Beethoven’s Notational Innovations 2

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John Ruggero
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Beethoven’s Notational Innovations 2

Post by John Ruggero »

The following unusual notation occurs in what is surely the most esoteric measure in all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. It is measure 5 from the last movement of his Piano Sonata op. 110. The right hand has caused much consternation (which will dealt with later in this post). Maybe for this reason, something remarkable in the left hand has been missed:
Ex 1 op 110 Version 2.jpeg
Ex 1 op 110 Version 2.jpeg (163.68 KiB) Viewed 211 times


The whole notes boxed in red do not line up over each other in this second manuscript copy of the movement, which is uncommon for Beethoven: note the whole note chord at X.

And lest there be doubt, the first copy of the movement by Beethoven is the same:
Ex 2A  op 110 Version 1A.jpeg
Ex 2A op 110 Version 1A.jpeg (115.91 KiB) Viewed 211 times
Ex 2B op 110 Version 1B.jpeg
Ex 2B op 110 Version 1B.jpeg (157.75 KiB) Viewed 211 times
The first and later editions have simply lined the notes up against the fourth 32nd note pair from the end and called it a day, as in Schenker’s edition*:
Ex 3 op 110 Schenker.jpeg
Ex 3 op 110 Schenker.jpeg (76.66 KiB) Viewed 211 times
However, I believe that this interpretation misses the point.

Beethoven means something quite exact and unique in this notation: what we would call an aleatoric performance of the notes of the chord. That is, the initial chord at X is to be held until the point at which its notes have decayed too much to support the right hand and are to be resounded freely and softly one at a time in a descending direction in a way that is unnoticed by the listener. In this way there is actually only one chord in the left hand whose sound is to be gradually replentished, not two.

Beethoven’s marking sempre tenuto at X reinforces this interpretation, as does the position of the chord against an apparently arbitrary note pair in the right hand.

The top note of the chord changes from A at X to B on the boxed chord since the seventh of the chord is no longer needed being now continued by the right hand, which allows the root of the chord to replace it to better maintain the B major sonority.

Now for the right hand. The measure is actually a measure of four beats, with a parenthetical insertion of a prolonged accelerated and then decelerated "stuttering" as if trying vainly to play the syncopated 16th note anticipation of the second beat (seen after the parenthesis.) This is a notation that today might be shown by feathered beamed. The following example analyzes Beethoven’s meticulous written-out acceleration and deceleration through note values that gradually speed up and then slow down.
Ex 4 op 110 analysis.jpg
Ex 4 op 110 analysis.jpg (21.56 KiB) Viewed 211 times
Unfortunately, Beethoven made a slip of the pen in the first manuscript copy of the passage by placing an erroneous tie at the arrow in example 2, which clouded the already complex notation and caused much bewilderment for editors who did not have access to the second manuscript copy. Example 1 shows that this was corrected in the second version.

In this measure, Beethoven is clearly trying to notate musical ideas that are beyond the notational conventions of his time.

* Schenker placed the key change in the middle of the measure, as seen in the first copy (ex. 2) , because the second copy (ex. 1) may not have had been available to him.
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David Ward
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Re: Beethoven’s Notational Innovations 2

Post by David Ward »

This is fascinating, John. How will it look in your new edition?

I think today's composers may not be so much frustrated by the limitations of notation itself as by the the limitations of computer software. Even I, whose notation is only occasionally ‘advanced’, can find myself curbing the enthusiasm of some of my manuscript sketches in anticipation of future ‘engraving’ problems.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Beethoven’s Notational Innovations 2

Post by John Ruggero »

Thanks so much, David! Along the same lines as your comment, I have found a few cases where Beethoven seems to have modified what would have been his preferred notation to aid the engravers. I may post about that eventually.

Here it is in "rough" form. Please forgive any errors, I am now in the refining and proofreading stage and haven't gotten back to op. 110 yet. For clarification, the fingering 43 without an elision is my own notation for two fingers playing the same key at the same time. With the elision mark it means an interchange. Beethoven's fingering is in italics. There are also three footnote numbers shown as 2) etc.
op 110.3 example.jpeg
op 110.3 example.jpeg (103.72 KiB) Viewed 8 times
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