Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/215

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BEETHOVEN.
203
 

was less bound by the forms and musical rules, and more swayed by the thought which he had to express, and the directions which that thought took in his mind.

1. The range of keys within which the composers of sonatas and symphonies before Beethoven confined themselves was very narrow. Taking the first movement as an example of the practice, the first theme was of course given out in the tonic, and this, if major, was almost invariably answered in due course by a second theme in the 'dominant' or fifth above; for instance, if the sonata was in C the second subject would be in G, if in D it would be in A. If the movement were in minor, the answer was in the relative major—C minor would be answered by E♭, A minor by C♝, and so on. This is the case 19 times out of 20 in the sonatas and symphonies of Haydn and Mozart. A similar restriction governed the key of the second movement. It was usually in the 'subdominant' or fifth below—in F if the key of the piece were C, in B♭ if the key were F, and so on. If the piece were in a minor key the second movement was in the third below. A little more latitude was allowed here than in the former case; the subdominant now and then became the dominant, or, very rarely, the 'mediant' or third above; and the relative major was occasionally exchanged for the tonic major.

Beethoven, as already remarked, adopted very different relations in respect of the change of key from one movement to another. Out of 81 works in sonata form he makes the transition to the dominant only 3 times; to the subdominant 19 times; to the mediant or 3rd above 4 times; and to the submediant or 3rd below 30 times. From tonic major to tonic minor he changes 12, and from minor to major 8 times. His favourite change was evidently to the submediant or third below that is to say, to a key less closely related to the tonic and more remote than the usual key. He makes it in his first work (Op. 1, No. 2). In his B♭ trio (op. 97) he has it twice, and in his Variations on an original theme (op. 34), each of the first 5 variations is a third below the preceding.

In the relation of his first and second subjects he is more orthodox. Out of 26 of the Pianoforte Sonatas the usual change to the dominant occurs 17 times, to the mediant 3, and to the submediant 3.

2. Another of his innovations had respect to the connection of the different subjects or clauses. His predecessors were in the habit rather of separating their clauses than of connecting them; and this they did by conventional passages of entirely different character from the melodious themes themselves, stuffed in between the themes like so much hay or paper for mere packing. Any symphony of Mozart or Haydn will give examples of this, which Wagner [1]compares to the 'rattling of the dishes at a royal feast.' Mozart also has a way of drawing up and presenting arms before the appearance of the second subject, which tends to cut the movement up into very definite portions. Of these tiresome and provoking intermediate periods Beethoven got rid by the use of phrases which are either parts of the main theme or closely related to it; and he thus gives his movements a unity and consistency as if it were an organic growth, and not a piece of work cunningly put together by art or man's device. How he effects this, and the very tentative and gradual way in which he does it, may be seen in Symphonies i and 2 and the Eroica, in which last all trace of the old plan has almost entirely disappeared.

3. The first movement of the Eroica supplies instances of other innovations on the established forms. Not only in the 'exposition' (before the double bar) are other themes brought in besides the two main subjects, but in the 'illustration,' or, to use the more common term, the 'working out,' there is an unanticipated explosion which, to say the least, is entirely without precedent, followed by an entirely fresh episode as important as anything that has occurred before, and that again by a new feature (the staccato bass) which, while it accompanies and reinforces the main subject, adds materially to the interest of the music. Again, in the 'repetition' we have not only a great departure from regular rule in the keys which the music goes through, but we have a coda of no less than 140 bars long, proclaiming itself by its opening as an independent member of the movement, and though made almost entirely out of previous material, yet quite differently expressed from anything before, and full of fresh meaning. Now none of these alterations and additions to the usual forms were made by Beethoven for their own sake. They were made because he had something to say on his subject which the rules did not give him time and space to say, and which he could not leave unsaid. His work is a poem in which the thoughts and emotions are the first things, and the forms of expression second and subordinate. Still, even in his innovations, how careful he is to keep as near the rules as possible! His chief episodes occur in the working out, where a certain licence was always lawful; and codas were recognised, and had even, as in Mozart's 'Jupiter,' been turned to noble account. The same characteristics are found in the ninth Symphony as in the third, only the mood of mind being entirely different, the mode of expression is different too, but the principle of the perfect subordination of the expression to the thought, while adhering as closely to the 'form' as was consistent with perfect expression, is the same. One or two pieces of his second period may however be named, in which both thought and mode of expression aro so entirely different from anything before them, that they stand quite by themselves. Such movements as the opening Adagio of the Sonata in C# minor, or the Con moto of the Pianoforte Concerto in G—in which Schumann used to see a picture of Orpheus taming brute-nature—have no prototypes; they are pure

  1. Music of the Future, translated by Dannreuther, 1873; p. 44.