• Alvaro Sisti

Haydn Sonata in B flat Hob XVI.2 - 2nd & 3rd Movements

Updated: Jan 25

In our previous post, we analysed the first movement of the piano Sonata Hob XVI.2.

In this new post, we will analyse the second and third movements of this beautiful Sonata written by Joseph Haydn.


This second movement is a delicate Romanze in 3/4. Demands a very slow performance -largo is the tempo indication- and a sophisticated touch to keep the piece interesting, smart and elegant. The key is the minor relative of B flat major: G minor.

The structure is the usual for the slow movements: ABAB. The music reaches peaks of high intensity and uses mainly just a bunch of traditional ideas developed over and over.

The main theme is in G minor with a melody that insists on a note (D) before a jump. A triplet of semi demi-quavers (used in the previous movement as well) follows immediately leading to a suspension. This idea is developed and repeated.

In the next transcription of the score we can appreciate some of the resources we found already in the first movement: In A we have the main melody. In B we can see an accompaniment made by thirds. In C the triplets, and in D, the repetitions of the same idea.

The second theme happens first in the major relative: B flat major key.

Consist in ascending scales and then some descending pattern with jumps that sounds a bit like a ballet due to its delicate articulation. The left hand role is relegated again just to a tepid chordal repetition, in a harmony simple and a bit static.

A brief coda after B finishes the first section and re-affirms the key we've reached, B flat major, with a perfect cadence. In contrast with the first movement, we can find several mordents in this number, to embellish the slowness of the melodic line. Many structural resources of the other parts join efforts to build the coda: semidemiquaver triplet, broken octaves, thirds, and long notes followed by short ones in ascending patterns (just like the secondary theme).

In the second part of the piece the first thing to note is the repetition of A but now in the key of B flat major. In the first bars is a doppelganger of the very first bars, but after just four measures, the theme moves in a new direction.

The main theme turns into a sort of modulating bridge. In red, in the next graphic, we can see a pair of bars that are repetitions (the first with a variation, the second one, in pink, identical), a resource already used and typical in the period.

The diminished intervals are the main characteristic of this piece of music. The music drift in between different stressing chords that find their wait out of this sequence dropping all the weight in a D major chord - the dominant of G minor, the main key, our destination back home.

The secondary theme, this second time, happens in G minor, the main key of the piece. Some changes are evident: in the first time the composer asked us to make ascending scales and then descending patterns in order of three bars one thing and then three bars the other thing.

This second time, the composer just asks us to play one bar of one, then one bar of the other, this twice. Also, the descending pattern shows an austerity of notes related to the first section. The harmony only alternates between I and an inverted V.

With almost no difference, but the key of G minor this time, the piece finishes in a perfect cadence in a strong manner.

As a proof of Haydn craftsmanship, before the end of each section, he always introduces a pattern of descending-delayed by semiquaver notes. Some of them are in the graphic below.


A legatissimo touch is needed to perform this work properly. Soft and gentle but firm arm movements in the left hand will help us to get the ideal sound.

In the few passages when the left hand plays something interesting, we can raise the level of that layer by playing with fingers slightly more curved than usual. In the secondary theme, the rests and articulations demand some forearm movements well synchronized.



The third movement is a Minuet with trio.

The structure follows the traditional rules of a Minuetto of the period. The key is again B flat major, however, the trio is in minor mode: B flat minor. A moderate tempo, the piece is a calm and subtle way to finish the piece.

The main theme is plenty of jumps. As we can see in A some thirds still appear in the left hand but not in this time as the main interval. In B we can see some wide range intervals in the leading melody, and in C we can appreciate the three-layer written style adopted by Haydn in several points of this piece.

In the next bars, some tonal instability will take over the music to conduct us to the key of F major towards the end of this part. The triplets have an essential role but now they are used in a different manner: in slower proportion and progressive groups. A brief codetta closes the section, serving with semiquavers, repetition, and classical articulations. The harmony is directional and straightforward.

The second part starts in the key of F major (but leaning in the first bar on a IV grade) and uses, for the first time in the whole piece, thrills as a non-cadential tool. After just four bars presenting this material, some previously used music make its apparition in scene. The sentence between bars 5 to 14 is used again, now taking the music back to the beginning: B flat major key. Is an identical reply, being the only difference the repetition of the last four bars: (25 - 28) (29 - 32)

The trio consists in two parts. Starting in B flat minor, the first bars show drama and emotion. Some previous resources show up again such as third in the left hand (shown in A), delayed notes moved by parallel motion (B), triplets (C), and three-layer writing by moments (D). In E we can see how the first part of the trio finish in D flat major key -the major relative of B flat major.

After this part, a group of four bars, alternating melodies and accompaniments between hands and making a 2 bar repeated sequence (the second time one tone above) leads to a repetition of the main theme of the trio again. This is not a literal copy as we transpose the later ideas, in this situation, to finish the Trio in B flat minor key.


The thirds that are not slurred may be played with forearm movement. In contrast with some other Haydn Menuettos, where the forearm movement is recommended to play the left hand, here a legato touch with finger movement may work better to help the drama and the smooth feeling.

The semiquavers linked by two demands a forearm entry in the first and a forearm exit (lever movement) to make the articulation sound properly.



A - Three sentences 1-4 5-10 11-14

B - Three sentences 15 - 18 19 - 24 25 - 32


T1 33 - 38 In Bb m

T2 39 - 44 In Db

Bridge 45 - 48

T1 49 - 54 In Bb m

T255 - 60

Curiosity Corner: Other piano pieces by Haydn in b flat :

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