Allegro con Brio. This is the assigned tempo for the first movement of Joseph Haydn's Sonata in D Major, Hoboken XVI:37. It is fast, and it is long. I once heard this particular Hoboken of Haydn's referred to as the “chicken sonata,” and this first movement explains why. To start, the right hand makes a lot of “clucking” sounds, much like a chicken that's been disturbed in the farmyard but then goes on with her pecking. I hear the chicken, but more evident to me on these first six pages are the movements of my household with my two young girls running about. Hopping eighth notes, running sixteenth notes, trills become twirls or tumbles. A quick break around measures 17 through 20, then back to the play with little Mae trying to keep up with big sister Olivia. In measure 32 they argue, but they've worked it out three measures later. This exchange continues through the first movement, and I'm there, trying to keep up with a clear head, doing my best to keep the right hand and left hand synchronized with each other. There are lots of repeats, lots of chances to correct the mistakes the second time around, but there's no getting around it: this movement, which takes the majority of the twenty-four hours designated to any day, can leave one fatigued. I acknowledge the beauty in it's orchestration, in the particulars of each phrase, but I don't often feel the beauty in the midst of playing it.
Largo e sustenuto. This is the tempo for the second movement of the piece. It’s my preferred tempo, and, in the mornings, when I awaken before everyone else, I’m allowed to live it for awhile. I sit and sustain the slowness of this movement for as long as I can. I extend the ritual of making and pouring my coffee, then adding the cream and sugar. I pause, taking my time to inhale the aroma. I rest in the sound of the sugar melting as it falls into the coffee. The fastest motions I entertain are the stacatto clinks of my spoon mixing everything together, embellishments or trills in an otherwise adagio custom. I am still, warm cup between my hands. This movement is minor, there is considerable dissonance, but this is the time for internal reflection, time to address mental conflict. Going down into the depths of the bass cleff, even if it's dark or unpleasant, is something I long for after six pages--ten with all the repeats--of allegro con brio. I welcome the brief pianissimo, I dot the rest in the measures of largo I’m given, because this movement is the shortest. And as I suppose it should be, there is no transition into the next movement.
Attacca Subito. The third movement commences directly. My girls awaken, and we’re presto. The observations and comments from seven-year-old Olivia along with the questions and requests from four-year-old Mae begin as soon as their feet hit the hallway’s bottom step and then crescendo and accellerando all through our day. My largo e sostenuto doesn’t belong here. Not now. This part insists on espressivo, grandioso, with lots of spirit and whimsy, lots of jumps and leaps. I can squelch the energy of these lively measures, break the rondo form and insist on my tempo, my bass clef, or I can embrace the flow and proceed up the treble clef con innocentemente. Eventually, and rarely without some hesitation, I acknowledge that there's only one way to go. For now, while this faster movement still follows the second, I’ll join in, hop in, skip in. My girls and I will play this one together.