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4. What makes Beethoven’s middle period “heroic”? How do you hear these traits
exemplified in his Eroica and Fifth Symphony?
We often refer to Beethoven’s middle period as “heroic” as a manner of shorthand, a way of
referring at once to its monumental scope, its outward nobility, and its sense of challenge
overcome. The heroicism of Eroica is evident in its very first bars: After two violently rousing
chords, the sounding of the initial theme (robustly triadic) is marred by the unexpected
appearance of a C#. Beethoven wastes no time in introducing conflict, thereby providing himself
the opportunity to begin the heroic struggle as early as possible, and to resolve it in the most
convincing fashion. The heroic nature of the Fifth Symphony is perhaps best seen in its largescale construction: progress from the tempestuous and dire first movement to the triumphant and
transcendental finale.
5. What is meant by “organicism” in music? Explain how the movements of the Fifth
Symphony grow from a single “seed.”
“Organicism,” in music, refers to the process by which an entire work is seemingly constructed
from the simplest of thematic materials, in the same manner by which a plant develops from a
simple seed. In Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, the initial four-note motive fulfills such a role. In
the first movement, after its initial sounding to begin the work, it reappears twice: once in the
fanfare which announces the arrival of the second theme, and again in the second theme’s
accompaniment. In the second movement, the theme again appears in accompaniment figures,
before making overt appearance again in the scherzo and the symphony’s finale.
6. Describe some stylistic and formal contrasts between the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies. In
what ways are they “unidentical twins”?
Many of the differences between the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies can be attributed to the
inclusion of programmatic content in the Sixth. The use of madrigal-like imitation in the second
movement, and the interpolation of a “Thunderstorm Tempest” in the long three-movement
finale, are programmatic elements which would have been entirely out of place in the Fifth
Symphony, which is almost entirely driven by a purely musical thematic consistency. And yet
the works are “twins,” even if unidentical, in that they were conceived of and composed during
the same time period, share a single dedicatee, and were published almost contemporaneously.
7. What kinds of works would be performed at a typical public concert in Beethoven’s
time? How did these concerts differ from those of today?
As in the preceding age, a concert in Beethoven’s time would largely have consisted of music of
recent composition. It would have included both the instrumental and the vocal in a single
evening, and would likely include at least a few works which were excerpts of larger opuses.
Often, the music was underrehearsed and poorly performed. This differs from the concert of
today in several obvious fashions. Outside of the occasional free-standing overture, it is rare to
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