Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/218

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206
BEETHOVEN.
 

other movements in the same branches of composition are variations, although not so named. The slow movements in the Sonata 'appassionata' and the op. 106 are splendid instances. In the Symphonies the slow movements of the C minor, the Pastoral and the Ninth, are magnificent examples, the last the most splendid of all—while the colossal Finales of the Eroica and the Ninth Symphony are also variations, though of a very different order from the rest and from each other. Of the lowest and most obvious type of variation, in which the tune remains in statu quo all through the piece, with mere changes of accompaniment above, below, and around it—the Herz-Thalberg type—the nearest approach to be found in Beethoven's works, is the 5th variation in op. 26. His favourite plan is to preserve the harmonic basis of the theme and to modify and embellish the melody. Of this type he makes use with astonishing ease and truly inexhaustible originality. It is to be found in some shape or other in nearly every work of his second and third periods. It is not his own invention, for fine instances of it exist in Mozart and Haydn, but no one practised it with such beauty and nobility as he did, unless it be Schubert, who at any rate approaches very near him in its use. Perhaps the finest instance of it is in the Adagio of the Ninth Symphony, in which the melody is varied first in common time and then in 12-8, with a grace, beauty, and strength which are quite unparalleled. There is, however, a [1]third kind of variation which is all Beethoven's own, in which everything undergoes a change—rhythm, melody, and harmony—and yet the individual theme remains clearly present. 'Perhaps one melodious step only of the subject is taken (op. 109; var. 1 and 5); perhaps the fundamental progressions of the harmony alone are retained; perhaps some thorough rhythmical alteration is made, with an entire change of key, as in the Poco Andante, Finale of Eroica; in the B♭ variation alla marcia, of the Ninth Symphony; and in many of the 33 Variations. This is no mere change of dress and decoration, but an actual creation of something new out of the old germ—we see the chrysalis change into the butterfly, and we know it to be the same creature despite the change.' 'In no other form than that of the Variation,' continues Mr. Dannreuther, 'does Beethoven's creative power appear more wonderful, and its effect on the art more difficult to measure.'

10. Of Fugues Beethoven wrote but few, and those near the end of his career, but he always knew how to introduce a fugato or bit of contrapuntal work with the happiest effect. Witness a passage in the working out of the first movement of the Eroica Symphony, and another in the Finale of the same work; or in the middle portion of the Allegretto of No. 7; or the lovely counterpoint for the Bassoon in the opening of the Finale of No. 9. Of complete fugues the only instrumental ones are the finale to the 3rd of the Rassoumoffsky Quartets; the finales to the Cello Sonata op. 102, No. 2, and the Solo Sonatas op. 101, 106, and 110; and the enormous movement in B flat which originally formed the termination to the great String Quartet in the same key. Of the last-named fugue one has no opportunity of judging, as it is never played; but of the others, especially those in the Solo Sonatas, it may be safely said that nothing in the whole of Beethoven's music is associated with a more distinct dramatic intention, whether it be, as has been [2]suggested, a resolution to throw off an affection which was enthralling him, or some other great mental effort.

11. Beethoven did not originate 'programme music,' for Bach left a sonata describing the departure of his brother; and two symphonies are in existence by Knecht—a countryman of Beethoven's, and a few years his senior—entitled 'Tableau musical de la nature,' and 'La joie des Bergers interrompue par l'orage,' which are not only founded on the same idea with his Pastoral Symphony, but are [3]said to contain somewhat similar themes and passages. But, though he did not invent it, he raised it at once to a higher level than before, and his programme pieces have exercised a great effect on the art. 'When Beethoven had once opened the road,' said Mendelssohn, 'every one was bound to follow'; and it is probable that without his example we should not have had Mendelssohn's overtures to 'The Hebrides' or to the 'Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt.' His works in this line, omitting all which did not receive their titles from himself, are:—the 'Sonata pathétique'; 'La Malinconia,' an adagio in the String-quartet, No. 6 ; the 'Eroica' Symphony; the 'Pastoral' ditto; the Battle of Vittoria; the Sonata 'Les Adieux, l'Absence et le Retour'; the movements in the A minor quartet (op. 132) entitled 'Canzona di ringraziamento in modo lidico offerta alia divinita da un guarito,' and 'Sentendo nuova forza'; the movement in the F major quartet (op. 135), entitled 'Der schwergefasste Entschluss—Muss es sein? Es muss sein; and a Rondo à capriccio for Piano (op. 129), the MS. of which is entitled by the composer 'Die Wuth über den verlornen Groschen ausgetobt in einer Caprice.' Beyond these Beethoven made no acknowledged attempts to depict definite scenes or moods of mind in instrumental music. We have already (p. 179a) quoted Schindler's statement that Beethoven intended the Sonatas in op. 14 to be a dialogue between two lovers, and to represent the 'entreating and resisting principle'; and the Sonata in E minor (op. 90) is said to have had direct reference to the difficulties attending Moritz Lichnowsky's passion for the actress whom he ultimately married. The first movement was to have been called 'Kampf zwischen Kopf und Herz,' and the second, 'Conversation mit der Geliebten.' But none of these titles were directly sanctioned by Beethoven himself. In the programme of

  1. Mr. Dannreuther in Macmillan.
  2. Mr. Davison's Analysis of the Sonata op. 106.
  3. Fétis, Biographie, s. v. Knecht.