Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/412

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396
SONATA FORMS


design, and sometimes intensely dramatic. The second subject follows, also in the tonic. This recapitulation is normally very exact, except for the alteration necessary to bring the second subject into the tonic instead of the complementary key, an alteration which, of course, will chiefly affect the first subject, if, indeed, the original transition was not so simple that it could be merely suppressed. In highly organized works, however, this point is often marked by some special stroke of genius, and even in the most exact recapitulations the great masters make minute changes which throw the second subject into higher relief. Modern criticism tends to dismiss the recapitulation as .a conventional and obsolescent feature; but this is a great mistake. The classics, from Scarlatti to Brahms, give overwhelming proof that it is a primary instinct of com- posers with a living sense of form to conceive of all kinds of exposition as predestined to gain force by recapitulation, especially in any part that resembles a second subject. Haydn we shall find to be an extreme case; but we have only to regard his true second subject as residing in the very end of his exposi- tion, and his mature work will then illustrate the point with special force. Beethoven seems to give one notorious detail to the contrary effect, in the first movement of his C minor symphony, but the passage only proves the rule more forcibly when seen in its context. The powerful phrase that announced the second subject is in the recapitulation transferred from the resounding triumph of the horns to the impotent croaking fury of the bassoons. This looks like a mere inconvenient result of the fact that in 1808 the horns could not transfer the phrase from E flat to C without a change of crook. But in earlier works Beethoven has made them change crooks on far less provocation; and besides, he could easily have contrived a dozen tone-colours more dignified than that of the bassoons. The point must, then, be one of Beethoven's touches of Shake- spearian grotesqueness; and certainly it draws attention to the recapitulation. But even if we dismiss it with impatience we are then immediately confronted with a new melodic and harmonic poignancy in the subsequent crescendo, produced by changes as unobtrusive and as essential to the life of the whole as are the deviations from mechanical symmetry in the forms of leaves and flowers. With the recapitulation the bare essentials of sonata form end; but the material will probably, in works on a large scale, furnish ample means of adding a more emphatic conclusion, which is then called the coda. In Beetho- ven's hands the coda ranges from a dramatic non-existence, as in. the distant thunder in which the first movement of the D minor sonata expires, to the mighty series of new develop- ments and climaxes which, in the 3rd and 9th symphonies and many other works, tower superbly above the normal structure. Haydn's later treatment of sonata form is very free. He shows a sense of space and breadth which, if second to Beet- hoven's, can only be said to be so because the terms of Haydn's art did not give it fuller expression. The scale on which he worked was so small that he soon found that a regular recapitula- tion took up all the room he wanted for larger growths to a brilliant climax. Moreover, he found that if his second subject began with material in sharp contrast to the first, it tended to make his movements sound too undeveloped and sectional for his taste; and so in his later works he generally makes his second subject on the same material as his first, until the very end of the exposition, where an exquisitely neat new theme forms the close. This cadence-theme also rounds off the whole movement with an appearance of regularity which has led to the belief that Haydn, like Mozart, observes a custom of rigid recapitula- tion from which Beethoven was the first to emancipate the form. The truth is that the brilliant new developments which oust the recapitulation almost entirely in Haydn's form are more like Beethoven's codas than anything else in earlier music, and the final appearance of the neat cadence-theme at the end is, from its very formality, the most brilliant stroke of all. Lastly, these tendencies are characteristic, not of Haydn's early, but of his late work. They have been described as " showing form in the making "; but this is far from true. They show


form in an advanced state of development; and further pro- gress was only possible by the introduction of new qualities which at first had a decidedly restraining effect.

Mozart's greater regularity is due, not to a more formalizing tendency than Haydn's, but to the fact that he works on a larger scale and with a higher polyphony. In actual length, Mozart's movements are so much greater than Haydn's that sharply contrasted themes and regular recapitulations do not hamper him. On the contrary, they give his designs the necessary breadth. This was not more his aim than Haydn's; but he had the opportunities of a later generation and the example of Haydn's own earlier work, besides a vast experi- ence of composition (both in contrapuntal and sonata forms) that began in his miraculous infancy and made all technical difficulties vanish before he was fifteen. At sixteen he was writing string-quartets in which his blending of polyphonic and sonata style is more surprising, though less subtle, than Haydn's. At twenty-two he was treating form with an expansiveness which sometimes left his music perilously thin, though he was never merely redundant. The emphatic reiterations in the Paris symphony are not mannerisms or formulas; they are the naturally simple expression of a naturally simple material. In a series of easy-going works of this kind he soon learnt the conditions of breadth on a large scale; and, by the time he came under the direct influence of Haydn, every new polyphonic, rhythmic and instrumental resource enlarged the scale of his designs as fast as it increased their terseness and depth. His career was cut short, and his treatment of form reached its limit only in the direction of emotional expression. The sonata style never lost with him its dramatic character, but, while it was capable of pathos, excitement, and even vehemence, it could not concern itself with catastrophes or tragic climaxes. The G minor symphony shows poignant feeling, but its pathos is not that of a tragedy; it is there from first to last as a result, not a foreboding nor an embodiment, of sad experiences. In the still more profound and pathetic G minor quintet we see Mozart for once transcending his limits. The slow movement rises to a height not surpassed by Beethoven himself until his second period; an adequate finale is unattainable with Mozart's resources, and he knows it. He writes an introduction, beautiful, mysterious, but magnificently reserved, and so reconciles us as he best can to the enjoyment of a lighthearted finale which has only here and there a note of warmth to suggest to us any pretension of compatability with what went before.

Beethoven discovered all the new resources needed to make the sonata a means of tragic expression, and with this a means of expressing a higher rapture than had ever been conceived in music since Palestrina. He did not, as has sometimes been said, emancipate sonata forms from the stiffness of the recapitu- lation. On the contrary, where he alters that section it is almost invariably in order to have, not less recapitulation, but more, by stating some part of the second subject in a new key before bringing it into the tonic. Here, as has been suggested above, the effect of his devices is, both in minutiae and in surprises, to throw the second subject into higher relief. Every one of the changes which appear in the outward form of his work is a development from within; and, as far as any one principle is more fundamental than others, that development is primarily har- monic. We have elsewhere mentioned his practice of organizing remote or apparently capricious modulations on a steady sequential progression of the bass, thereby causing such har- monies to appear not as mere surprises or special effects (a form in which they have a highly artistic function in Mozart and Haydn) but as inevitable developments (see Beethoven and Harmony) . The result of this and a host of similar principles is an incalculable intensification of harmonic and emotional expression. Let us compare the opening of the second subject of Haydn's quartet in A major, Op. 20, No. 6, with the corre- sponding passage in the first movement of Beethoven's sonata, Op. 2, No. 2. Haydn executes the masterly innovation of a second subject that before establishing its true key passes through a series of rich modulations. He begins in E minor,