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X Line and Space: Op. 2 No. 2, Op. 101

Kenneth O. Drake Indiana University Press ePub

Touch may be the most basic of our senses. Form—repetition, departure, and return—is the means by which the mind recognizes continuity. Continuity, for the pianist’s fingers, is the physical feel of musical lines and shapes, perceived as keyboard space and the direction of movement. When we play Op. 2 No. 2 or Op. 101 our hands and our muscles discover the surface, the size, and the contours of the same piece of musical clay that Beethoven shaped with his hands. Thus, the composer speaks to the interpreter not through sound alone but also through the feel of the writing—the arm movement and the physical effort it requires. The grams of weight the finger should feel or the arc the elbow should describe cannot be notated, although the musician/pianist will understand as though reading an unwritten staff between the clefs.

The pianist who finds too few notes in Op. 2 No. 1 may occasionally feel that there are too many in Op. 2 No. 2. Both the A-major Sonata and the C-major, Op. 2 No. 3, surpass the F-minor Sonata in technical demands. In its vertical sonority and its clearly defined sections, the treatment of the keyboard in the C-major Sonata sounds orchestral. The A major, by comparison, is linear, suggestive rather than literal, smooth in its flow from section to section, and sophisticated in its invention.

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VIII Motivic Development: Op. 2 No. 1, Op. 57, Op. 110

Kenneth O. Drake Indiana University Press ePub

Armed with our urtext editions, scholarly studies of performance practice, and doctorates, we may think that our performances represent a more accurate reading of the printed page than any in the past. However indispensable reliable editions and an understanding of performance practices may be, to realize literally and irreproachably the printed page is no feat at all, compared with the “original interpretation” of the Fourth Concerto when it was still a blank page in the sketchbook. Like the composer, with every performance a true interpreter mentally faces a blank page of manuscript paper. The muscles know the notes; the intelligence and fantasy of the player must decide what to do with them.

Grouping particular sonatas under various headings should not be regarded as excluding other sonatas that illustrate the same procedure, in this case, motivic development. Op. 2 Nos. 2 and 3, Op. 13, Op. 27 Nos. 1 and 2, Op. 28, Op. 49 No. 2, Op. 78, Op. 106, and Op. 109 all contain one or more motives that reappear, playing new roles and wearing new guises throughout the sonata. The three sonatas grouped together under the heading “Motivic Development”—Op. 2 No. 1, Op. 57, and Op. 110—have been chosen because the motivic pattern is the vehicle for developing the singular character of each sonata; and because they are works that span a lifetime, one may follow Beethoven’s growing sophistication in the use of simple patterns to develop character.

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VI Sound as Color

Kenneth O. Drake Indiana University Press ePub

Those who knew Beethoven as a child remembered his being held spellbound by unusual sounds, such as the whirring of the shutters in the wind, recalling Czerny’s remark that, with Beethoven, “every sound and every movement became music and rhythm.” Color goes beyond pleasing sonority or bell-like “singing tone” to the unique timbre of a particular sound that is only one step removed from the whirring of the shutters. Imagination for color is finding character in harmony that is tonally nonfunctional, in chromaticism, in a particular interval, register, accompaniment figure, or detail of articulation, in a character piece, in the contrast of major and minor, and in the indication of long pedals.

“Tonally nonfunctional” describes a suspension of harmonic movement during which sound is heard for its intrinsic property to draw the listener’s attention to itself (Exx. 6.1 and 6.2). In Ex. 6.1, the extended dominant-seventh harmony and the chromatic play within it introduce a few moments of stillness and reflection following the intensity of the first half of the exposition. This passage also marks the first appearance of the triplet sixteenths, which provide a kind of rhythmic relief from the duple eighth and sixteenth subdivision that has gone before. One may suppose that, because of the adagio in m. 24, the tenute and longer note values in m. 25, and the fermata in m. 26, Haydn would have played the triplet sixteenths freely, perhaps with a rallentando, so that the tempo of the latter would have led naturally into the adagio cadenza. Treating the triplets freely establishes a basis for contrast with the triplets in the closing theme, which begins in m. 32.

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XI Movement as Energized Color: Op. 53

Kenneth O. Drake Indiana University Press ePub

Once the technique to articulate non legato sixteenths has been developed, the keyboard patterns of the “Waldstein” lie well under the hands. Although the writing may lend itself to common virtuoso display, the extended piano and pianissimo writing (the first movement contains roughly twice as many indications of pp or p as f or ff) suggests a virtuosity through which notes shimmer instead of blind.

Ironically, the raw material out of which this quality of sound was created was something quite earthbound: exercises in the form of sequential scale passages in tenths, in contrary motion, and in canon. The sketchbook containing these exercises (and, a few pages later, sketches for Op. 53) was used by Beethoven primarily in the year 1803; it also contains sketches for the Third Symphony, Leonore, the Fifth Symphony, and the Triple Concerto, as well as the opening measures of the Fourth Piano Concerto.

Ex. 11.1.   BEETHOVEN SKETCHES TRANSCRIBED BY NOTTEBOHM.

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XIII Facing Two Directions: Op. 49 Nos. 1 and 2, Op. 54, Op. 78, Op. 90

Kenneth O. Drake Indiana University Press ePub

The two-movement sonata represents a return, full circle, to the beginnings of the suite in the pairing of contrasting dance movements. Eliminating either an opening Allegro or a traditional Adagio from a typical three-movement sonata rules out an overall departure and return. A two-movement form lends itself to an either/or contrast that is illustrated by Opp. 49 No. 1, 54, 78, and 90. The ultimate, sublime example of such contrast of character is Op. 111, which will be treated separately.

Considered as a group, the opus order of the two-movement sonatas present an ascending dramatic unity and sophistication in the integration of motivic material. Admittedly, the motivic relationship between the two movements of Op. 49 No. 2 is more obvious than that in Op. 90, although in comparison with the latter, the G-major sonata projects little sense of drama.

Because of the title, Leichte Sonaten, and because of their suitability as repertoire for teaching, the musical substance of these works is likely to be overlooked. The pianist who plays for singers and thinks as a singer will find the angularity of the melodic line in the opening of Op. 49 No. 1 a clue to the substance of the piece. Keyboardists are deprived of the sensation of producing the actual sound and shaping musical ideas within the human body. In the melodic line of the G-minor Sonata, the vocal reaching, often for a pitch stressed with an mfp or an fp, remains meaningless if sixths and fourths represent only the span of notes under the hand. To appreciate melodic distance as a singer, the pianist might practice mm. 5–8 as notated in Ex. 13.1, without pedal, using one hand. For the voice, the appoggiaturas and short slurs in Ex. 13.2 offer an opportunity for communicating warmth and grace.

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