An Intriguing Measure in Beethoven’s op. 101

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John Ruggero
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An Intriguing Measure in Beethoven’s op. 101

Post by John Ruggero »

Beethoven usually used octave signs for passages that include more than four ledger lines, so the following octave sign (at the arrow) from the opening theme from the last movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata op. 101 is a borderline case:
op 101.4 MS .jpeg
op 101.4 MS .jpeg (208 KiB) Viewed 1044 times
Could there be another reason for the octave sign?

Considering the whole phrase, the most emphatic melody notes consist of three descending pairs: C#-B, A-G#, and finally F#-E, filling out the interval of a sixth. The first two pairs are stated very clearly, one note per measure. But the F#-E pair occupies the last four measures:
op 101.4 Ex A.jpeg
op 101.4 Ex A.jpeg (48.9 KiB) Viewed 1044 times
Because of the extended way in which the F# is elaborated, Beethoven might have been concerned about the visual connection between the F# in m. 5 and its continuation and resolution in m. 8, an octave higher than in m. 5. By using an octave sign, the F# is placed in the same register on the staff in both m. 5 and 8 so that one more easily connects the two visually and hopefully in the performance.

But also intriguing is the strange and difficult-to-engrave centered beaming, which occurs both times the measure appears in the piece.

The whole opening phrase (ms. 1-8) could be viewed as a sixth elaborated by neighboring tones in sixths:
op 101.4 Ex B.jpeg
op 101.4 Ex B.jpeg (8.77 KiB) Viewed 1044 times
The first two sixths are broken and elaborated by scales as shown here. The last two sixths are unelaborated:
op 101.4 Ex C.jpeg
op 101.4 Ex C.jpeg (52.32 KiB) Viewed 1043 times
At X one of the scale tones is elaborated by its own scale also through the interval of a sixth. This explains the centered beaming in m. 7 which visually connects the C# at the beginning of the measure, to the C# at the end of the measure to show that the intervening notes are an embellishment of the C# and not the main line. The slur, which Beethoven uses only in m. 7, not in the previous two measures--which are therefore non legato--points this out in the performance.

If Beethoven had written m. 7 at pitch the centered beam would have looked like this:
op 101.4 ex D.jpeg
op 101.4 ex D.jpeg (4.88 KiB) Viewed 1044 times
Not good. So Beethoven had several reasons to use an octave sign in these two measures. To my knowledge, the centered beaming has never appeared in any edition including the first edition, and rarely has the octave sign, which is a shame.

Regarding the penmanship. Beethoven is in clearly in his "excited" mode.
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Den
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Re: An Intriguing Measure in Beethoven’s op. 101

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John Ruggero wrote:
20 Aug 2020, 16:15
Not good. So Beethoven had several reasons to use an octave sign in these two measures. To my knowledge, the centered beaming has never appeared in any edition including the first edition, and rarely has the octave sign, which is a shame.
John WOOOW!
I really like that you pay attention to things like this! This is nano-details! :cool: These are the lost details in the composer's precise formation and simplicity.
This happens in almost all editions, it is that disrespect of the composer's invaluable musical clause in which he says: "That's how I imagined and wrote and it must be respected to the end" but ....
let’s just look at other composers, e.g. Mozart. He did not allow anyone to alter any sign or note because it was not necessary at all. As he imagined, so he wrote. In this case, the Great Beethoven!

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Re: An Intriguing Measure in Beethoven’s op. 101

Post by John Ruggero »

Thanks so much, Den. Beethoven seems to have made use of every nook and cranny of music notation to express himself, so it behooves us to look at it very carefully.

Apropos of nothing except to celebrate Beethoven's ingenuity, here is an instance that, as far as I know, was first pointed out by Heinrich Schenker:

The example is the famous opening melody of the Piano Sonata op. 110. The extended termination of the trill is an exact duplicate of the main notes of the opening four measures. Even the rhythm is hinted at:
op 110 theme.jpeg
op 110 theme.jpeg (49.32 KiB) Viewed 983 times
Gasp!
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Re: An Intriguing Measure in Beethoven’s op. 101

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John Ruggero wrote:
20 Aug 2020, 16:15
Could there be another reason for the octave sign?
As a composer who writes all with pencil on paper, I could suggest that he, maybe, composed first the final cadence loco and than returned back to fill the music. When he realized that the melody would go higher, he octaved all, incl the final cadence. It happens often that I fill things here and there, not in the order. Who knows....

Apropos the beams:
John, I don't like how Finale handles angled beams, the thickness of the beam is reduced. It looks strange, or it looks "Finale".
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Re: An Intriguing Measure in Beethoven’s op. 101

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OCTO wrote:
22 Aug 2020, 06:50
As a composer who writes all with pencil on paper, I could suggest that he, maybe, composed first the final cadence loco and than returned back to fill the music. When he realized that the melody would go higher, he octaved all, incl the final cadence..
That is an interesting theory, but highly unlikely since this is not a composing sketch, but is the final copy that he sent to the publisher. And the passage shown is the second time it occurs in the piece. It is clear that he knew exactly what he was going to write. Often he will start an octave sign earlier than absolutely necessary to prepare for measures later. He did that the first time this passage occurs, but then decided to place only the last two measure under the octave sign the second time as a better solution.

The centered beam is very unusual for Beethoven. He only uses centered beams for intervals of less than an octave in a handful of special cases in the piano sonatas.

And centered beams for small intervals are very difficult to engrave: the first edition didn't even attempt the centered beam despite the fact that centered beams for larger intervals were quite common in printed music of that time. (But they engraved the measures at pitch, so centered beams were out of the question for that reason, as well.) So, thinning the beams as shown is often the only solution, which is, of course, why there is a beam-thinning tool in Finale. That capability is not available in Dorico, which is one reason I can't use it.

i should also add that there are numerous cases in Beethoven's piano sonatas where centered beams are used to show phrasing and grouping. This was well-understood by the engravers of that time, because they would occasionally break a beam as a second best solution when centered beaming was impossible to engrave; this is also a solution that I have seen in present-day editions. That is also an option in this measure, but I have decided against it because it might cause the player to break up the music too much.
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Re: An Intriguing Measure in Beethoven’s op. 101

Post by OCTO »

John Ruggero wrote:
22 Aug 2020, 15:26
OCTO wrote:
22 Aug 2020, 06:50
As a composer who writes all with pencil on paper, I could suggest that he, maybe, composed first the final cadence loco and than returned back to fill the music. When he realized that the melody would go higher, he octaved all, incl the final cadence..
That is an interesting theory, but highly unlikely since this is not a composing sketch, but is the final copy that he sent to the publisher.
Interesting, it doesn't look to my eyes as a final copy. Beautiful!
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Re: An Intriguing Measure in Beethoven’s op. 101

Post by John Ruggero »

Yes, it certainly doesn't look like a final copy. But Beethoven was in his "excited" mode because of the emotion of the music. And I agree, even when he was writing like this, it is beautiful in its own way.
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Re: An Intriguing Measure in Beethoven’s op. 101

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John Ruggero wrote:
24 Aug 2020, 14:29
Yes, it certainly doesn't look like a final copy. But Beethoven was in his "excited" mode because of the emotion of the music. And I agree, even when he was writing like this, it is beautiful in its own way.
Beethoven is ingenious in every way. I would give a lot to be able meet that guy!
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Re: An Intriguing Measure in Beethoven’s op. 101

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OCTO wrote:
25 Aug 2020, 07:22
Beethoven is ingenious in every way. I would give a lot to be able meet that guy!
Me too! The first thing I'd ask him would be: "Now about that A sharp and those metronome indications in the Hammerklavier Sonata..."
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Re: An Intriguing Measure in Beethoven’s op. 101

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John Ruggero wrote:
25 Aug 2020, 20:49
The first thing I'd ask him would be: "Now about that A sharp and those metronome indications in the Hammerklavier Sonata..."
Yes!
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