The musical term andante comes from a word meaning “to walk,” or “walking.” This designation and/or tempo (the word can be both adjective and noun) often pertains to an inner or middle movement of a sonata or symphony with a “walking” or slower sort of pace to it. As many sonatas’ first movements are in a quicker tempo and style (allegro or allegretto), the andante, then, gives both the performer and the listener a space of “walking” and breathing. The fact that some of the most beautiful music ever written is contained in various andante movements may be purely coincidental!
Although the Andante here is not, in fact, Beethoven’s famous Andante favori, that particular piece of music has a bit of a humorous story attached to it, one that highlights another aspect you’ll frequently see in the andante movement: a recognizable “tune,” one that the audience can walk away singing to itself…with sometimes unexpected consequences.
Ferdinand Ries tells the story of how when Beethoven played that particular Andante for the first time to him and a friend, they liked it so much they had Beethoven repeat it. On his way home, Ries stopped to visit Beethoven’s patron, Prince Lichnowsky, to tell him all about this new piece. The prince wanted to hear it, so Ries played as much for the prince as he could remember. On each repetition, he remembered more, and the prince picked up the new piece as well. The next day, the prince contacted Beethoven, excited because he had composed a new piece of music and wanted Beethoven’s opinion on it. Beethoven declined, but the prince sat down and played it anyway…
And which piece do you suppose it was?
After you practice this Andante enough, perhaps you’ll find yourself humming it later on. If you are in the habit of writing music down yourself, you may even be able to rewrite some of it by heart. You won’t be composing anything new…yet. But only time will tell if maybe someday, you do!