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Lecture notes

Topic Three: Beethoven


Outline for class 11/7

The new Path


“really wholly new style” 1802 letter to Breitkopf & Härtel regarding Opp. 34 and 35
“Neue Weg” 1803 remark to Krumpholz

characteristics:
-dissolution of traditional concepts of form – not abandonment, but use of formal
schemes as material capable of changed functions in new context
-increasing formal/functional ambiguity of formal sections
-“processual” approach, composition as analytic process
-form deliniated by powerful musical statements, rather than periodicity

Example: “Eroica” variations for piano, Op.35


-Based on theme from finale of ballet “Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus” Op.43 (1800-01)
-Theme is constructed from basso, through addition of counterpoint, until fully-formed
Englische country dance emerges.
-15 variations, including modulatory, contrapuntal, and a concluding fugue. Possibly
inspired by Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Extended notion of the possibilities of the genre.

-Significance of Prometheus myth for Beethoven – enlightened liberator of mankind


-Viganó’s choreography – statues brought to life by Prometheus
-Significance of country dance topic – accessible to all, crosses class lines
-Published as Contadanse No.7, used in finale of Symphony 3 as theme for variations
-Possible identification of Napoleon Bonaparte with Prometheus

Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” Op.55


-Idea of the heroic expressed not merely by “military” topics but by symphonic treatment
-Beethoven’s complex, conflicted attitude toward Napoleon - Republican idealism and
pragmatic patriotism; the “dialectic” of revolution and tyranny

The problem of the dedication


Events and reports:
1789 Beethoven member of Bonn University reading club with republican radicals
1796 writes patriotic songs for Austrian volunteers to Franco-Prussian war
1798 Schindler claims Bernadotte suggests dedication of symphony to Napoleon
1799 Napoleon named First Consul
1800-03 Napoleon propogandizes himself as peace-maker
1800-01 Prometheus ballet
1802 Beethoven rejects publishers suggestion for “revolutionary” sonata
1803 Ries reports Beethoven’s plans to move to Paris
1803 Ries reports Beethoven’s desire to dedicate symphony 3 to Napoleon
May 1804 Ries reports Beethoven’s rage at Napoleon’s assumption of title Emperor, and
ripping of title page
August 1804 Beethoven writes to Breitkopf & Härtel that “the symphony is really
entitled Bonaparte”. Copy of score has “Intitulata Bonaparte” erased, but “Geshcrieben
auf Bonaparte” added.
1805 War again between Austria and France (Third Coalition), B&H rejects symphony 3
1806 first edition title “Sinfonia Eroica…composta per festiggiare il sovvenire di un
grand Uomo”
1808 Beethoven entertains offer of Kapellmeister position from Napoleon’s brother
Jérome, newly made King of Westphalia – which prompts Vienna to make him
comfortable counter offer
1809 Trémont reports that Beethoven is “preoccupied with Napoleon’s greatness.
Although he was not well-disposed toward him, I noticed that he admired his rise from
such a lowly position. It flattered his democratic ideals.”
1810 Marriage of Marie Louise (daughter of Austrian emperor) to Napoleon - Beethoven
makes a note that C minor mass Op.86 could be dedicated to Napoleon

Features of Symphony 3, first movement


Different approaches to “meaning” of work, narrative potentials:
Marx: Opening arpeggio, without chromatic extension, is the “hero”
Körner: opening idea is “klang”, motivic idea that represents character
Dahlhaus: “There is no answer to the question as to where the principal theme is stated.”

-replacement of thematic material with thematic configuration, breakdown into partial


structures and individual elements: motivic material is already developed before
exposition is over, appearances of the material are part of compositional process
-most extensive development to date: even new theme presented in development
-famous premature horn entrance with thematic material before recapitulation
-super-extended coda, revisits theme introduced in development

An die ferne Geliebte, Op.98


-First serious song cycle - on a poem in 6 parts by Aloys Jeittiles
-Represents the inward turn of the middle period for some; for others heralds the
introspection and emotional disposition of the late period
-Each song is strophic, extremely simple, tonally stable, but cycle as a whole:
Open form – movements run into each other, tonally linked by piano transitions
Cyclic form – return to opening material at end, but not just a simple da capo – a
transformational reworking
-the Volksweise ideal
- Beethoven’s ideological position that song “ohne Kunst” (without artificiality) is the
only true communication. The other important statement of this belief is “Ode to Joy” in
Symphony 9. Art (meaning music) transcends space and time.
-Possible link to the hopeless 5 year love confessed to Ries – Giulietta Guicciardi,
possibly the “Immortal Beloved” of the letter 1812: Beethoven’s identification with the
lover of the poems signals renunciation of earthly love, renewed dedication to music –
only through art can love be expressed.