Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/586

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


574

��SONATA.

��As has been already explained, an expansion of this kind makes inevitable a similar expansion in the whole structure of the movement, and a much wider choice of relative keys than simple tonic and dominant in the expository sections ; or else a much freer movement in every part of the sections, and emphasis upon unexpected re- lations of harmony. Even without this, the new warmth and intensity of the subject precludes mere reiteration of the accustomed usages, and necessitates a greater proportionate vitality in the subordinate parts of the work. The relative heat must be maintained, and to fall back upon familiar formulas would clearly be a jarring anomaly. In this manner the idea begins to dictate the form. But in order to carry out in equal measure the development of the idea, every resource that the range of music can supply must be admissible to him that can wield it with relevance. Hence Beethoven, as early as Opus 31, no. 2, reintroduces instrumental recita- tive with extraordinary effect. Later, he resumes the rhapsodical movement which Bach and earlier composers had employed in a different sense, as in the Sonata in Eb, op. 81, and in the third division of that in A, op. 101, and in the most romantic of romantic movements, the first in E major of op. 109. And lastly, he brings back the fugue as the closest means of expressing a certain kind of idea. In these cases the fugue is not a retrogression, nor a hybrid, but a new adaptation of an old and invaluable form under the influence of perfectly assimilated harmonic principles. The great fugue in the Sonata in Bb, op. 1 06, for instance, is not only extraordinary as a fugue, but is distributed in a perfectly ideal balance of long contrasting periods in different states of feeling, culminating duly with a su- preme rush of elaborate force, as complex and as inexorable as some mighty action of nature. In these sonatas Beethoven touches all moods, and all in the absolute manner free from formality or crude artifice, which is the essential charac- teristic of genuine modern music. In a few of the earlier sonatas he reverts to manners and structural effects which are suggestive of the principles of his predecessors. But these occa- sional incursions of external influence are with rare exceptions inferior to the works in which his own original force of will speaks with genuine and characteristic freedom. The more difficult the problem suggested by the thought which is embodied in the subject, the greater is the result. The full richness of his nature is not called out to the strongest point till there is something pre- ternaturally formidable to be mastered. The very statement of the opening bars of such sonatas as that in D minor, op. 31, no. 2 ; C major, op. 53 ; F minor, op. 57 ; Bb, op. 106 : C minor, op. in, is at such a level of daring breadth and comprehensive power, that it becomes obvious in a moment that the work cannot be carried out on equal proportionate terms without almost superhuman concentration, and unlimited com- mand of technical resources, both in respect of the instrument and the art of expression. In

��SONATA.

such cases, Beethoven rises to a height which has only been attained by two or three composers in the whole history of music, in that sublimity which is almost his peculiar monopoly. But, fortunately for average beings, and average moods of people who have not always a taste for the sublime, he shows elsewhere, on a less exalted scale, the highest ideals of delicate beauty, and all shades of the humours of mankind, even to simple exuberant playfulness. The beauty and the merriment often exist side by side, as in the exquisite little Sonata in G, op. 14, no. 2, and in that in Fj major, op. 78; and in a loftier and stronger spirit in company with more com- prehensive ranges of feeling, in the Sonata in A, op. 101. In all these and many more there is an ideal continuity and oneness which is musically felt even where there is no direct external sign of the connection. In a few, however, there are signs of more than this. In the Bb Sonata,, op. 1 06, for instance, the similar disposition of inter- vals in the subjects of the various movements has led to the inference that he meant to connect them by transformations of one principal subject or germ. The same occurs with as much pro- minence in the Sonata in Ab, op. 1 10, which is in any case a specimen where the oneness and continuity are peculiarly felt. It is possible that the apparent transformations are not so much conscious as the result of the conditions of mind which were necessary to produce the oneness of effect, since concentration upon any subject is liable to exert influence upon closely succeeding action, whether of the mind or body, and to as- similate the fruit unconsciously to the form of the object contemplated. This, however, would not lessen the interest of the fact, but would possibly rather enhance it. It only affects the question whether or no Beethoven consciously reasoned about possible ways of extending and enhancing the opportunities of sonata-form too large a subject to be entered upon here. As a rule, great masters appear to hit upon such germinal principles in the process of composition, without exactly formulating them in so many equivalent terms ; and those who come after note the facts and apply them as useful resources, or sometimes as invaluable starting-points of fresh lines of development. It is a noticeable fact that Beethoven only seldom indicated a programme, and it is extremely rare in him to find even the dimmest suggestions of realism. In fact, as must be true of all the highest music, a work of his is not representative of a story, but of a mental process. Even if it deals with a story it does not represent the circumstances, but the condition of mind which results from its con- templation; or, in other words, the musical counterpart of the emotion to which it gives rise ; and it is the coherency and consistent sequence of the emotions represented which. pro- duce the effect of oneness on the colossal scale of his greatest works, which is Beethoven's crown- ing achievement. With him the long process of development appears to find its utmost and com- plete culmination ; and what comes after, and in

�� �