Beethoven’s Division of the Notes Between the Staves 1

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John Ruggero
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Beethoven’s Division of the Notes Between the Staves 1

Post by John Ruggero » 13 Sep 2019, 15:35

As mentioned in “Beethoven Stems 5” there are several differences between the first statement of the theme of the last movement of Beethoven’s Sonata op. 109 and its return at the end, some of them substantive, like the addition of bass octaves at one point. But one seemingly innocuous and unmotivated change moves a single tone, B, from the lower to the upper staff and the playing of another tone, G sharp, by the left instead of right hand. These changes are shown boxed in the examples:
op 109.3 theme.jpeg
op 109.3 theme.jpeg (80.32 KiB) Viewed 76 times
op 109.3 coda.jpeg
op 109.3 coda.jpeg (72.84 KiB) Viewed 76 times
Understanding the motivation for these changes increases our appreciation of Beethoven’s great skill as a composer. As seen in the following example from the first edition, two motives, A and B, which derive from the previous variation of the theme, are responsible for making a smooth transition between two quite difference textures, not an easy thing. The ingenuity and imagination evident is, to me, staggering.
op 109. 1st ed.jpeg
op 109. 1st ed.jpeg (133.47 KiB) Viewed 76 times
Note how motive A, which consists of the notes A-F#-D#-B, begins a series of imitations that end on the note B which at the same time continues the accompanying trill used throughout the previous variation and moves everything down through three octaves to the proper register for the theme to enter.

Note how the fourth statement of A seems to break off after the first note, A. As shown by the fourth A arrow, they are not missing at all. There are the F#-D#-B within the first phrase of the theme!

On top of this, the bass ostinato pattern B gives rise to the opening six note of the bass melody. Note how both begin on E and end on D sharp!

All of this explains the changes in the first two examples. Since the first two measures of the theme have become interlocked with the previous music, measure 3 of the theme now acts as a new beginning. This sense of a more complete return at this point is reinforced by the new bass octaves later in the phrase. At the boxed areas, the new fingering forces a new start by making it almost impossible for the left hand to connect between the two phrases. In contrast, when the theme first occurs at the beginning of the movement, the hands are assigned the most natural notes to promote continuity between the two phrases
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