Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/217

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BEETHOVEN.
205
 

minuet. It is in fact a scherzo, and in its little dimensions is the pattern and model of those gigantic movements which in the Eroica, the C minor, the No. 7, and especially the No. 9 of the Symphonies; in the B flat trio; in the Sonata, op. 106; and the first of the Rassoumoffsky Quartets, are so truly astonishing, and so characteristic of their great author.

6. An innovation of great importance in the Finale, for which no precedent can be found, was the introduction of the Chorus. In the Eroica Symphony Beethoven showed how a set of orchestral variations could be employed in a finale. In the Choral Fantasia again he showed with what effect a chorus could be employed in the same part of the work. But in the 9th Symphony he combined the two, by using the chorus in a succession of variations. Mendelssohn has followed his example in the 'Lobgesang,' the vocal portion of which is the last movement of a symphony; but he has not adopted the Variation-form.

7. One of the most striking characteristics of Beethoven's music is the individual variety of each piece and each movement. In the Symphonies every one of the 9 first movements is entirely distinct from the other 8, and the same of the andantes, scherzos, and finales. Each is based on a distinct idea, and each leaves a separate image and impression on the mind. And the same may be said of the majority of the smaller works, of the concertos and quartets and pianoforte trios—certainly of the sonatas, all but perhaps a very few. The themes and passages have no family likeness, and have not the air of having been taken out of a stock ready made, but are born for the occasion. He thus very rarely repeats himself. The theme of the slow movement of the Sonata in F minor and the second theme in the first movement of the Sonata in C (op. 2, Nos. 1 and 3) are adapted from his early pianoforte quartets. The minuet in the Septet is developed from that in the little Sonata in G (op. 49, No. 2). The Turkish March in the 'Ruins of Athens' had already appeared as a theme for Variations in D (op. 76). The theme of the Variations in the Choral Fantasia is a song of his own, 'Seufzer eines Ungeliebten' (No. 253), composed many years before. The melodies of two Contretanze (No. 17a) are employed in the Prometheus music, and one of them is also used in a set of Variations (op. 35) and in the Finale to the Eroica. In the Finale to the Choral Fantasia there are some slight anticipations of the Finale to the Choral Symphony; the Prometheus music contains an anticipation of the storm in the Pastoral Symphony, and the subject of the Allegretto to the 8th Symphony is found in a humorous Canon (No. 256-2)—such are all the repetitions that have been detected. How far he employed Volkelieder and other tunes not invented by himself is not yet known. Certain melodies in the Eroica, Pastoral, and No. 7 Symphonies, are said to have been thus adopted, but at present it is mere assertion.

This is perhaps the most convenient place for noticing a prominent fact about his own melodies, viz. that they often consist wholly or mainly of consecutive notes. This is the case with some of the very finest themes he has written, witness the Scherzo and Finale to the Choral Symphony; and that to the Choral Fantasia; the slow movements of the B♭ Trio and the Symphony in the same key; the Adagio to the Quartet op. 127, and many others.

8. In the former part of this sketch we have mentioned the extraordinary manner in which Beethoven wrote and rewrote until he had arrived at the exact and most apt expression of his thought. The same extraordinary care not to be mistaken is found in the nuances, or marks of expression, with which his works are crowded, and which he was the first to introduce in such abundance. For instance, to compare the 'Jupiter' Symphony—Mozart's last—with Beethoven's first, we shall find that the violin part of the first half of the opening Allegro has in the former (120 bars long) 14 marks of expression, in the latter (95 bars) 42 marks. The Andante to Mozart's Symphony in G minor has 38 marks to 131 bars, while that to Beethoven's No. 2 has 155 marks to 276 bars. In the later works this attention to nuance increases. The Allegro agitato of the Quartet in F minor, 125 bars long, contains 95 marks; the Cavatina in the Quartet in B♭, 66 bars long, contains 58 marks. It is part of the system of unwearied care and attention by which this great man, whose genius was only equalled by his assiduity, brought his works to their actual perfection, and to the certainty that they would produce what he himself calls il suo proprio proposto effetto[1]—their own special and intended effect. How original and splendid the effect of such nuances can be may be seen in the Vivace of the No. 7 Symphony, where the sudden change from ff to pp, accompanying an equally sudden plunge in the melody and abrupt change in the harmony, produces a wild romantic effect which once to hear in never to forget.

In addition, Beethoven here and there gives indications such as the 'Bitte um innern und äussern Frieden' at the 'Dona' in the Mass in D, the 'beklemmt' in the Cavatina of the B♭ Quartet, the 'Arioso dolente' of Sonata op. 110, which throw a very personal colour over the piece. The word 'Cantabile' has a special meaning when he employs it.

9. Beethoven used Variations to a very great extent. For the Pianoforte, Solo and in conjunction with other solo instruments, he has left 29 sets, some on original themes, some on airs by other composers. But besides these several movements in his Sonatas, Quartets, and Trios are variations, so entitled by him. Every one will remember those in the Septet, in the 'Harp' Quartet, in the Kreutzer Sonata, in the Solo Sonata in A flat, and in the two late Sonatas in E and C minor (op. 109 and 111). Many

  1. Preface to the Eroica