Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 18 (Op. 31, No. 3) has been a favorite piece of mine for years…and for years I didn’t know what it was.
I first heard part of it–not the whole work, but a single movement–at my piano teacher’s annual end-of-year recital, when a former student of hers returned from college to offer up a quick surprise encore. He play the second movement of this sonata, which is one of the most infectious pieces I know. The movement is a rambunctious and, dare I say it, playful march in a brisk 2/4 time, with one of those Beethovenian melodies that sticks in the head as soon as you hear it.
This sonata is unusual in its construction in that it is in four movements and not the usual three, and that none of the movements is a proper slow movement. The entire work is warm and almost humorous, which is not something one typically expects from Beethoven. However, Beethoven’s cultural image is often unfair in itself. This sonata clearly comes from the same mind as the Seventh Symphony and even the Sixth before it, especially that wonderful dance in the Sixth where the bassoon keeps making off-beat entrances.
This performance is excellent, although if you’re a traditionalist in your views on deportment in the concert hall, the fact that the pianist is wearing overalls may be distracting. If that’s the case, turn your screen off and keep listening, because he performs this sonata wonderfully. As for me, I’m trying to ignore that he’s wearing his overalls incorrectly.