Composers since the early classical era have used sonata form to express through music ideas which are at once complex and unified. This form contains a variety of themes and permutations of these themes, but is brought together into a comprehensible whole when these excerpts reappear. Beethoven, in the first movement of his Piano Sonata Opus 2 Number 3 utilizes this form to its full potential, modifying the typical structure in his characteristic way.
The sonata begins softly but with unmistakable energy. The trill like sixteenth notes on the third beat of this motif surge the piece forward into the next bar. The two bar motif appears again, and is then varied and expanded upon for four bars, revealing a sentence. A short tag draws attention to itself with the opening motif in the bass as well as szforzando hits and driving syncopation. By measure 13 the principal theme has already passed and the sonata rushes ahead with sixteenth note arpeggios and alternating octaves.
The transition at measure thirteen is the first curiosity of Beethoven’s handiwork. The first eight bars go by the book, quite unmemorable and making a clear modulation to G Major. At measure 21 the listener hears a melody high in the register which returns again later in the development, and no longer modulates. At first this may appear as a new section of the piece, but the discriminating listener will hear that this theme is in the dominant, ruling it out as a second principal theme inserted after the transition. This melody ends with a long fall down two octaves to a strong cadence in G, followed by a pause; the medial caesura in the dominant. Although typically the medial caesura would cadence on V of the dominant, this cadence is the most common stray from the norm that Beethoven uses in this work.
A striking shift in dynamics marks the flowing subordinate theme at measure 27. This piano section begins in g minor but quickly begins to modulate, a very unusual technique to incorporate in this part of the form. He passes through the key of d minor and as the subordinate comes to a close it leads us into a minor and the most curious section of the exposition.
The music following the first subordinate theme is loud, rapid, and sequential, moving briefly into both flat and sharp keys and cadencing firmly on a V of V followed by a break in harmonic rhythm; another medial caesura. These attributes do not leave any doubt that this is a second transition, followed by an even stronger medial caesura than that which followed the first transition. This is an extremely odd addition to a sonata form that few before Beethoven would even contemplate. Convention is returned to as this transition section is trailed correctly once again by a second subordinate theme.
Beginning in G major, the second subordinate theme is ornamented by turns, trills, and mordents and is marked “dolce.” The right hand continues the running eighth note texture similar to the first subordinate theme, but the left hand plays longer note durations, specifically whole notes in most measures. This subordinate theme modulates also, moving to D major, and finally to a V7 of C before the next segment.
The music of measure 61 allows a variety of options for analysis. It can be considered a subordinate theme or even a transition due to its similarity to mm. 13 and its modulating harmony. However, the forte dynamic and rapid sixteenths contrast sharply with the dolce section preceding, making it apparent that the closing themes have begun. This theme begins on a C major chord, but it is soon heard that this is only a IV chord and the section is in G. The alternating octave sixteenth notes on the second and fourth beats of these measures remind the listener of the sixteenths in the opening statement of the sonata stretched to extremes. The syncopated material in the last four bars of the first closing theme show a...