Keeping with the theme of springtime music, this week’s music is the “Spring” Sonata No. 5 in F Major by Ludwig van Beethoven, performed by Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos and Italian pianist Enrico Pace. If you’re interested in hearing more Beethoven from this duo, Kavakos and Pace recently released a recording of all ten Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano with Decca Classics (which I highly recommend).
This four-movement sonata was not originally nicknamed “Spring”—that name was given to it later, by audiences who thought the opening bars of the first movement were reminiscent of a blossoming spring-time meadow—but it was designed to be light-hearted and lyrical. None of the movements feature the dark, powerful motifs so often associated with Beethoven. On the contrary, they are all remarkable cheerful, perhaps even Mozartian.
In the first movement, listen for the way the violin and piano trade the opening line and recycle it through multiple tonalities. Beethoven is a genius at fragmenting a melody, then bringing it back in unexpected ways. The second movement is written in song form, leading some scholars to wonder if it was originally a lullaby. You’ll hear a dance-like trio in the third movement, evidence of Beethoven’s tutelage under the great Franz Joseph Haydn, and the characteristic Rondo that finishes so many sonatas of the Classical era.