Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/562

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550
FORM.
 

was inevitable that people should lose much of the satisfaction which was derived from the form itself as such; and on the other hand their capacity for realising their whereabouts at any time being developed by practice, gave more scope to the composer to unify his composition by omitting those hard lines of definition which had been previously necessary to assist the undeveloped musical faculty of the auditors. Thus Mozart prepared the way for Beethoven in those very things which at first sight seem most opposed to his practice. Without such education the musical poems of Beethoven must have fallen upon deaf ears.

Beethoven then very soon abandoned the formal definition of the sections by cadences, and by degrees seems rather to have aimed at obscuring the obviousness of the system than at pointing it out. The division of the movements becomes more subtle, and the sections pass into one another without stopping ostentatiously to indicate the whereabouts; and, last but not least, he soon breaks away from the old recognised system, which ordained the Dominant or relative major as the only admissible key for the complementary section of the first part. Thus as early as his 2nd and 3rd Sonatas the second sections begin in the Dominant minor key, and in the slow movement of the Sonata in E♭ (op. 7) the Dominant is discarded in favour of the key of the third below the tonic A♭ relative to the principal key C. In the first movement of the Sonata in G (op. 31) he begins his second subject in the key of the major third, and that major—i.e. B, relative to G; and the same key (relatively) is adopted in the Waldstein Sonata and the Leonora Overture. The effect of such fresh and unexpected transitions must have been immense on minds accustomed only to the formal regularity of Mozart. Moreover Beethoven early began the practice of taking one principal key as central and surrounding it with a posse of other keys both related and remote. Every one is familiar with the opening passages of the Waldstein and Appassionata Sonatas, in both of which a new key is introduced in less than half a dozen bars, and then passes back to the principal key; and this practice is not done in the vague way so often met with in Mozart and Haydn, where their excessive use of rapid transitions in the third section of the movement has the effect of men beating about in the dark. True it is that there are instances of this in Beethoven's early works while he wrote under the same order of influences as they did; but in his maturer works these subsidiary modulations are conceived with large breadth of purpose founded on certain peculiarities in the affinities of the keys employed, which makes the music that is heard in them produce the most varied feelings in the mind of the auditor. It is most important for a young student to avoid the hasty conclusion from insufficient observation that to modulate much is to be free and bold, for it is nothing of the sort. Irregular purposeless modulation is sheer weakness and vapidity. Strength is shown in nothing more conspicuously than in the capacity to continue long in one key without ceasing to be interesting; and when that is effected a bold stroke of well-defined modulation comes with its proper force. For when keys are rapidly interlaced the force of their mutual contrasts is weakened and even destroyed; their vital energy is frittered away to gratify an unwholesome taste for variety, and is no longer of any use for steady action. In Beethoven action is always steady, and the effects of the changing keys come with their full force. A new key is sought because it gives additional vitality to a subject or episode, or throws a new light upon an idea from a strange and unexpected quarter, as in the wonderful stroke of genius at the outset of the 'Appassionata.' As other instances may be quoted the first movement of the Sonata in G, op. 31, No. 1; Scherzo of Quartet in F, op. 59, No. 1; first movement of Quartet in F minor, op. 95.

The Episode which concludes the first part of the movement is almost invariably of some importance in Beethoven's works. Very generally he reproduces figures of his first subject, as in the Prometheus and Leonora Overtures, the first movements of the Quartets in F major (op. 59, No. 1) and E♭ (op. 127), the Symphonies in D, Eroica, C minor, and A, the Sonata in E (op. 14), and the last movement of the Appassionata. But more frequently he produces a new subject, often of quite equal importance and beauty to either the first or the second—to quote but one instance out of many take the first movement of the Sonata in G (op. 14)—and very often does so besides referring to his first subject. The chief thing to notice from this is that the Episode in question has grown into important dimensions in his hands, and is so clear, and its distinction as a separate section from what precedes it so marked, that it is not uncommon to hear it spoken of as the Coda of the first part.

In the part devoted to the development of the features of the subjects, which commonly commences the second half of the movement, Beethoven is especially great. No musician ever had such a capacity for throwing an infinite variety of lights upon one central idea; it is no 'business' or pedantry, but an extraordinary genius for transforming rhythms and melodies so that though they be recognised by the hearer as the same which he has heard before, they seem to tell a totally different story; just as the same ideas working in the minds of men of different circumstances or habits of thought may give them the most opposite feelings. As was pointed out with reference to Mozart, no system is deducible from the order of this division of the movement, than which none shows more infallibly the calibre of the composer. As a rule Beethoven avoids the complete statement of any of his subjects, but breaks them up into their constituent figures, and mixes them up in new situations, avoiding cadences and uniformity of groups of bars and rhythms. As far as possible the return to the original key is marked in some more refined way than the matter-of--