Musicology: Beethoven

The outline that you find below has been a very helpful study guide to assist students using the book A History of Western Music. I strongly recommend this book. With its contents, art work, and media, it's just gorgeous!

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The Man and His Music

  1. Historical background
    1. Early years
      1. Beethoven born in Bonn
      2. Studied under Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748-98)
        1. Court organist at Bonn
        2. wrote Singspiels and songs
      3. 1787: brief visit to Vienna, may have played for Mozart
      4. 1790: Haydn hears Beethoven's music and urges the archbishop of Cologne to send him to Vienna
    2. Vienna
      1. Beethoven moves to Vienna in November of 1792
      2. Studies with a number of composers
        1. 1792-94: studied with Haydn
        2. 1794: Johann Schenk (1753-1836): composer of Singspiels
        3. 1794: Johann Georg Albrechtsberger: teaches Beethoven counterpoint
        4. Antonio Salieri (1750-1825): teaches vocal composition
    3. Compositional overview
      1. 9 symphonies
      2. 11 overtures
      3. Incidental music to plays
      4. 1 violin concerto
      5. 5 piano concertos
      6. 16 string quartets
      7. 9 piano trios
      8. 10 vioin sonatas
      9. 5 cello sonatas
      10. 30 large piano sonatas
      11. Numerous piano variations
      12. 1 oratorio
      13. 1 opera
      14. 2 Masses (including the Missa Solemnis in D)
      15. Arias, songs and 1 song cycle
    4. Deafness
      1. Manifests itself as early as 1796
      2. By 1820 he could barely hear
      3. Heiligenstadt Testament
        1. Letter Beethoven writes in the autumn of 1802
        2. Describes his illness and his melancholy
    5. The 'Three Periods' and Beethoven Historiography
      1. It is customary to divide Beethoven's works into three periods on the basis of style and chronology
      2. 'Bonn' period is usually not taken into account
      3. Periodic breakdown
        1. Early Period
          1. Beethoven's early period in Vienna
          2. 1792-1802
          3. Important works from the period
            1. Six String Quartets, Op.18/1-6
            2. The first 10 piano sonatas (through Op.14)
            3. Symphonies 1 & 2
        2. Middle Period
          1. Beethoven's 'Heroic' period
          2. 1803-1816
          3. Important works
            1. Symphonies 3-8
            2. Egmont
            3. Coriolan overture
            4. Fidelio
            5. Piano concertos in G and Eb
            6. Violin concerto
            7. String quartets
              1. Op.59/1-3 ('Rasumovsky')
              2. Op.74 ('Harp')
              3. Op.95 ('Quartetto serioso')
            8. Piano sonatas through Op.90
        3. Late Period
          1. Reflective and introspective style
          2. 1817-1827
          3. Important works
            1. Last 5 piano sonatas
            2. Diabelli Variations
            3. Missa solemnis
            4. 9th Symphony
            5. String Quartets: Op.127, 130, 131, 132, 135
            6. Grosse Fuge (originally the finale of op.130)

First Period

  1. The Piano Sonatas
    1. Op.2/1-3 (f,A,C)
      1. Publ.1796
      2. Show Beethoven's debt to classical tradition
      3. Dedicated to Haydn
      4. Formal scheme:
        1. Each sonata has a 4 movement scheme
        2. Sonatas 2 & 3 both use scherzo instead of the usual minuet
      5. Harmonic approaches:
        1. Bold modulations
        2. Op.2/2, 1st mov't (A maj.)
          1. 2nd theme begins in dominant minor, E, and immediately modulates through G maj and Bb major before settling down on E maj. for the closing part of the exposition.
    2. Op.7 (Eb): publ. in 1797
    3. Op.10 No.1 (c min.)
      1. Publ. in 1798
      2. Companion piece to the Sonata pathetique, Op.13 (publ.1799)
      3. Formal scheme
        1. Both sonatas are in 3 movements
        2. Outer mov't are stormy and passionate (both in c minor)
        3. Slow middle mov't in Ab major
      4. Op.13 'Pathetique' slow mov't
        1. Twofold recurrence of the Grave introduction in the 1st mov't and the thematic ressemblance of the finale theme foreshadow later thematic unity used in other works
      5. Characteristic texture
        1. Frequent use of octaves
        2. Thick piano writing
      6. Contemporaries that may have influenced Beethoven
        1. Muzio Clementi (1752-1832)
        2. Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760-1812)
          1. Dussek's Grande Sonate, Op.44 'Les adieux' (Eb) publ.1800 may have influenced Beethoven's Op.81a 'Les adieux' of 1810
  2. Chamber Music
    1. Strongly influenced by Haydn
      1. Development of motives
      2. Animating the texture by means of counterpoint
    2. Quartets of Op.18 (1798-1800)
      1. Strongly influenced by Haydn
      2. Op.18/6, 4th mov't slow intoduction 'La Malinconia'
    3. Other chamber pieces
      1. Op.1/1-3 Piano Trios
      2. Op.12/1-3 Violin Sonatas
      3. Op.5/1-2 Cello Sonatas
      4. Op.20 Septet for Strings
  3. Symphonies
    1. Symphony no.1 (C major)
      1. Composed in 1799
      2. First perf. in 1800
      3. Musical style:
        1. The most 'classical' of all Beethoven symphonies
        2. Heavily influenced by Haydn
        3. Formally conventional
      4. Progressive aspects:
        1. Prominence given the woodwinds
          1. Particularly in the 3rd mov't minuet
          2. And in the codas at the end of movements
        2. Dynamic shading: Beethoven's use of 'crescendo piano'
      5. Formal elements
        1. 1st mov't has a slow Adagio introduction in F which modulates to G in the 4th m. and delays a cadence on C for the next 8 m., until the first chord of the Allegro
    2. Symphony no.2 (D major)
      1. Composed 1802
      2. Formal elements
        1. Long Adagio intro to the 1st mov't (the longest to date in symphonic music)
        2. Lengthy coda at the end of 1st mov't
        3. 3rd mov't is designated as a scherzo
        4. 4th mov't (finale) coda is twice as long as the development and actually introduces a new theme

Second Period

  1. Background
    1. By 1803 Beethoven was recognized as the foremost pianis and composer for piano
    2. Patronage
      1. Beethoven's relations with his patrons differed from that of Mozart and Haydn
      2. Beethoven was extremely independent, and drove a hard bargain both with publishers and patrons
  2. Symphony no.3 (Eb) 'Eroica'
    1. Composed in 1803
    2. Dedication
      1. Originally dedicated to Napoleon (hero of the French Revolutions)
      2. 1804: Napoleon declares himself Emperor, and Beethoven tears up dedication
      3. 1806 publication bore the dedication 'Heroic Symphony...composed to celebrate the memory of a great man'
    3. Significance
      1. Expansive movements and extraordinary length
      2. 2nd mov't is a funeral march (C minor)
      3. 4th mov't is a set of variations (w/fugato episodes)
  3. Fidelio
    1. Compositional history
      1. Most problematic compostion for Beethoven as it was revised numrous times
      2. Composed initially in 1803
        1. Originally has 3 acts
        2. First perf. in Vienna in 1805
      3. 1805-1806
        1. Beethoven revises and shortens to 2 acts
        2. March 1806 perf. of this version is immediately withdrawn
      4. 1814 version
        1. More extensive revision made
        2. First successfuly production of Fidelio
      5. Overtures
        1. 4 different overtures written for the opera
        2. Original overture was never used
        3. Leonora No.2 was used at 1805 premiere
        4. Leonora No.3 was used for 1806 revival
        5. Fidelio overture used for the 1814 production
    2. Rescue opera
    3. Singspiel
  4. Rasumovsky Quartets, Op.59/1-3
    1. 3 quartets dedicated to musical amateur Count Rasumovsky (Russian ambassador to Vienna who played violin)
    2. Composed in 1806
    3. Musical style
      1. Beethoven uses a Russian folk melody as the prinicpal theme of the finale to the no.1 quartet
      2. Russian melody also used in 3rd mov't of no.2 quartet
    4. Revolutionary developments
      1. Long and complex developments and codas
      2. Rigid sonata form is rendered more flexible
      3. Thematic development is extensive
  5. Symphonies 4,5,6,7 & 8
    1. Symphonies 4-6 composed between 1806 and 1808
    2. 5th Symphony features:
      1. Struggle from minor to major (C min ‹> C maj)
      2. First use of trombones in a symphony
        1. Mozart and Gluck already used trombones in operas
      3. Finale is scored for piccolo and contrabassoon (unusual for the time)
    3. 6th Symphony features:
      1. Each mov't bears a descriptive title suggesting a scene from life in the country
      2. Pastorale sym. premiere was paired with 5th sym.
      3. Movement plan:
        1. 5 mov't
        2. Beethoven inserts an extra mov't (Storm) after the scherzo and prior to the finale
        3. Andante mov't (Scene by the Brook) coda: flute, oboe and clarinet imitate bird calls
      4. Pastoral symphonies were a popular genre of the 18th and 19th c. (ex: Vivalidi's Seasons concertos)
    4. 7th & 8th Symphonies:
      1. Completed in 1812
      2. 8th Symphony 3rd mov't uses minuet rather than scherzo
  6. Piano Sonatas
    1. Op.26 (Ab)
      1. Comp. 1802
      2. Second mov't is a funeral march
    2. Op.27/1-2
      1. From ca.1802
      2. Each designated as 'quasi una fantasia'
      3. Second sonata is popularly known as the 'Moonlight' Sonata
    3. Op.53 (C) 'Waldstein Sonata' and Op.57 (f) 'Appassionata'
      1. Exemplary piano works of the middle period
      2. Each is in three mov't scheme (fast-slow-fast)
      3. Formal schemes of the sonata, rondo and variation are stretched to the limits
    4. Op.90 (1814)
      1. In two mov't
      2. E min. Allegro (sonata-form)
      3. E maj. Andante (sonata-rondo)
  7. Piano Concertos
    1. Composed concertos for his own concert appearances
    2. Piano concertos nos.1-3 (C,Bb,c)
      1. All date from early years in Vienna
      2. Concertos influenced by Mozart
    3. Violin Concerto, D maj. Op.61 (1806)

Third Period

  1. Background
    1. 1810-1815 as a prosperous period for Beethoven
    2. Health deteriorating, deafness worsening
    3. Compositional output in the final years
      1. 1816-1821: last 5 piano sonatas
      2. 1822: Missa Solemnis
      3. 1823: Diabelli Variations
      4. 1824: Symphony no.9
      5. 1825-26: String Quartets
  2. Characteristics of the late style
    1. Meditative quality
      1. Manifest in the extensive development of themes and motives
      2. Late use of variation forms also points towards the importance of thematic development
        1. Variation form extends on thematic development in that lengthier passages are subjected to dev. rather than short bar-long motives
      3. Variation techniques used by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven:
        1. Variation within a larger formal plan, such as a rondo, in which each recurrence of the prinicipal theme is varied or in a sonata-form when the initial theme is varied at the recap.
          1. Op.106 slow movements
          2. Op.132 Quartet
          3. 9th Symphony: finale begins as a set of variations (after intro)
        2. Theme-and-variations as an independent composition
          1. Beethoven writes 20 variation sets for piano
          2. Op.120: Diabelli Variations
            1. 33 variations on a waltz by Diabelli
            2. Extensive transformations of the Diabelli theme
        3. Theme-and-variations as a mov't in a symphony or sonata
      4. Blurring of sections within a conventional formal arrangement
        1. Concealed cadences
        2. Delayed harmonic resolution
        3. Use of slow introductions to Allegro movements
        4. Alternation of Adagio and Allegro sections in a single mov't
          1. Op.130: 1st mov't
      5. Fugato and use of contrapuntal textures
        1. Fugal movements
          1. Finales of Op.106 and 110 Piano Sonatas
          2. Grosse Fuge
          3. Gloria and Credo of the Mass in D
          4. 2 double fugues in the finale of the 9th Symphony
      6. Use of nontraditional movement plans
        1. Op.111 Piano Sonata: 2 mov't
        2. Op.131 String Quartet (C#min): 7 sections (mov't)
  3. Mass in D
    1. Beethoven regarded the Mass as his greatest work
    2. Mass as a single musical unity, a symphony in 5 mov't
  4. Ninth Symphony
    1. Premiered on May 7, 1824
    2. Significant features
      1. Choral finale
        1. Setting of Schiller's 'Ode to Joy'
        2. Beethoven selects stanzas about universal brotherhood of man
      2. Double fugue in the finale

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