The Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-flat major, op. 31, no. 3, is a sonata for solo piano by Ludwig van Beethoven, the third and last of his Op. 31 piano sonatas. The work dates from 1802. A playful jocularity is maintained throughout the piece, earning it the occasional nickname of The Hunt, although like many of Beethoven's early works, the 'jocular' style can be heard as a facade, concealing profound ideas and depths of emotion.
The sonata consists of four movements:
Beethoven's progressive harmonic language is apparent from the very first chord of the piece - ii 6/5 (F minor 7 in 1st inversion), the stability of a tonic chord in root position delayed until bar 7. The expressive harmonic colour, coupled with the changes of tempi in the introduction (1-18), creates an evocative opening, reminiscent of the improvisatory style of C. P. E. Bach's piano sonatas. This opening cell is repeated extensively throughout the movement - at the start of the development (89), in the recapitulation (137), and also during the coda (transposed into the subdominant (220), and then at its original pitch (237)). The codetta (33-45) explores this opening chord in a minor variation (with a C flat, implying ii7 of Eb minor), even appearing in bar 36 in the exact spacing (albeit with different spelling) of the 'Tristan chord', written by Richard Wagner some 55 years later.
The form of the sonata is unusual because it does not have a slow movement, which is instead replaced with a scherzo and followed by a minuet, before launching into the spirited finale.