode before the original theme returns. This variation sequence sets the basic pattern for the piece: a sort of rondo in which the intervening episodes are variations on the refrain, which recurs in abbreviated form. The variations include a playful, skipping, staccato section, a two-part invention alluding vaguely to Johann Sebastian Bach, and a staccato treatment in the right had over wandering figurations in the left. The movement ends in quietly resonating meditation, an interesting experiment in piano sonority that Beethoven carried out more aggressively in the "Waldstein" Sonata.