Beethoven Stems 4

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John Ruggero
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Beethoven Stems 4

Post by John Ruggero » 26 May 2019, 22:47

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 126 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 126 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 126 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.
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