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Beethoven and the Symphony

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1 Beethoven and the Symphony
Chapter 14: Beethoven Beethoven and the Symphony

2 Key Terms Rhythmic drive Motivic consistency Psychological progression
Scherzo Fragmentation Rhythmic motive

3 Ludwig van Beethoven (1) (1770-1827)
Son & grandson of Bonn court musicians To Vienna in 1792 to study with Haydn Began a career as pianist & composer Progressive deafness diagnosed in 1802 Beethoven considered suicide Chose to devote his life to his art instead His music now took on a new urgency Forceful, strong-willed, uncompromising He all but demanded support from nobility

4 Ludwig van Beethoven (2) (1770-1827)
Probably the 1st person to make a career solely from composing Seen as a genius, he seemed to live for his art Many affairs, but he never married Totally deaf by 1820 Adopted his orphan nephew in later years Beethoven was much too overprotective Shock of his nephew’s suicide attempt hastened his own death 20,000 attended Beethoven’s funeral

5 Beethoven and the Symphony (1)
Beethoven created excitement & urgency by maximizing musical elements Higher and lower registers Sharper syncopations & stronger accents Harsher dissonances that must struggle to arrive at yet more profound resolutions New demands on instruments Expansion of the orchestra Classical forms stretched to their limits

6 Beethoven and the Symphony (2)
Beethoven wrote only nine symphonies He wrote many more piano sonatas (32) & string quartets (16) But Beethoven is associated especially with the symphony Wrote some of the greatest symphonies ever Orchestra provided the greatest range of expression, variety, & sheer volume Even his sonatas & quartets of sound like symphonies – and require new techniques of piano & string playing!

7 Beethoven and the Symphony (3)
Beethoven’s “symphonic ideal” can be observed in his Fifth Symphony (1808) Three main features have impressed generations of listeners Rhythmic drive Motivic consistency Psychological progression

8 Rhythmic Drive Blunt, even ferocious rhythms produce a palpable physical impact Beethoven hammers the meter Emphasizes meter & disrupts it with equal vigor Piles accent upon accent, rhythm upon rhythm Rhythmic motives surge forward Long-range rhythmic planning & goals A far cry from the elegance & wit of Classical style

9 Motivic Consistency Constant repetition of a single motive
Especially in 1st movement of Symphony 5 Motive repeated, yet constantly varied Variations never sound random Motive becomes more significant & vivid as work progresses Creates a feeling of organic growth – like a plant’s leaves growing from a single seed

10 Psychological Progression
Symphony no longer simply 4 contrasting movements Beethoven now traces a coherent & dramatic psychological progression “There fate knocks at the door!” Beethoven on the 1st movement But Fate is trampled under by a military march in the the last movement Symphony now expresses an inspirational life process – a drama to rival opera!

11 The Scherzo Beethoven substitutes a scherzo for the traditional minuet
Italian word scherzo = joke Aristocratic minuet too formal Scherzo shares a few features with minuet A B A form & triple meter But scherzo was much faster Rhythmic drive & frequent syncopation give it a brusque, jocular, even violent feel

12 Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, I (1)
Motivic consistency prominent here A single rhythmic motive dominates It forms the first theme It initiates the bridge It appears as background to lyrical 2nd theme It emerges again in the cadence material

13 Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, I (2)
It is used throughout the development It continues to grow in the long coda Motive gives the work a gripping urgency

14 Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, I (3)
Listen for— Arresting, primal first statement of Theme 1 motives separated by fermatas Horn-call bridge announces Theme 2 Theme 1 variant announces the development Thematic fragmentation in the development Oboe cadenza in the recapitulation Recapitulation’s 2nd group in major key LONG, developmental coda with new theme Main motive repeated & varied in every bar!

15 The Remaining Movements
First movement ends with a standoff at the end of a heroic struggle Later movements respond to and resolve this struggle The rhythmic motive recurs in each movement to remind us of the struggle C minor passages also recall the struggle C major passages point to the ultimate triumph over Fate

16 Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, II
Double theme & variations form Six variations on Theme 1 Primary key is A-flat major Modulates to C major 3 times for powerful, triumphant fanfare passages Rhythmic motive appears in mysterious retransition to A-flat

17 Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, III (1)
Scherzo movement in A B A form A section recalls 1st movement Spooky a theme is in C minor with fermata interruptions Rhythmic motive dominates forceful b theme

18 Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, III (2)
B section (Trio) points to Fate’s defeat Humorous fugal section in C major Return of A completely transformed Mysterious pizzicato & oboe Leads into doubly mysterious transition

19 Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, IV (1)
Eerie transition leads directly into IV Rhythmic motive in timpani Music grows gradually louder & clearer At climax, full orchestra (with trombones) announces marchlike 1st theme of the 4th movement – in C major Straightforward sonata form movement Theme 2 based on the rhythmic motive

20 Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, IV (2)
End of development brings back 3rd movement’s b theme & eerie transition A final reminder of the struggle Recapitulation & coda provide a great C-major celebration No surprises in recapitulation LONG coda in three sections revisits previous themes Final section accelerates tempo for a rousing Presto finale Ending drives home C major chord

21 Conclusions The dramatic strength & rhythmic power of this work went far beyond earlier music Beethoven unified the symphony Motives appear in more than one movement Movements can be connected without pause The symphony narrates a dramatic “story” Beethoven single-handedly changed the nature of the symphony genre Never again would the symphony be a simple entertainment

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