George P. (George Putnam) Upton.

The standard symphonies : their history, their music, and their composers : a handbook online

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64



THE STANDARD SYMPHONIES.



a dotted rhythmic figure which only increases the
excitement. The tender element, the loving figure,
be it woman or angel, that breathed its consolation
in the second movement is recognized in the fol-
lowing short episode, —



J



e:



^^^wn



^D3J J



3^



-etc.



but is soon drawn into the general hymn of joy.
After a perfect whirl on the dominant chord of G
for twenty measures, the violins having a tarantelle-
like figure in triplets, the movement is suddenly
interrupted by an episode of fifty-four measures in
triple time, recalling the Scherzo in its rhythm,
but in reality only a prolongation of the dominant
chord, which was cut short at its climax so as to
make a more deliberate change at the repetition of
the grand march of joy. In conclusion, we quote
only the principal phrase of the middle section of
this movement : —



^•'^-^ i M J ,^ ^



Oboes,



fT^f ^t l^



f CS



a:



Fagotti



rt



B



etc.



THE SYMPHONY IN F. 65



SYMPHONY No. 6, IN F (PASTORAL). Op. 68.

1. Allegro ma non troppo. (The cheerful Impressions ex-

cited on arriving in the Country.)

2. Andante molto moto. (By the Brook.)

3. Allegro. (Peasants' Merrymaking).

4. Allegro. (Thunder-storm.)

5. Allegretto. (The Shepherd's Song ; glad and thankful

Feelings after the Storm.)

The Pastoral symphony was composed by Beet-
hoven in the meadows near Heiligenstadt in 1808,
and was first performed at a concert given in Vienna,
December 22 of the same year. No doubt can
attach to the meaning of this symphony, as the com-
poser has left his own explanation prefixed to each
movement. It is absolute programme-music, and
yet both in the sketches as well as in the autograph
of the completed work a caution is conveyed to the
effect that it is not an actual representation of the
rural scenes that form the motive of the work. In
the sketches it is entitled "Sinfonie caracteristica.
Die Erinnerungen von der Landleben " (" Symphony
Characteristic. Memories of Country Life "), and
the following note is appended : " Man iiberlasst
dem Zuhorer sich selbst die Situationen auszu-
finden" ("The hearer must find out the situations
for himself "). When the symphony was completed,
however, Beethoven changed his intentions, and in
the programme of its first performance, as well as
in the printed score, gave explicit descriptions of
the meaning of each movement, prefaced, however,

5



66 THE STANDARD SYMPHONIES.

with the significant caution : " Mehr Ausdruck der
Empfindung als Malerei" ("Rather expressive of
sensations than painting, or actual description").
Schindler, his biographer, also relates an interest-
ing incident connected with the second movement
which occurred during a walk he took with Beetho-
ven on a bright day in April, 1823. He says : —

" After visiting the bath-house at Heiligenstadt, and
the adjoining garden, and talking over many a pleasant
reminiscence having reference to his creations, we
continued our ramble toward the Kahlenberg in the
direction of Grinzing. Strolling through the de-
lightful meadow valley between Heiligenstadt and
the latter village, which was crossed by a swiftly flow-
ing and softly murmuring brook from a neighboring
mountain, Beethoven stopped repeatedly and let his
look, full of blissful feeling, wander over the beautiful
landscape. Then seating himself upon the grass, and
leaning against an elm, he asked me whether there
was no yellow-hammer to be heard in the tops of those
trees. But it was all still. Thereupon he said :
' Here I wrote the " Scene at the Brook ; " and the
yellow-hammers up there, and the quails, and night-
ingales, and cuckoos round about composed with
me.' "

This symphony, in fact, reveals Beethoven as the
lyric poet. It is by no means the sentimental
strain of the conventional spring poet, but the mas-
terly expression of that happy and contented feehng
which the lover of Nature experiences during a
ramble through a lovely country. The motives em-
ployed are apparently of the simplest kind, but



THE SYMPHONY IN F.



67



demonstrate the evolution of intense thought. They
cannot be altered by a note without the sacrifice of
their meaning. They are short and close in design,
and to a great extent lean on the tones of the hunt-
ing horn. Their force rather lies in the fact that by
their continuous repetition they produce that train
of thought in the hearer which causes him to recog-
nize the music at once as pastoral. We quote a
few of the motives that will attract the hearer's
attention : —



^ Ui«*^



^ti^^=^



53.



s^^a ^gB^ai^^g^^



^^ ^ ^^^ ^^^




etc.



The first movement, of which the above are the
themes, is an Allegro ma non troppo in F major,
I time, and is in keeping with the general descrip-
tion we have made of the music.

The Andante molto moto in B flat, g^ time, gives
voice to the listless dreaming of the wayfarer who
is resting at the banks of the brook. The monoto-
nous accompaniment, sustained through nearly the
entire movement by the strings, is of a flowing
figure, containing a gentle rise and return to its
level. The first violins give out the principal melo-
dic theme, while the wind instruments respond with
the second phrase. Short figures abound, flitting



68 THE STANDARD SYMPHONIES,

about among the different instruments, sometimes
in imitation, again in euphonious thirds or sixths,
and at times a brief trill or the short snapping of
pizzicato notes. Its effect is that of the evening
air alive with songs of birds and the buzz of insects.
In the last twelve measures of this movement, the
composer even introduces the bird-songs, — a pro-
ceeding which has been pronounced childish and
utterly unworthy of Beethoven, but which to the
unprejudiced listener seems to belong in its connec-
tion. When we consider that its use by Beethoven
cannot possibly have sprung from a desire to write
catchpenny claptrap, it would perhaps be well to
accept the intention of the composer.

The third movement, Allegro, in F major, | time,
representing the Minuet, introduces the purely hu-
man element. The first eight measures usher in
the good country people tripping briskly along.
But what a woful failure the clumsy peasants make
at the end of the phrase, with their attempt at
gracefulness, —



^^^ ^^=^^fTf f



and how they stumble over their wooden shoes at
those three lower A's indicated by the asterisk ! In
the next phrase, however, the fair damsels carry their
part of the programme quite gracefully. Then we
strike the dance proper with its " band accompani-
ment." The whole movement shows how perfectly,
as the Merry-Andrew has it in the prelude to
*' Faust," Beethoven could " grasp the exhaustless life



THE SYMPHONY IN F.



69



that all men live," not disdaining even to include the
pleasures of the lowly peasantry in his inimitable
tone-picture. The minuet-like movement is inter-
rupted by a short Tempo d'allegro, \, which seems
like the change to another dance, though being
rather more boisterous it comes to a close by two
short pauses as if to give the dancers a chance to
catch their breaths before returning to the triple
time of the Minuet closing the movement.

The next movement, an Allegro in A flat, is en-
titled *^ Thunder-storm " and brings before us the
lowering sky, the distant rumbling of thunder, the
sultry air, and the cumulus clouds as they rise
higher and higher above the horizon until we are
almost in darkness, and the storm breaks forth in all
its fury. It soon passes over, however, the clouds
break, and sunshine illuminates the refreshed land-
scape. Without interruption the closing measure
leads into the last movement, — the shepherd's song
of joy, and his feeling of relief from the dangers of
the tempest. The motives are formed from the rep-
resentative intervals of the instruments chiefly used
by shepherds, and move in the steps of the chord
rather than in the successive notes of the scale,
although the middle section of the movement brings
the violins to the front with just such runs as were
excluded from the first part, which more strictly
represent the song of the shepherd. The move-
ment closes with one of those dynamic contrasts in
which Beethoven delighted. After the horn once
more sings the principal theme, —



^O THE STANDARD SYMPHONIES,

Horn. Con sordino.



%x



^^^^^^^



hTF






softly, con sordino, and while the violins are twin-
ing around it in a descending figure, the whole
orchestra breaks in suddenly and without any prepa-
ration on the closing chord fortissimo, as indicated
above.

SYMPHONY No. 7, IN A MAJOR. Op. 92.

i. poco sostenuto. vivace.
2. Allegretto.

3- Presto. Presto meno assai.
4. Finale. Allegro con brio.

The Seventh symphony, which vies in popularity
with the Fifth, was finished in the year 18 12, and
was first performed Dec. 8, 1813, at a concert in
Vienna for the benefit of the Austrian and Bava-
rian soldiers wounded at the battle of Hanau. The
now little regarded Battle symphony by Beethoven
was included in the same programme. The con-
cert was a notable one, not only because the Seventh
symphony was given for the first time, but for the
large number of eminent musicians and composers
who played in the orchestra, among them Spohr,
Mayseder, Dragonetti, Hummel, Salieri, Moscheles,
Schindler, Romberg, and Meyerbeer. The sym-
phony was also played Nov. 29, 18 14, before the
allied sovereigns at the meeting of the Congress of
Vienna, and made a great impression. There were



THE SYMPHONY IN A MAJOR. 71

not wanting many hostile critics, however, among
them Karl Maria von Weber, who went so far as to
declare that *' the extravagances of his genius had
reached the ne plus ultra, and that Beethoven was
now quite ripe for the mad-house." It did not
prevent him, however, when his own opera '' Eury-
anthe " was poorly received, from taking it to Beet-
hoven and asking him to revise it.

Of all the Beethoven symphonies, the Seventh is
the most romantic, as well as the most happy. The
composer left no clew to its meaning, though we
know from his letters that he esteemed it as one of
his best works. Modern critics, however, have
busied themselves trying to interpret the story it
tells. Berlioz and Ambros call it a rustic wedding ;
Marx, Moorish knighthood ; Oulibicheff, a masked
ball ; and Bischoff, a sequel to the Pastoral sym-
phony. Richard Wagner, with his keen insight into
the subjectivity of music, declares that it is the apo-
theosis of the dance, the ideal embodiment in tones
of the bodily movement, — a definition which ad-
mirably applies to the symphony, as nearly all its
motives are ideally perfect dance rhythms.

The introduction, a Poco sostenuto in the key of
A major, is almost a movement in itself, and con-
tains one of the happiest and most delicate phrases
to be found anywhere in Beethoven's music, as
follows : —



72



THE STANDARD SYMPHONIES.



This episode occurs twice, preceded and followed
by ascending scales running through two octaves,
which are significant for the very staccato manner in
which they are given. The last part of the above quo-
tation, occurring as it does in the repeat on the chord
of F major, is reiterated during a short crescendo, and
suddenly resolves into the note E, given out by all
the instruments fortissimo and repeated during the
remaining ten measures of the introduction and the
first four bars of the following Vivace, in various
rhythms. At the entrance of the new movement
it has the dotted rhythm of the quail-call, which is
the predominating feature of the whole movement :




t^r X t^ ^ 1 ^ ^^



In these quotations the musician will be able to
detect the germ in one form or another of nearly
every measure of the first movement. The skipping
rhythm and the melodic structure, not only as a
whole but also in the smaller sections, are so preg-
nant that they are sufficient for the magician who
in the working out brings all his art and devices
into play. The opening suggests the dancing along
of a bevy of happy girls, but when Beethoven feels
in that mood it is impossible to trace him step by
step. The giggling of the girls, the boisterous fun



THE SYMPHONY IN A MAJOR. 73

of the boys, the Homeric laughter of the elders, an
attempt at dignity followed by a reckless plunge
into hilarity, sudden pianissimos followed by fortis-
simos, harmonic changes for which there is no time
to prepare in the general rush, now a coaxingly gen-
tle phrase, now a war of words short but emphatic,
— these are the characteristics of the first part.
The ill-tempered outbreak at the end of this part is
repeated at the beginning of the second, only the
flutes scream a third higher than before ; then a
pause, and the violins move off again pianissimo
J7^~^ J. H J J while the basses come in with a long
scale in the same rhythm, as if they were ashamed
of havinsf been led into loud words and were now
trying to re-establish good feeling. The Coda con-
tains one of those phrases which by their monoto-
nous repeats partake somewhat of the nature of a
pedal point; and on the other hand remind us
of the peculiarity of Slavonic music, in which this
everlasting and monotonous repeat of one figure
plays so characteristic a part. The basses support
a steady crescendo from pianissimo to fortissimo
during twenty-two measures with this figure : —



^¥=feJ^ ^^ gp^^g^^



The Allegretto, which takes the place of the
slo^ movement, is in A minor, \ time, and is built
up on the following rhythmic figure : | J /3 | J J | .
The melody of the first part moves within the in-
terval of a third, and is of the simplest construc-
tion. The movement itself is constructed on a long



74



THE STANDARD SYMPHOMES,



crescendo as gradual as it is persistent, and irre-
sistible in its natural strength. The production of
such colossal effects by such simple means is one
of the glories of Beethoven's genius. The second
part, in A major, opens with this lovely melody, —

Clari7iet.



p^ f ^?t ^ )=4r = g=Jt9=#f=^^f=F^



accompanied in triplets by the violins, with the
steady dactylus | J J^ | as a support in the basses.
A short interlude of staccato scales brings us back
to the first theme, which is now worked up in the
accompaniment in the style of a variation. Then
the A major episode is repeated. The Coda, in k.
minor, after a few sudden dynamic transitions, falls
back on the original theme and dies away in a
pianissimo, in the last six measures, however, rising
phoenix-like in this most original manner : —



:&




i



■w •*- -f-






*\ U /'/



P^^^g fe-V-ffrF = fea



"rtf



f=



/'



The Scherzo, marked *' Presto," in F major,
opens with the simple device of moving through the
intervals of the chord of F, but stamped by the
master's hand with the form at a, —

^ h



-^E^-^^^r^ ^'r^^W^^ ^^^



f



etc.



THE SYMPHONY IN A MAJOR.



75



^



Jl^



jfP4^^



£



followed by a descending scale motive, b. The
third motive, growing out of c, furnishes by the repe-
tition of the half-steps (*) the principal material
for the middle section of the second part. The
last four measures of the Presto dwell on a pro-
longed A held by all the instruments, and ringing in
some part of the orchestra throughout the whole
Trio, which changes into the key of D major,
Assai meno presto. This A, suspended in mid-
air as it were, with only an occasional pulsation
into the G sharp below, sheds an air of serenity over
the whole which greatly enhances the restfulness of
the melodic theme : —




The second part contains a most peculiar effect
for the second horn, which on a low A and G sharp
in different rhythms for twenty-six measures leads
to a fortissimo repeat of the main theme, the trum-
pets ringing out the sustained A, supported by the
kettle-drums, — a phrase which is almost without
parallel for the expression of exalted, noble, and
serene sentiment. An interlude, piano and diminu-
endo, changing between the chords of D and A,
with a sudden drop into the seventh chord on C,
leads back to the Presto. The Trio is then played
again, followed by another repeat of the Presto and



76



THE STANDARD SYMPHONIES.



a short Coda, reminding one of the Scherzo in the
Fourth symphony.

The last movement, Allegro con brio, in A major,
I time, takes up the joyous strain of the first move-
ment and opens with the following whirling figure
in the violins : —




which is supplemented by



&«:



g= t^tftat: ^a^



^^



-etc.



accompanied by full short strokes of the string in-
struments. The following two motives complete the
material for this movement : —



•it*.. — m^=




P^-F-^M sJjg zrftjcfs -^f-fi



^



:tiid=



^^!g



^^^^



^



f&



^i^sE ^a^s^ ff=r^ff^-



^



/^rv



etc.



/ # /

The lightness and grace of the theme at a and
the dance-like rhythm at b, with the mazurka ac-
centuation of the second quarter, the use of dotted
groups in the connecting phrases, the almost martial
tread produced by the frequent employment of full
chords, abruptly and forcibly marking the beats, the
frequent changes of key, etc., — all these factors
impart to the movement an exuberant spirit which
stamps it and the whole symphony as one of the
most complete expressions of whole-souled enjoy-
ment of life our musical literature contains.



THE SYMPHONY IN F. 77



SYMPHONY No. 8, IN F. Op. 93.

1. Allegro vivace e con brio.

2. Allegretto scherzando.

3. Menuetto e trio.

4. Finale. Allegro vivace.

The Eighth symphony was written in 18 12 at
Linz, whither Beethoven had repaired upon the
advice of his physician for the benefit of his health.
It was composed at a sad period of his hfe, for
besides his sufferings from shattered health he was
engaged in a most unpleasant law-suit forced upon
him by his unworthy sister-in-law and undertaken
in the interest of a graceless nephew. Notwith-
standing these depressing events the symphony is
one of the brightest, most cheerful, and most hu-
morous works that he ever conceived. He speaks
of it himself in a letter to Salomon as the '' Kleine
Symphonic in F," not that it was little, but to dis-
tinguish it from the " Grosse Symphonic in A "
(the Seventh), composed in the same year. As a
separate movement it is doubtful whether any one
that he ever wrote is as popular as the Allegretto of
the Eighth. The melody which forms its principal
motive was extemporized by Beethoven as a short
vocal canon at a farewell supper given to Malzel,
the inventor of the metronome, in the spring of
181 2, and set to the words, "Ta, ta, ta, lieber Mal-
zel, lebewohl, lebewohl " ("Ta, ta, dear Malzel,
farewell "). It has also been claimed that the
melody in its style as utilized in the symphony is



78



THE STANDARD SYMPHONIES.



a parody upon Rossini's music, though there is the
best of evidence that Beethoven had never heard any
of Rossini's operas when this symphony was written.
We know from Beethoven's sketch-book that this
symphony had occupied his mind for a long time,
but its actual production must have been the spon-
taneous expression of a very happy mood of the
composer, when he felt inclined to banter jokes and
give free play to that humor which, as we know by
his letters, occasionally seized him in spite of his
great and growing misfortune. As if serious prepa-
ration were unnecessary he plunges at once into
the work and opens the first Allegro vivace con
brio, in F major, with the main theme : —




An intermediate phrase, closing with

h M. jfi ah



'^=^



fcE



^ilr'p^'-i -g 1 r '^ -=i - r -1 r-T



-^



:St



#5*

leads into the second theme, —




which containing a short ritardando, is then repeated
by the wind instruments, and after a series of modu-
lations runs into this motive for the full orchestra :

d



^:



^^^1^^^



The first part closes with the following skipping
figure, —



THE SYMPHONY IN F.



79



^







which is in reahty only an extension into the octave
of the motive at ^. The latter is frequently util-
ized during the second part in connection with

the motive from the open-
ing phrase, which is em-
ployed with all the art of the contrapuntist either
in imitations or enlarged into longer phrases for
the basses, which during seventy-six measures
really dominate the melody and finally rest on
the octave skip at e. Then follows a pianissimo
passage, which appropriates the tetrachord at the
close of the first theme a marked *, and in
canon form leads dirough a crescendo to a hold,
after which a Coda commencing with



=i=?c



3:



etc.



brings the first movement to a close, in its jocular
way reminding us forcibly of the closing of the
Minuet in Mozart's G minor symphony.

The slow movement is again supplanted by an
Allegretto scherzando in B flat, I time. It is the



well-known

Oboes.




g Violin.

which depends on its staccato character and fine
instrumentation for its daintiness, and has only one
legato phrase in the whole movement : — ■



8o



THE STANDARD SYMPHONIES.






^.



■ts^



s



:t±



Violin,



The Minuet, in F, appears this time in its own
true character, and develops the stately dance with
its gliding figures to a perfection only found in the
best efforts of Haydn and Mozart. The third part,
or Trio, has this opening for the horns, —



^



^==r^



i. ♦ * i i



3



etc.



anticipating a vein of which Schubert frequently
availed himself. The Minuet is then repeated.

The last part. Allegro vivace, in F major, opens
with this tremulous figure for the violins, pianissimo :
I




As we have had occasion several times to mention
Beethoven's sketch-books we copy this motive as
he jotted it down at its first inception : —



^^i^^^^^S



etc.



The reader can form some idea from this how con-
scientiously and diligently Beethoven matured these
fundamental ideas before he established the forms
in which we now have them, and which, as we have
said before, cannot be altered in any degree with-



THE SYMPHONY IN F. 8 1

out destroying them. The second theme is the
following cantilena : —



V~ f P 9-^-^



^??F^T±^=pj ^P r^^ - F ^



-\ — h



After a jubilant fortissimo about the middle of
the movement, the music is interrupted by frequent
rests, the triplet figure gliding past like a spider
across his web, stopping short, then rushing on
again to a second hold, after which a new design is
introduced in a descending scale in the strings, and
is opposed in the wind instruments by a similar
scale, -ascending. These scales move quietly and
pianissimo in semibreves, while the triplet figure
is flitting about here and there until the scale mo-
tive is brought in fortissimo. The marvellous skill
of the composer which is brought into play in this
movement could only be pointed out at great length,
and is of secondary importance to the listener. To
the ear all is joyous excitement. Surprise chases
surprise. Fortissimos are relieved by sudden pianis-
simos, the close figure of the opening theme by the
octave jumps in the basses, and the tremulous double
triplet by crashing syncopations, running at last into
a most boisterous phrase with a sforzando on every
other note, — an apparently reckless performance,
but produced and subordinated by scientific devices.
The main themes are once more hastily touched,
and the movement exhausts itself in a long repeti-
tion of the final chord, as if trying to reach the
longed-for rest.

6



82 THE STANDARD SYMPHONIES.

The joyous, happy spirit pervading the whole
composition, with its intermezzos of fun and quiet
humor, will not fail to impress any hearer. When
compared with the works of the later romanticists,
Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Schumann, it seems to
contain many ideas foreshadowing those which they
developed to such perfection, though to Beethoven's
more serious cast of mind these sportive fancies
were only incidental. Listen to the motives at a, b,
and e ; the pizzicato closing of the first movement ;
the airy, perfectly magic opening of the Allegretto ;
and last, but not least, to the peculiar buzzing char-
acter of the double triplet in the last movement
when employed pianissimo. These phrases only
need an intentional interpretation to suggest the
best samples of elfin music from Mendelssohn's
" Midsummer Night's Dream," or Berlioz's " Queen
Mab."

Sir George Grove in his admirable analysis of


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Online LibraryGeorge P. (George Putnam) UptonThe standard symphonies : their history, their music, and their composers : a handbook → online text (page 4 of 17)