Beethoven Slurs

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John Ruggero
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Beethoven Slurs

Post by John Ruggero » 23 May 2019, 15:43

Modern editors and engravers seem united in their hatred of two slurs joining on a single note and often combine them into one.

Both original editions have the following slurring In the third movement of Beethoven's Sonata op. 31 no 3:
op 31 no 3 mov 3 ex .jpeg
op 31 no 3 mov 3 ex .jpeg (30 KiB) Viewed 677 times
With the first six chords, Beethoven is humorously contrasting three pairs of chords in an iambic rhythm. The first two pairs leap a ninth while expressing melodic motion through the interval of a third: from G to B-flat. They are detached, piano and probably to be played delicately.

In contrast, the third pair moves by a second, is legato and to be played with intensity. This is shown by the first slur and the expression marks. But then, instead of the third pair being answered by a fourth pair moving onward and upward like the first two, the second intense chord of the third pair resolves back to its starting point like an appoggiatura chord. This is shown by the second slur.

Thus, the two slurs have completely different meanings. The first shows the third pair of chords as a seemingly self sufficient group like the first two. The second slur is its surprising transformation and resolution. Making the two slurs one, destroys this concept. Of the several editions that I have consulted starting with the old B & H Complete Works to the new Wiener Urtext, none preserve this slurring except the Schenker edition.

Saint-Saens' set of variations on this theme for two pianos goes even beyond that and continues one long slur to the end of the phrase, converting the play of detached and connected tones that end the phrase like a chuckle, into pablum. Of course, Saint-saens was writing a free work and had the right to transform the theme as he wished. But it does illustrate the tendency of musicians of the nineteenth century, even highly gifted ones, to misunderstand the wonderfully varied articulation of these earlier composers, and the wonderful play of different emotions that follow one another in quick succession in the Classic style.
Last edited by John Ruggero on 25 May 2019, 14:01, edited 1 time in total.
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benwiggy
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Re: Beethoven Slurs

Post by benwiggy » 24 May 2019, 21:06

I can't add anything to this, but I must applaud you for your superb attention to detail and understanding in all of these posts. This is so interesting and I think there's a book to be published in your study of Beethoven''s use of notation.

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David Ward
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Re: Beethoven Slurs

Post by David Ward » 25 May 2019, 06:44

benwiggy wrote:
24 May 2019, 21:06
I can't add anything to this, but I must applaud you for your superb attention to detail and understanding in all of these posts. This is so interesting and I think there's a book to be published in your study of Beethoven's use of notation.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Beethoven Slurs

Post by John Ruggero » 25 May 2019, 13:59

Dear Ben and David,

Thank you so much for your encouragement! I am learning a lot through this exercise and have hoped that it might be generally useful. A book is a very interesting idea, Ben.
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