Author Topic: Beethoven the Innovator  (Read 20792 times)

0 Members and 2 Guests are viewing this topic.

Offline Josquin des Prez

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3654
  • Lyric Suite, Opus131
Re: Beethoven the Innovator
« Reply #60 on: August 22, 2007, 04:32:50 PM »
Just asking.

The first to write a five-part symphony? The first to use trombones in a symphony? The first to put the Scherzo before the Adagio? The first to write a seven-part SQ? The first to write a 45-minute piano sonata?

Does he has predecessors in any of these? I'd like to know who they are and in which works.

I don't think any of those are really such important or impressive contributions. I think that as an innovator, Beethoven runs a little deeper then that. The fact he was the first to write avant-garde music for instance (and the consequences have been incalculable). The fact he was the first to use hidden 'programs' as a way to maintain structural unity (which was then exploited in full by Liszt and Wagner). The way he twisted and expanded the forms and techniques of his day (including fugue and counterpoint) to serve his expressive needs.

Before Beethoven, music was considered a mere craft. After him, it became an artform. I think that's a bit more relevant then adding a trombone to a symphony, nay?

« Last Edit: August 22, 2007, 05:01:26 PM by Josquin des Prez »

Scriptavolant

  • Guest
Re: Beethoven the Innovator
« Reply #61 on: August 22, 2007, 04:39:45 PM »
I don't think any of those are really such important or impressive contributions. I think that as an innovator, Beethoven runs a little deeper then that. The fact he was the first to write avant-garde music for instance (and the consequences have been incalculable). The fact he was the first to use hidden 'programs' as a way to maintain structural unity (which was then exploited in full by Liszt and Wagner). The way he twisted and expanded the forms and techniques of his day (including fugue and counterpoint) to serve his expressive needs.

Before Beethoven, music was considered a mere craft. After him, it became an artform. I think that's a bit relevant then adding a trombone to a symphony, nay?



Yes, lucid analysis.
But do you really believe this?
Quote
Before Beethoven, music was considered a mere craft. After him, it became an artform.

This is an old trite cliché built and sold by the Romantics; I'm surprised it is still believed. Great music has always been an artform, back to Leoninus and Perotinus. Or you consider your beloved Bach as a mere craftman?

Offline Josquin des Prez

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3654
  • Lyric Suite, Opus131
Re: Beethoven the Innovator
« Reply #62 on: August 22, 2007, 05:12:58 PM »
Great music has always been an artform, back to Leoninus and Perotinus.

Yes, and the Romantics would have agreed. They considered Bach an artist, didn't they? Which is a bit anachronistic, since Bach saw himself as a craftsman.

You can say that Beethoven merely popularized the idea, but even that is a remarkable achievement in itself. He was also the one to introduce the concept of 'individuality' in music, which is also part of his legacy. Even if genius has always been pervasive in the history of art, you can't deny people begun to see music quite in a different way after Beethoven. It didn't necessarely change the general incidence of genius, but i think it made lesser composers a whole lot of easier to listen to.  ;)
« Last Edit: August 22, 2007, 05:20:50 PM by Josquin des Prez »

Offline JoshLilly

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 402
  • Joachim Raff, the greatest!
Re: Beethoven the Innovator
« Reply #63 on: August 22, 2007, 05:22:55 PM »
"He was also the one to introduce the concept of 'individuality' in music"


............. yeah......

Larry Rinkel

  • Guest
Re: Beethoven the Innovator
« Reply #64 on: August 22, 2007, 05:56:00 PM »
Yes, lucid analysis.
But do you really believe this?
This is an old trite cliché built and sold by the Romantics; I'm surprised it is still believed. Great music has always been an artform, back to Leoninus and Perotinus. Or you consider your beloved Bach as a mere craftman?

Without going into a lot of detail, I suggest a reading of Lydia Goehr's "The Imaginary Museum" to answer your question. It is a very important work for understanding the transition from a concept of music as craft, not as a "work" that is a composer's personal intellectual property, to a concept of music as "art." And Beethoven is the key figure in that paradigm shift.

Larry Rinkel

  • Guest
Re: Beethoven the Innovator
« Reply #65 on: August 22, 2007, 06:01:37 PM »
Yes, and the Romantics would have agreed. They considered Bach an artist, didn't they? Which is a bit anachronistic, since Bach saw himself as a craftsman.

You can say that Beethoven merely popularized the idea, but even that is a remarkable achievement in itself. He was also the one to introduce the concept of 'individuality' in music, which is also part of his legacy. Even if genius has always been pervasive in the history of art, you can't deny people begun to see music quite in a different way after Beethoven. It didn't necessarely change the general incidence of genius, but i think it made lesser composers a whole lot of easier to listen to.  ;)

The key study to read here is Scott Burnham's "Beethoven Hero," which discusses how the archetype of the heroic in certain Beethoven works has unalterably shaped our sense of music and the role of the composer ever since his time. I admit this is very difficult, very dense reading, but Charles Rosen has called it the most important contribution to the philosophy and theory of music in two decades. And this is more important, as has been stated before, than the use of a trombone or the number of movements or the placement of the scherzo.

karlhenning

  • Guest
Re: Beethoven the Innovator
« Reply #66 on: August 23, 2007, 02:58:44 AM »
I think "revolutionary" is a sadly overused adjective, particularly in music. :)

And then came "maverick" . . . .

 8)

Scriptavolant

  • Guest
Re: Beethoven the Innovator
« Reply #67 on: August 23, 2007, 11:28:53 AM »
Without going into a lot of detail, I suggest a reading of Lydia Goehr's "The Imaginary Museum" to answer your question. It is a very important work for understanding the transition from a concept of music as craft, not as a "work" that is a composer's personal intellectual property, to a concept of music as "art." And Beethoven is the key figure in that paradigm shift.

Larry, I'm quite familiar with those philosophical positions, since I've read them in many books and essays.
I'm not saying I completely reject this "theory", but it didn't fully convince me. I don't share many of its implications. For many reasons. I agree on the fact that Beethoven introduced individuality, and

"twisted and expanded the forms and techniques of his day (including fugue and counterpoint) to serve his expressive needs"

in a way was never done before at the time. But I think my agreement stops here. 
Whether a composer conceive himself as a craftman or a God messanger, a Saviour or something else, to me has no bearing on his musical genius and the quality of his music. Great music has always existed, as I said.

Said that, I'd really like to read the book you named. Unfortunately I didn't find an Italian translation, the only way for me to get to it, it's through Amazon.

Larry Rinkel

  • Guest
Re: Beethoven the Innovator
« Reply #68 on: August 23, 2007, 03:30:41 PM »
Larry, I'm quite familiar with those philosophical positions, since I've read them in many books and essays.
I'm not saying I completely reject this "theory", but it didn't fully convince me. I don't share many of its implications. For many reasons. I agree on the fact that Beethoven introduced individuality, and

"twisted and expanded the forms and techniques of his day (including fugue and counterpoint) to serve his expressive needs"

in a way was never done before at the time. But I think my agreement stops here. 
Whether a composer conceive himself as a craftman or a God messanger, a Saviour or something else, to me has no bearing on his musical genius and the quality of his music. Great music has always existed, as I said.

Said that, I'd really like to read the book you named. Unfortunately I didn't find an Italian translation, the only way for me to get to it, it's through Amazon.

Of course I agree that great music has always existed. But regarding Goehr, let me quote something I wrote here in early 2006, when the subject was "relationships among movements in a work of music," and I think you can see I'm not using her theory to create value judgments:

Quote
The idea of organic coherence in a musical work seems so self-evident to us today
that some posters here have argued violating that coherence by making cuts,
substitutions, and the like "will result in an abortion of the work." And yet historically
speaking, organic coherence is a relatively recent concept in music, and in music
prior to Beethoven it was perfectly common for movements from longer works to be
played separately, for movements from one work to be inserted in another or used
again in different contexts, for composers to borrow freely from other composers
without being accused of plagiarism or lack of originality (think Handel on several of
these points), etc.

In general, music until the 19th century was not used as something to be listened
to for its own sake, but rather to be experienced in religious, educational, social, or
other contexts. The Mozart divertimento we listen to in rapt silence on our CDs
could well in its time have been no more than the background music accompanying
an aristocrat's dinner party. The Bach cantata we swoon over was not experienced
as art for its own sake but as part of the Sunday Lutheran service in the
Thomaskirche. And so forth. Seen in this way, the music does not really exist as a
"work" that is the composer's intellectual property. And that being the case,
considerations such as organic unity and intricate relations between movements do
not emerge to the degree they do starting in the early 19th century. So long as
they are in the appropriate keys, for example, you could probably mix and match
various sonata allegros, slow movements, minuets, and finales from many of the
Haydn quartets and symphonies, especially the earlier ones, and no one would be
the wiser.

The shift (and this is discussed very well in Lydia Goehr's "The Imaginary Museum of
Musical Works," if you can locate this interesting book) comes not surprisingly with
Beethoven. Though motific relationships between movements in the 5th symphony
have been in my opinion exaggerated, they do exist, and more important, the work
is experienced as an overall progression from tragedy to triumph, with the emphasis
being placed more on the finale as outcome of the work than (as with much of
Mozart and Haydn) with the first movement as being the most weighty and the
finale a kind of dessert to the menu. Thematic relationships between movements
seem even more deliberate in a work like the Sonata Op. 110, where the fugue
theme echoes the main theme of the first movement, and the arioso is a variation
on the main theme of the scherzo. And again, there is the sense of a musical
narrative in the sonata - not a story in the programmatic sense, but a progression
of moods and emotions that seems organic in a way the music of some previous
composers did not. With Beethoven above all the idea of the "work" for its own sake
starts to emerge, and this is accompanied by parallel developments such as the
emancipation of the composer from the patronage system, the growth of a listening
public, and the emergence of a permanent canon of musical works as opposed to a
culture where new works were expected all the time and there was relatively little
interest in preserving the music of the past.

Once this new "Beethoven Paradigm" (as Goehr puts it) emerges, then overall
coherence of the individual work becomes something we can point to with greater
confidence. It occurs in numerous ways: for example, the cyclic form used by
Schubert in his Wanderer Fantasy, Saint-Saëns in his Organ Symphony, and even
Debussy in La Mer. Or in the way a motif dominates an entire work such as the
descending perfect fourth that is so characteristic of the Mahler 1st. Or the re-use
of earlier material in a later part of the work as can be found in the Mahler 2nd. Or
the tendency - very common in Bruckner - to present thematic material in a
harmonically unstable form at the outset of a symphony, ultimately to have the
same material blaze forth at the very end in greater harmonic clarity. This tendency
(think of the 6th and 8th symphonies for obvious examples), is present in that
Mahler 1 as well, and has relations to cyclic form. Other types of overall unity can
be found as well, say in 12-tone music. For example, virtually every sonority in
Webern's Concerto for Nine Instruments is built from a tone row that emphasizes
thirds, sixths, seconds, and sevenths both major and minor, but not fourths or
fifths.

And so while I believe the urge to find overall coherence in works starting with
Beethoven is often justified, in music prior to Beethoven it often is not. This
fallacious assumption of organic unity is the sort of practice that leads pianists
to present an entire book of the WTC in concert as if it were a "work," when
far more probably Bach conceived of each book as an anthology or collection.
Even when we hear the Goldberg Variations today, we should be aware that
in Bach's time only a few of the variations might have been played at a time,
and then there is the (possibly apocryphal) legend that the work was written
to entertain an insomniac nobleman. It is almost a by-product of the original
context of the work that it succeeds for us so well today as an organically
unified whole.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2007, 03:36:27 PM by Larry Rinkel »

Scriptavolant

  • Guest
Re: Beethoven the Innovator
« Reply #69 on: August 24, 2007, 02:48:04 AM »
Very interesting, Larry, though I don't completely agree. Think I'll come back on your points.