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_allegro_, - a slow movement between two fast ones. Sammartini, Emanuel
Bach and a few others were the first to cultivate this three-movement
form: but it was not until the advent of Haydn that its modern character
was acquired. Under his genius first came classical models. The sonatas
of Emanuel Bach were the starting point of Haydn's music. He worked out
gradually the so-called art of free thematic treatment. Compared with
the older style its chief features are greater freedom in developing the
themes; the parts are not bound down to the rules of strict counterpoint;
the melody is given chiefly to one voice, generally the upper. Free
passages are introduced between the several melodic groups that make up
the contrasted themes. A general air of lightness, grace, elegance and
pleasantness is the result of this freedom of treatment. A whole movement
is evolved out of little rhythmical motives or germs, which recur again
and again, under ever changing conditions of melody, harmony, key,
position or range, and instrumentation. By such kaleidoscopic changes
the motives express constantly new meaning and beauty without abandoning
the central idea of the piece. Then, too, each movement is polythematic
instead of monothematic. Haydn in these and other respects prepared the
way for Mozart and Beethoven, and neither of the three can be considered
without the other. Mozart and Beethoven obtained the structural form
and basis of instrumentation from Haydn; on the other hand, Haydn in
his old age and Beethoven in his youth learned from Mozart a richer art
of instrumental color and expressiveness, especially in the use of wind
instruments. While Mozart did not enlarge the cyclical forms beyond the
general outlines laid down by Haydn, he beautified and enriched them in
all their details. In his last three symphonies and famous six quartets
the beauty is more refined, the pathos more thrilling and profound, the
dissonances and modulations more daring and fascinating. His music is
conceived in a more serious vein.

[Illustration: BEETHOVEN'S MONUMENT IN VIENNA.

Executed by Zumbusch. From a photograph. (See page 332.)]

Rubinstein, in his "Conversation on music," has expressed admirably the
relations between Beethoven and his time: "Mankind thirsts for a storm;
it feels that it may become dry and parched in the eternal sunshine of
Haydn and Mozart; it wishes to express itself earnestly; it longs for
action; it becomes dramatic; the French revolution breaks out; Beethoven
appears.... The forms in his first period are the forms then reigning,
but the line of thought is, even in the works of his youth, a wholly
different one. The last movement in his first pianoforte sonata (F minor),
more especially in the second theme, is already a new world of emotion,
expression, pianoforte effect, and even pianoforte technique.... In the
works of his first period altogether, we recognize only the formulas of
the earlier composers; for, although the garb still remains the same for
a time, we see even in these works, that natural hair will soon take the
place of the powdered perruque and cue; that boots, instead of buckled
shoes, will change the gait of the man; that the coat, instead of the
broad frock with the steel buttons, will give him another bearing. The
minuet is supplanted by the scherzo; the works are of a more virile
and earnest character: - through him instrumental music is capable of
expressing the tragic, and dramatic humor rises to irony.... Smiling,
laughing, merry-making, bitterness, in short, a world of psychological
expression is heard in them. It emanates not from a human being, but as
from an invisible Titan, who now rejoices over humanity, now is offended;
who laughs and again weeps, a supernatural being not to be measured!"

Beethoven's music, more than any other before his time, is characterized
by vivid contrasts in the themes, passages, rhythmical effects, bold
dissonances and modulations, dynamic expression, varied and massive
instrumentation. This is true, not only of the several movements as a
whole, but of the subdivisions. The movements are held in close relation
by contrast of emotions, by elevated or depressed, passionate or calm
moods. If the opening movement is conceived in a fiery or tragic spirit,
the feelings after a time will be rendered all the more susceptible to the
calm mood of the slow movement, which may lead through sadness and longing
to the vivacity and jocoseness of the _Scherzo_; and this in turn may
give place to the triumphant joy of the finale. Each movement is employed
with its special æsthetic problem and contributes its share to the total
effect of the work.

First of all, Beethoven was destined to carry the art of free thematic
music to a point never before reached, never surpassed since his death.
The several movements of his works are built on the broadest foundations,
the musical periods are expanded to their utmost limits. The so-called
middle-part (mittelsatz) is more impressive and elaborate than with
his predecessors. This is also the case with the coda, which is much
extended, worked-up, and made the climax of the whole movement. The
opening movements of the Heroic and the Fifth Symphonies are conspicuous
examples. In the art of motive-building he followed Haydn and Mozart, with
new results. The thematic play is of never-ending variety. The opening
_allegro_ of the Fifth Symphony is a wonderful instance of the development
of a great dramatic movement from a single motive of four notes. We learn
from his sketch-books the pains he took in the invention of his themes;
how he turned them about, curtailed or amplified them. These themes
when chosen finally suffered endless metamorphoses. Yet through the
protean changes of rhythm, melody, and harmony the theme preserves its
individuality.

In composition he was extremely slow and fond of experimenting. We know
his methods by his sketch-books which are preserved. Nearly every measure
was re-written and re-written. The ideas at first were often trivial, but
they were changed and elaborated until they grew to melodies of haunting
beauty. Crude commonplaces became passages of mysterious grandeur. Many of
the thoughts recorded hastily, in his room or in the fields, were never
used. The thought did not spring from his brain, as in the fable, fully
clothed: its birth was more akin to the Cæsarian operation. _Florestan's_
air, for instance, had eighteen distinct and different beginnings, and the
great chorus in "Fidelio" had no less than ten. The blood would rush to
his head as he worked; the muscles of his face would swell; and his eyes
would almost start from their sockets; then, if he were in his room, he
would strip himself of his clothing and pour water on his head.

Among the innovations made by Beethoven, may be mentioned the extension
of key relationship, which before him was not recognized. He broke down
the restrictions that governed transitions. Here he was revolutionary. The
principles of his harmonic combinations have been thus formalized by Mr.
Dannreuther: "(_a_) Any chord can succeed immediately any chord belonging
to another tonality, no matter how remote, provided they have one note
in common, even if it be only harmonically so. (_b_) It is possible to
produce quick harmonic progressions into the most remote tonalities by
means of chromatic and enharmonic changes in individual parts, which
are made to move on step by step, thus building a sort of chromatic or
enharmonic bridge." And Mr. Dannreuther cites as instances, the connection
between variations 32 and 33 in Op. 120; and the return from B major, at
the close of the "working out," to the first subject in B-flat major in
the first movement of Op. 106. Before the time of Beethoven composers of
sonatas and symphonies had generally confined themselves to a narrow range
of keys. The theme of the first movement was given out in the tonic, and
if it was major, it was answered by the second theme in the fifth above;
that is to say, if the sonata were in C, the second subject would be in
G. If the movement were in the minor, the second subject would be in the
relative major: i.e. the second theme of a movement in C minor would be
in E flat. So too the key of the second movement was usually restricted,
although sometimes there was a little more liberty. The painstaking
Grove has examined the eighty-one works of Beethoven in sonata form. The
transition to the dominant occurs only three times; to the subdominant
nineteen times; to the third below thirty times. "His favorite change was
evidently to the submediant or third below - that is to say, to a key less
closely related to the tonic and more remote than the dominant key." He
makes it as early as Op. 1, No. 2.

[Illustration: BUST OF BEETHOVEN.

Made by Franz Klein, after the Life-mask taken by him in 1812. (See page
327.)]

Wagner once compared the conventional connecting passages between the
melodic groups of Haydn and Mozart to "the rattling of dishes at a royal
feast." Beethoven could not tolerate the traditional commonplaces, which
were often mere padding. In these intermediate periods he used phrases
which hinted at or were actually closely related to the main themes, and
he thus gave the movement the effect of an organic whole, the development
of which was as logical as the results that follow from a law of nature.
Or he would surprise the hearer by the introduction of a fresh episode of
length and importance, although by it the formal rules of the theorist
were defied. Even in his second period there are remarkable instances
of absolute originality in form as well as in style and conception,
as the opening adagio of the pianoforte sonata in C-sharp minor, or
the _Con moto_ of the pianoforte Concerto in G. Nor was his manner of
the introduction of the themes themselves after the manner of his
predecessors; "the glory of the phrase often appeared as it were through
clouds that first shrouded it and were then dispelled."

He was the greatest master of the art of varying a theme, and his genius
ennobled even pianoforte variations, which are too apt, as made by others,
to show mere skill and learning, or excite by superficial brilliancy
the vain display of the virtuoso who plays simply that he may dazzle.
In this species of art is seen the wealth of his ideas as well as the
consummate mastery in expression. In the second and the third period of
his style there are shining examples of his power in this direction. One
kind of variation is peculiarly his own, in which everything is changed,
the rhythm, the melody and the harmony, and yet the theme is clearly
recognized. Then there are great variations without the name, as the slow
movements in the sonata "appassionata" and the Trio in B-flat; the slow
movements of the C minor and Ninth Symphonies; the finale of the Heroic.

Ehlert has spoken of the inexorable logic of Beethoven's music, the
impossibility of rearranging the order of thought, of adding or taking
away. In other words, the concentration of his musical thought is never
too bold, his speech is never too laconic; nor is he tautological or
diffuse. The intensely emotional and dramatic characteristics of his music
impelled him to invent a great variety of dynamic changes, or rhythmical
syncopations. When we compare him in this respect with his predecessors,
we are struck by the great number of marks of expression. The care with
which he indicated the _nuances_ is seen in all his works, but he paid
more and more attention to the matter as he neared the end of his career.
The Cavatina in the Quartet in B-flat, for instance, is sixty-six measures
long, and there are fifty-eight marks of expression. He wished by all
possible means to produce what he himself called, in reference to the
Heroic Symphony, "the special and intended effect." Furthermore certain of
the indications reflect his personality, as the famous directions in the
Mass in D, and the "_beklemmt_" in the Cavatina before mentioned.

It has been said that the criterion wherewith to judge of all music
whatsoever is this: "Technical exposition being considered equal, the
quality and the power of the emotional matter set forth should turn the
scale between any two pieces of music." Now Beethoven not only invented
a new technical language; he invented the necessity of a race of players
that should speak it. The pianist that interprets properly a composition
of Beethoven must clothe his mechanism with intellectuality and virile,
poetic spirit. It was held by Jacob Grimm that no definite thought can
exist without words, and that in giving up the words instrumental music
has become an abstraction, as all thought has been left behind. It seems,
however, an error to limit thought or consciousness to words. There is a
state of consciousness, without verbal thinking, in which we realize great
moments of existence; and this state of consciousness has its clear and
powerful language. Such a spiritual language is music, and its greatest
poet is Beethoven. Even those works of Beethoven which have no title to
indicate the practical plan of the author are expressions of particular
emotions and conceptions that cannot be explained in words, yet convey a
distinct impression to the consciousness of the hearer.

Not that he was the originator or the abettor of that which is now known
as program music; for program music, whether the epithet be applied solely
to that music which without words aims to portray or suggest to the hearer
certain definite objects or events, or whether it be applied loosely to
all characteristic or imitative music, is not a thing of modern invention.
In a sacred ballet of the Greeks, which represented the fight of Apollo
with the Python, the action was accompanied appropriately by flutes,
lutes, and trumpets, and the grinding of the teeth of the wounded monster
was imitated by the trumpet. In the part-songs of Jannequin and his
contemporaries, battles, birds and hens were imitated in music. Buxtehude
described in double counterpoint, "the peaceable and joyous ending of
Simeon after the death of his son." The first movement of Dittersdorf's
orchestral symphony "Actaeon" portrayed the chase; Diana took her bath in
the second; in the minuet Actaeon played the part of "Peeping Tom"; and
in the finale he is torn in pieces by the hounds for his indiscretion.
To prove that there is nothing new under the sun, a wise man of his day,
named Hermes, wrote analytical programs of the fifteen symphonies of
Dittersdorf for the benefit of the hearer and for his own glory. But why
multiply such instances familiar to the searchers after the curious in
music?

Beethoven gave certain compositions a general name, as the pianoforte
sonata Op. 81 _a_, known as "Das Lebewohl" (or "Les Adieux"); the overture
to "Egmont"; the Pastoral Symphony. But these names were not supplied with
a detailed program of words that the music might be identified properly
and the right emotion recognized or subdivided. When he prefixed the
following words to the Pastoral Symphony, "more expression of emotions
than tone-painting," he at the same time made his confession of faith.
Nevertheless the commentators, the successors of Hermes above mentioned,
have seen in this same symphony a good citizen going with his family to
spend Sunday in the country, or a pantheistic hymn of subtle nature; just
as in the Seventh Symphony Wagner finds the apotheosis of the dance,
another the joy of Germany delivered from the French yoke, while others
see a festival in the days of chivalry, the reproduction of a brave
meridional people, a village marriage, a procession in the catacombs, the
love dream of a sensuous odalisque, a Bacchic feast, a battle of giants,
or a vulgar orgy to serve as a temperance lecture. "But in the kingdom of
hypothesis each one has a right to think freely, and even, alas, to speak
his mind."

If a striking characteristic of the music of Beethoven is its
individuality with accompanying infinite variety - as seen in the
symphonies, the concertos, nearly all of the pianoforte sonatas, and
the chamber music - a no less striking feature is its intense dramatic
spirit. The reproach has been made against Beethoven that his genius
was not dramatic, but surely reference was here made to the scenic
conventionalities of opera. But if the dramatic in music lies in the
development of passion, Beethoven was one of the greatest dramatic
composers. To quote Henri Lavoix in his remarks on the Fifth Symphony: "Is
this not the drama in its purity and its quintessence, where passion is no
longer the particular attribute of a theatrical mask, but the expression
of our own peculiar feeling?"

An important factor in the full expression of this dramatic intensity
in his orchestral writing is the instrumentation. All the instruments
are used with greater freedom and effect than ever before. In order to
express his great musical ideas the instruments move in a wider compass
with greater technical execution. In instrumental coloring, in variety of
solo and chorus treatment, and in massive rhythmical effects, Beethoven
advanced the art of orchestration to a point never before conceived,
His effects, however, are not gained by the introduction of unusual
instruments. With the exception of the Ninth Symphony and a few other
instances, his orchestra is practically the one used by Mozart. In the
Ninth Symphony, as in "the Battle of Vittoria," there is a liberal use
of percussion instruments. Beethoven used the contra fagott and the
basset horn on occasions; and he once indulged himself in the singular
fancy of arranging his "Battle of Vittoria" for Maelzel's instrument,
the Panharmonikon, a machine that brought in play all sorts of military
instruments. But the instrumentation of his symphonies does not depend for
its effects on unusual combinations; it is remarkable for the manner of
the speech of well-known members of the orchestra. Take the strings for
example. He knew full well the value of the _pizzicato_, and _tremolo_ as
well as the power of the unison. Outside of the famous chamber music, the
symphonies are filled with passages for the 'cello and double bass that
are unusual for his time. In his treatment of the double bass, which in
the C-minor Symphony was a stumbling block to Habeneck and his trained
men, he was influenced by the skill of Dragonetti. In his use of the
wood-wind he showed rare instinct and imagination. The oboe, for instance,
is with him not a gay rustic pipe of acid character; it is positive, it is
melancholy, it is tender and it soothes. In the famous solos of the first
movement of the Fifth Symphony and the dungeon scene of Fidelio, the oboe
utters heart-piercing accents of sorrow. What is more characteristic than
the odd cluckings of the bassoons in the scherzo of the Fifth Symphony;
the soulful clarinet solo in the allegretto of the Seventh, or the weird
effect of the low notes of the horn in the _trio_ of the scherzo of the
Seventh Symphony? Beethoven held the trombones in great reserve, but
whenever he employed them the effect was impressive, as for instance in
the _finale_ of the Fifth Symphony and the storm of the Pastoral Symphony.
Two famous passages in his symphonies, passages that have provoked angry
disputes, are made remarkable by a singular use of the horn in which the
laws of tonality are set at nought. Beethoven was the first that knew
the value of the kettle-drums. He first raised the drum to the dignity
of a solo instrument, as in the Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Symphonies. His
instrumental effects went hand in hand with the development of the
melodic idea. The different tone-masses are used in conversation; or a
solo instrument announces the return of the theme; or the whole orchestra
rages violently and then stops suddenly to listen to a far off voice.

It would be impossible in an article of this brevity to speak of his
manifold effects of instrumentation, or of the characteristics of his
compositions in detail. Among his instrumental works are the 9 symphonies,
overture and music to "Egmont," overture and music to "Prometheus,"
"The Battle of Vittoria," 9 overtures, 5 concertos for pianoforte and
orchestra, 1 triple concerto, the Choral Fantasia, the violin concerto, 16
quartets for strings, 8 trios for pianoforte and strings, 10 sonatas for
pianoforte and violin, 2 octets for wind, 1 septet for strings and wind,
1 quintet for pianoforte and wind, 5 sonatas for pianoforte and 'cello,
38 sonatas for pianoforte, and 21 sets of variations for pianoforte. The
chief vocal works are "Fidelio," the two masses, the oratorio, "Christus
am Oelberge," "Meerstille und glückliche Fahrt," the aria "Ah perfido!"
and 66 songs with pianoforte accompaniment.

We have already considered briefly the various ways in which Beethoven
expanded the structural elements of the sonata, and now it may not be
amiss to examine for a moment the æsthetical characteristics of his
pianoforte works in sonata form. In the early sonatas he began with the
four movements which others had almost wholly reserved for the symphony.
The scherzo in sonata and symphony was peculiarly his invention. To be
sure the name is older, and was used in describing secular songs in the
16th century as well as for instrumental pieces in the 17th. But the
peculiar quickly moving number with its piquant harmonies and rhythm and
its mocking, grotesque or fantastically capricious spirit is the musical
thought of Beethoven. At times the scherzo assumed gigantic proportions
as in the Third, Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, and in the sonata Op. 106.
Before his day the imagination of the composer had not had full play; it
was more or less hampered by conventionalities, by the necessities of
the men dependent on princes' favors. The expansion of a great idea in
the sonata is found first in his works. Deep feeling, passionate longing
took the place in the slow movement of simple melody with its unmeaning
and elaborate ornamentation. He introduced the recitative with thrilling
effect. Although the breadth of the thought in different movements is
majestic even to awe, all phases of human feeling are expressed. Strength
and delicacy, gloom and playfulness are found side by side. The sonata
form with Beethoven was the means of the full development of all the
expressive elements in music.

These considerations are likewise true of his piano and violin sonatas,
trios and concertos, the most prominent of which are the so-called
Kreutzer Sonata, for piano and violin, trio in B flat, violin concerto,
and piano concertos in G and E flat. These famous works stand foremost
in their respective branches, but to dwell on their individual
characteristics would exceed the limits of this article.

In contrast with the later symphonies, the First and Second seem without
the rare personality of the composer. Yet when the First Symphony appeared
its opening was regarded as daring; and there is the seriousness of
purpose that is found in all of his greater compositions. In the Second
the introduction is built on broader foundations; there is a warmth in
the slow movement that was unusual for the time, and the scherzo is new
in character. But in the Heroic, Beethoven laid the cornerstone of modern
symphonic music. It was written with a definite aim; the glorification of
a great man. The instrumentation is noticeable in a historical sense on
account of the treatment of the orchestra as a whole; the balance of the
parts, the conversations, the antiphonal choirs. The Funeral March is the
departure from the traditional slow movement that was generally devoted
to prettiness or the display of genteel emotion. And in this symphony
the scherzo is Shakesperian in spirit where melancholy or grimness is
mingled with the jesting. It has been said that the last movement of the
Haydn Symphony was designed to send the audience home in gay spirits; but
with Beethoven the finale became the crown of the work. The finale of
the Heroic is not as impressive as are the preceding movements; but it
abounds in interesting detail, and was in its day a remarkable revelation.
The Fourth is built on a lesser scale, and yet as Berlioz well said, the
adagio defies analysis, "the movement that seems to have been sighed by
the Archangel Michael when, a prey to melancholy, he contemplated from
the threshold of heaven the worlds below him." In the Fifth Beethoven rid
himself completely of the shackles of conventionality. It is the story
in music of the composer's defiance of Fate, the battling of man with
nature and unseen forces. Here trombones and contra fagott appeared for



Online LibraryVariousFamous Composers and their Works, Vol. 2 → online text (page 13 of 32)