Beethoven Stems 4

Discuss the rules of notation, standard notation practices, efficient notation practices and graphic design.
Post Reply
User avatar
John Ruggero
Posts: 1646
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Beethoven Stems 4

Post by John Ruggero »

The following example from the recapitulation of the first movement of Beethoven's Sonata op. 53 shows just how seriously he took stem direction:
op 53 mov 1 ex 1.jpeg
op 53 mov 1 ex 1.jpeg (103.23 KiB) Viewed 2736 times
In the first measure of the second line, he faced an impossible situation. He wants to continue the upward stems of the theme for its last note, yet not break the stem direction for the triplet scale that connects to the next phrase.

The scale rises too high to continue the upward stems without the presence of other voices, even for Beethoven, who sometimes used such high upward-stemmed notes in the right hand. This is seen in the exposition, where the scale did not rise so high that upward beams were out of the question for the engravers (but they have been for later editions):
op 53 mov 1 ex 2.jpeg
op 53 mov 1 ex 2.jpeg (115.27 KiB) Viewed 2736 times
To break the beam after the chord would have shown misleading phrasing since the scale and the melody link on the same note. His very creative solution by means of a centered beam is almost impossible to engrave, so the first edition (and subsequent ones) have:
op 53 mov 1 ex 3.jpeg
op 53 mov 1 ex 3.jpeg (66.65 KiB) Viewed 2736 times
There seems to be no other solution for an engraver, but understanding Beethoven's struggle gives us insight into his way of thinking about musical notation.
Mac mini (OS 10.8.5) with dual monitors, Kurzweil Mark 5 with M-Audio Midisport 2 x 2,
Finale 2014d with GPO 4, JW Plug-ins, SmartScore X Pro, Adobe InDesign CS4,
Inkscape .48.5 and .91, FontForge 20150526

Post Reply