restricted access XII: The Moment of Creation: Op. 28, Op. 31 Nos. 2 and 3
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I 0 00 The Moment of Creation OP. 28, OP. 31 Nos. 2 AND 3 As musicians, would we choose to have lived in another time? During the 1780s in Vienna to hear Mozart play his own concertos? Or London in the 1790S to hear Haydn conduct from the keyboard? Or Vienna in March 1807 to hear Beethoven premiere the Fourth Concerto? Or conduct the Ninth Symphony? Or hear Chopin playa mazurka or a nocturne? Or attend a Schubertiad? One could go on and on. Looking at a score is like reading the road signs beside dry creek beds in the American Southwest that warn of swollen streams. Dry ink on a white page is the only trace of the ideas that swept through the composer's mind. Each of the three sonatas in this chapter-op. 28 and Op. 31 Nos. 2and 3-begins as though out of nowhere, as though grasped in the act of preludieren (to use Czerny's term) and stilled as a specimen of a moment in Beethoven's imagination. Even if one had been alive at the time, it would hardly have been possible to approach any more closely the freshness of the first moment. Op.28 Where did this sonata begin in the composer's mind? In what order did Beethoven discover his building materials? Understandably, what follows is speculation . The Sonatas 160 Ex. 12.1. Or. 28, I, MM. 2-10. I~III ! J 1 I I Visitors to Beethoven in his later years who wanted to hear him improvise could expect to have their request denied. Instead, one needed only to strike a key and pretend to find something wrong with the sound. Beethoven would then try the key himself, add intervals, sit down, and lose himself in improvisation, unaware of the visitor who had retreated to the back of the room. Here, we may imagine, Beethoven began with the repeated D's in the bass. Like the whirring of the shutters , the sound of these repeated notes must have induced a trancelike state in which the next discovery was the dominant seventh of the subdominant. Especially because these are the opening measures of the sonata, the subdominant sound has the effect of beginning with otherness resolving elsewhere, delayed by an appoggiatura . The latter, then, was the third discovery: within the context of pedaled repeated D's, piano, the expressive pull of the slurred second. The figure is so expressively satisfying that Beethoven repeated it, and repeated it slurred, and repeated it slurred again, stopping on a. Listening to Beethoven as our mental teacher, the melodic descent of an octave comprises two tetrachords, the D-major triad with a in the soprano being the harmonic answer to the instability of the D7 five measures earlier, with a' in the soprano . He must have heard, as we do, that a is the pitch on which the melodic line is suspended. Descending seconds combine to form each tetrachord. The latter is a formal device, a building block, the former an expressive device, symbolic of whatever sentiments one associates with melodic pull. The last discovery in those early moments of creation, the four measures that conclude the theme, was the contrast of direction and the absence of appoggiaturas, a sensation of being lifted and being released. Tracing the reappearance of musical elements found in the opening line, the repeated D's continue virtually uninterrupted for thirty-nine measures, the device returning for the first twenty measures of the development, again at the reprise, and twenty measures at the close of the movement. The repeated Ffs, mm. 219-56, although not as repeated quarter notes, add another thirty-eight measures of pedal. The repeated pedal tone must therefore be regarded as inseparable from the thematic material. The tetrachord appears throughout the movement, at times more clearly than others. It is explicitly stated in the bass (Ex. 12.2); the reason for the strange sforzando on g' may have been the integrity of the tetrachord in the soprano. Or, possibly, with the sforzando on g in mm. 23 and 31, the aberration V7-I in G major at the The Moment of Creation 161 opening of the movement was to be forcibly recalled. The melodic line descends in another tetrachord, f~'-c~', in the succeeding two measures, and a descending fournote line is repeated in the bass in mm. 40-55 (Ex. 12.3). The abbreviation of the tetrachord to two notes in the bass in...