Poll

Which do YOU believe to be true?

Beethoven was the last of the great Classicists
28 (50%)
Beethoven was the first of the great Romantics
28 (50%)

Total Members Voted: 31

Author Topic: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?  (Read 20419 times)

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Mark

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Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« on: August 26, 2007, 02:58:36 PM »
Before anyone says a word, let me say this: I know we've had this debate before. And I also know that technically speaking, there's really no need for debate. Beethoven was the climax of the classical period. You can hear classicism throughout his works. On a purely academic level, I acknowledge this.

But personally, I don't hear Beethoven as a classicist, but as the birth of romanticism. I was reminded of this earlier today, as I listened to Abbado and the VPO from 1987 giving a very 'old skool' reading of the Seventh Symphony. You can hear the classical structure, its points of reference. Yet, it feels romantic. And I get this with most of Beethoven's work.

So I started thinking, 'Am I alone in this?' I'm curious to find out from members here whether or not knowing that Beethoven was truly a classicist makes them hear him as one. Or whether, like me, they hear in Beethoven the birth pangs of romanticism.

Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2007, 03:51:15 PM »
Mark,
Let me just say this, it is easier than a great technical debate. You can FEEL anything your mind tells you to feel. But Classical Style and Romantic Style are not differentiated by feeling, rather by structure, form, harmonic &c. It is your reaction to the music that is Romantic, not the music itself. :)

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Scriptavolant

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2007, 03:51:30 PM »
Well, both. Or neither.
If I had to choose, I'd say first great Romantic. I think his achievements must be weighed in terms of innovations and push forward; I don't see the point in considering him as the composer who exhausted classicism. That's reductive.
The idea by which Beethoven is a classicist tout court, well, I have to say I've read only on GMG. In every book I've read, he was almost unanimously considered a Romantic. Or, at the most, the bridge between Classicism and Romanticism.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2007, 03:57:30 PM by Scriptavolant »

Scriptavolant

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2007, 03:55:57 PM »
But Classical Style and Romantic Style are not differentiated by feeling, rather by structure, form, harmonic &c.

I don't think that the two things (feelings and form) can be so easily separated, as was discussed in another topic recently. And Beethoven is the prototypical example of a perfect fusion between poetical issues and form, to the point where you cannot clearly distinguish the two things.

Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2007, 04:09:25 PM »
I don't think that the two things (feelings and form) can be so easily separated, as was discussed in another topic recently. And Beethoven is the prototypical example of a perfect fusion between poetical issues and form, to the point where you cannot clearly distinguish the two things.


To my mind, no one put it better than Toscanini. I am in complete agreement, perhaps even on a larger scale than he intended, when he spoke about the opening movement of the 5th Symphony:

“To some it is Napoleon, to some it is a philosophical struggle, to me it is Allegro con brio.”

I observed your discussion, but it didn't settle the matter for me, since I was in complete disagreement with you. :)

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Scriptavolant

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2007, 04:15:12 PM »
“To some it is Napoleon, to some it is a philosophical struggle, to me it is Allegro con brio.”



I completely agree with Toscanini there, but I think that this is a totally different point. He seems to reject extra-musical associations, not to affirm that music can be dissociated into form and emotional content as if they were day and night.

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2007, 04:17:11 PM »
I completely agree with Toscanini there, but I think that this is a totally different point. He seems to reject extra-musical associations, not to affirm that music can be dissociated into form and emotional content as if they were day and night.


Please explain to me then: how is emotional content NOT an extra-musical association?  In Beethoven, not in Liszt or any actual Romantic, that is.

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Offline BachQ

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2007, 04:24:18 PM »
LvB reached his peak during the Classico-Romantic period (1807-1830), which resides as a transitional sub-era in the netherworld between the Classical period (1750-1807) and the Romantic Period (1830-1897).

The Classico-Romantic era began with the premiere of the Eroica Symphony, and ended with Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique (which ushered in the start of the Romantic era).
« Last Edit: August 26, 2007, 05:29:32 PM by D Minor »

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2007, 04:30:19 PM »
LvB reached his peak during the Classico-Romantic period, which resides as a transitional subgenre in the netherworld between the Classical period (1750-1807) and the Romantic Period (1830-1897).

The Classico-Romantic era began with the premiere of the Eroica Symphony, and ended with Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique.

Ah, d minor, the Great Compromiser. :)

I submit that this period began with J. Stamitz and isn't quite ended yet. Only a question of degree and balance. :)

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Scriptavolant

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2007, 04:32:10 PM »
Please explain to me then: how is emotional content NOT an extra-musical association? 


It is not when the emotional contents mould directly the musical form, as it happens in almost all Beethoven and many Romantics.
I don't call it an extra-musical association because, in my opinion, it is all in the music.


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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2007, 04:41:24 PM »
It is not when the emotional contents mould directly the musical form, as it happens in almost all Beethoven and many Romantics.
I don't call it an extra-musical association because, in my opinion, it is all in the music.



I would suggest that you are confusing emotional content with drama. Certainly Beethoven uses drama, and plenty of it. That works into form in the way you are talking about. But I have a different concept of emotional content. Other than the 6th Symphony, in which he specifically outlined a programme, and then added not to take it too seriously, he doesn't toy with your emotions any more than other classical composers, who also used major/minor key associations to promote Affekts as they were called. CPE Bach delighted in making his audience cry, and you aren't calling HIM a Romantic. :)

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Scriptavolant

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2007, 05:22:40 PM »
CPE Bach delighted in making his audience cry, and you aren't calling HIM a Romantic. :)

Well, as Alfred Einstein put it, Romantic art existed long before Romanticism.
I understand the example of the "Pastoral". My doubts begin when I listen to compositions such as the "Coriolan Overture" or the Waldstein. What's classicist there?

George

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2007, 05:46:37 PM »

I picked the second choice, mostly because I usually prefer interpretations that fall in line with this view. 

However, in some performers hands, I could easily be persuaded the other way.

Offline not edward

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2007, 06:01:23 PM »
I think Beethoven was the first great Modernist. ;)
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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2007, 06:04:46 PM »
Beethoven was both IMO.
But I wouldn't place the shift as early as the Eroïca. Like Gurn said - the use of drama doesn't mean the music is Romantic. Only the 9th symphony is the first (early) Romantic one. And I would only call the late string quartets as "Romantic" as well - maybe the late piano sonatas too.

Q

Offline Catison

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #15 on: August 26, 2007, 07:00:06 PM »
The correct answer is Beethoven was a transitionary figure.  Both options in the poll are not mutually exclusive.  I picked last great Classicist because I think that is how he viewed himself.  He was carrying on the tradition of Haydn and Mozart.  The first real Romantic was Schubert in my opinion.  But also in my opinion Brahms was the real last Classicist.

And I wouldn't put too much faith in how you hear the music played.  There are conductors who make Bach sound like a Romantic.
-Brett

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #16 on: August 27, 2007, 04:05:08 AM »
I voted for the classicist option, but in fact Schubert, Hummel, Rejcha, Rossini and Cherubini were all classicists and died after Beethoven.

And following Catison's logic, we should add Brahms and Mendelssohn as well... ;)

Quote
The idea by which Beethoven is a classicist tout court, well, I have to say I've read only on GMG. In every book I've read, he was almost unanimously considered a Romantic.

Scriptavolant, there are many books (and serious ones, not just descriptive) where Beethoven is firmly described as a classicist.

Of course there is an artificial content in such time divisions: Beethoven is quite different from Mozart, and Mozart quite different from C. P. E. Bach, but they are all generally included in the Classical era.

longears

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #17 on: August 27, 2007, 04:31:21 AM »
Both.  And then some.  Remember, classifications are but intellectual templates laid onto experience. 

karlhenning

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #18 on: August 27, 2007, 05:06:55 AM »
(* munches on popcorn *)

George

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Re: Beethoven: Last great classicist ... or first great romantic?
« Reply #19 on: August 27, 2007, 05:41:17 AM »
Both.  And then some.  Remember, classifications are but intellectual templates laid onto experience. 

Sing it, brother!