Eroica and Pathetique Writings

The second movement of Symphony Eroica was described rather vaguely with a few, short paragraphs that included a majority of technical descriptions as opposed to imagery. The audience the author is targeting has a fairly good musical knowledge, for the wording was complex and included advanced theory terms. I thought the phrasing of sentences in certain cases didn’t flow correctly and/or express the thought clearly. For example, “…and this funeral march broadens in its flow as it develops.” That statement is difficult to understand, what does it mean to “broaden in flow”? How can one “broaden their flow”? On a different note, some of the sentences were very helpful in developing an image into the readers mind, such as “Then the light fails and the mournful main theme returns.” This imagery helps the readers get a sense of emotion in the piece, and gives them and idea of how it sounds. People can recognize emotion better than theory terms, therefore poetic statements like this assist greatly in musical reviews. Of course, the musical sentences were effective in giving a technical perspective on the piece. “This is a broad melody in two portions, each of which is given out by the strings and repeated (in the first case with a close in a new key) by the wind.” Sentences such as this give a different type of understanding to the piece, as stated previously. This statement is easy to understand and provides musical terms that are recognizable to musicians who want to learn about the composition. One aspect in this piece I enjoyed was in the first paragraph where the writer mentions Beethoven’s purpose for writing the music in the way he did. Although it was just a few sentences, the composer’s ideas and reasoning behind the theory provides an even deeper understanding of the piece and why and how it was created.

The passage from the article on the Sonata Pathetique included much more background information and musical description. The writer included a good balance between imagery and technical descriptions for the music, painting a realistic picture of the piece in the reader’s minds. A good description from the passage is, “Instead of thinking notes. it would be nearer the spirit of the piece to think, when marveling at the tight construction, or roaring and howling and throbbing, the sounds of passion with which the composer burns his musical logic into one’s consciousness.” This sentence uses descriptive vocabulary, being “effective” to the readers by helping them develop an idea of the composition. However, the phrase, “The Pathetique is, first of all, music of the will.” is unclear and difficult to understand. The word “will” is very open-ended and has many meanings, therefore what kind of “will” is the writer referring to, and how does that describe the music? The writer later goes into greater detail of describing the form, keys, and other theory aspects, informing musical readers how the piece is constructed. One sentence that stood out in a nicely-descriptive manner was, “Beethoven was using dynamic intensity-again a less-sophisticated communicator of musical meaning-to manipulate the uncertain balance between light and darkness in chord “color” throughout the movement.” It includes musical terms like “dynamic” and “chord” but also includes “affective” words, which give it the ability to help those unfamiliar with music theory to understand the meaning of it all.

Mozart Symphony 25 and 40

Mozart’s Symphony number 25‘s first movement was simple and innocent. The theme of the peace was in unison, repetitive, and did not quite fit in with the rest of the piece. The form was repetitive as well, with four sections cycling several times with the occasional interruption of the clean, simple theme. Mozart had written this piece when he was 17 years old, working as a court composer in Salzburg. He was quite young and innocent, which was recognizable in the first movement. The minor sections represented more exciting and playful emotions, had Mozart been older with more exposure to tragedy and depression, the minor sections would have conveyed dark emotions instead. In addition, the movement was full of unison phrases, keeping the texture not complex, showing Mozart’s undeveloped maturity in composition.

Mozart’s first movement of Symphony number 40, in sonata form, was dark with high emotional intensity. The theme of the piece was quick and suspenseful, conveying dark emotions as opposed to the theme in 25. Dynamics were also a significant factor, having many volume contrasting phrases, including many dramatic silences. Overall, Mozart’s 40 was much more developed and showed his composing maturity. Textures were more complex than his 25, and the piece was significantly longer, although a little too long, some might argue. One technique Mozart used was call and respond, which was used in both symphonies, however the years between taught him to create more dramatic, layered response patterns. Mozart’s Symphony 25‘s first movement was written at a young age, when he had not been exposed to the world; he was innocent and playful. However, his Symphony 40‘s first movement, was written in 1788 when he had already experienced myriad hardships and financial troubles, causing him to create more tainted, dark, and realistic compositions that portray his experience.

Finally, the musical graph on Symphony 40 was extremely helpful in recognizing the instrumentation and musical texture of the piece. Patterns and repeats were easily seen, and it provided a feel for what each instrument was playing, whether it was the melody or accompaniment.

Mozart

Peter Gay’s novel, Mozart, is an in depth book about Mozart’s life and music. The excerpts I read provided extensive knowledge on the great composer’s works, inspiration, and life struggles. One aspect from the excerpts I found particularly interesting is Mozart’s relationship with money. Being a well known composer, one would assume the pay would be enough to ensure a comfortable lifestyle, however Mozart failed to use his money wisely. As Gay stated, “Whatever Mozart craved, he bought;” He spent his earnings on a specially built piano, a billiard table, a horse and carriage, spa trips for his wife, and much more. As a consequence to his poor financial behavior, he was constantly writing begging letters to acquaintances for money in his rough years. This I found surprising, considering other composers, like Beethoven, who didn’t stoop to Mozart’s level for financial reasons. Today, celebrities and well known people who contribute to the entertainment world are paid exceptionally well, therefore it is surprising that in Mozart’s time, being a famous composer didn’t quite offer the same amenities.

Another issue of Mozart’s I found intriguing are his “daddy issues”. Even back in the 1700’s, father-son problems existed. His father, Leopold Mozart, was a disrespecting, jealous man who was incapable of appreciating his son’s talents, being the possible main source of Mozart’s depression and misery. As one can understand, getting the approval from one’s father is often a much needed thing. Leopold would never be satisfied with his son, disapproving many decisions he made, including Mozart’s move to Vienna and his marriage to Constanze Weber. In addition, Mozart was, as Gay wrote, “Leading the a life of which his father could have only dreamt.” Jealously brought out extreme criticizing of Mozart’s music and lifestyle choices from his father, though he did take pride in many of his compositions. Even after his death, Leopold’s disapproval haunted Mozart till his later death.

Finally, Mozart’s love for the viola was also of interest to me. Despite being a violin virtuoso, the viola held a special place in his heart. In addition, the fact that Mozart composed his first symphony at the age of 8 is unbelievable. In today’s world, children of that age do not receive the extensive musical education Mozart or Beethoven had received, and the thought of an 8 year old on the 21st century composing a work of that length and complexity is unimaginable.

Reading

The chapter, Sonata, Symphony, and Concerto at Midcentury examines various aspects of instrumentation, orchestral and key board music, and forms. Touching over the pianoforte, or piano, the writer stated that the instrument replaced the harpsichord and clavichord, and was created in 1700. Orchestras and wind ensembles were significant in the times and had many changes in instrumentation over the years. Haydn’s orchestra had usually less than 25 musicians, whereas now we have many more. In those times, the instruments were gendered. Women, specifically daughters, would play the keyboard while the sons were typically violinists and cellists. In addition, chamber music was originally written to give the first violin the elaborate melody while having the other strings play bass notes and fill in textures, however that then stated the concertante quartets, where all parts have equal importance.

Form was also a large aspect in midcentury music. The symphony, from the Italian opera sinfonia, has three movements. The first and third are typically lively and have faster tempos, in contrast with the second movement, which is slower. In later times, they included four movements. What changed over the years was the content of each genre and the forms for movements. Another changing factor was the qualities of the pieces. In older times, minor pieces were popular for the negative feelings the listeners receive, however after, composers began to compose in major keys, creating easy listening pieces wile still drawing chords from the relative minors for contrast. The sonata form, being one of the most well known, includes three sections that embody different personalities. In the 18th century, the binary form was used, having two main sections. Then as the 19th century arrived, composers moved into a ternary form, having the three sections we know now as exposition, development, and recapitulation. In addition, the beginning sonata form had emphasis on structure and harmony, whereas later, after 1800, contrast and thematic content was key. The writer also examined types of symphonies, such as symphonic concertante and concerto, then following up with the idea of cadenza.

The chapter, Classic Music in the Late 18th Century, about Haydn, went into great detail about his life and music. Haydn had worked for a prince for quite a while, composing pieces and occasionally operas every week to perform. He then created an orchestra and wrote symphonies. Haydn was known as the “father of the symphony” because he created a commonly followed path for other composers with his symphonies. Haydn’s symphonies usually contain four movements that are in the same key with the exception of the slow movement. As the years went by, symphonies became more than just easy entertainment, but for Haydn they became lengthy, complex and difficult to perform.

Sonata Pathetique

Sonata Pathetique, published in 1799 by Ludwig van Beethoven, is a suspenseful, mesmerizing, and peaceful piano creation. Many musical elements are used to bring different aspects and evoke deep feelings. There are three movements in the piece, and thus three separate stories that all tie in together upon the recapitulation.

The first movement is in sonata form and labeled as grave. It begins with a sudden, minor chord followed by a slight dramatic pause, then ending the motif with a few other minor chords played very softly. The motif is then repeated again, after a short silence, with different notes, still showing the prominent dynamics. The whole introduction the the piece is very airy, and  quiet, full of pauses for dramatic effect. After the quiet section, a major line is played, including many consonant chords which are that little bit of sunshine on a cloudy day.

The middle part of the first movement becomes more dark and elaborate in texture. Scales going up and down are played at lightning speed against low notes on the left hand, creating a suspenseful feeling as everything crescendos. The melodies are ornamented with various trills, and sound as if the fingers are flying about the keys. Dynamics become key when the piece builds up and pounds out a loud, minor chord which brings the piece back to the introduction with dramatic silences between the pianissimo chords. The tempo decreases while the pauses increase, and it sounds as if a train is slowly stopping. Suddenly the piece picks up again and crescendos to the final chords being bashed out on the keys.

The second movement resembles a slow stream in a forest, water splashing up against rocks, fish scales reflecting sunlight causing everything sparkle, and green grass everywhere. The major qualities of chords and intervals in addition to the lyrical nature of the cantabile melody cause that scene to appear in mind. The piece opens with almost arpeggiated chords accompanying a sweet, simple melody, then is played once more but an octave above. Few dissonant intervals liven up the composition and give greater appreciation for the major qualities.

After, the work becomes minor and has simple chords repeated on the left hand with an ornamented melody on right. The section provides a refreshing contrast to the major first section. Again, the original melody is played, however in a new key, leading into a grand, playful section with louder chords and arpeggiated bass lines. Yet again, Beethoven worked in the cantabile melody, using it as a recurring theme in the piece. Finally, the composition ends very calmly and in a straightforward way, as apposed to many of Beethoven’s other works where ones thinks the final chord is going to resolve but a new section begins. Delicately, the notes play a short melody three times, each beginning on a lower note than the previous, and then the satisfying resolve is heart-melting.

Finally, the third movement, in cut time, is a grand piece that includes hints from both the first and second movements to tie the whole idea together. It begins with the motif, a quick melody with an arpeggiated left hand. It’s a rather playful tune, and comes into play several times in the piece. Trills and other ornaments are added to the right hand’s notes, and the tempo becomes faster and faster. Minor chords are bashed out, then following are usually structured silences to separate sections in the piece. One particular mesmerizing element in this composition is the right hand melody. The speed of the scales, both ascending and descending, is incredible. The piece builds and builds, creating suspense then is relieved when a sudden minor chord plays, therefore signaling a new section.

In the movement, a melody similar to the cantabile melody is played, bringing the second movement in. The major, more peaceful sounding tune provides relieving contrast from the intense, speedy elements in the rest. Finally, after a few measures of consonant intervals leading to resolution, the final chords are pounded out, ending the grand piece with a bang.

To conclude, Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8 Op. 13 was a highly textured work. Many contrasting motifs and themes were used that resulted in the whole composition being tied together, showing that everything is connected. He told one story on the piano in which there were different chapters, some happy and some sad, but in the end everything came together to create a masterpiece.