Correcting Small Errors in Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

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John Ruggero
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Correcting Small Errors in Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

Post by John Ruggero »

One of the benefits of understanding Beethoven's standard practice is that it allows one to ferret out small notational errors in the first editions when the autograph doesn't exist. Here is a simple example from the first movement of Beethoven's Sonata op. 10 . no. 1 that occurred a few minutes ago.
op 10 no 1.1 stem A.jpeg
op 10 no 1.1 stem A.jpeg (76.15 KiB) Viewed 267 times
Using an up-stem for the last chord of the left hand phrase at the first arrow accords with current standard practice, and it is therefore engraved exactly like this in most later editions, including Schenker's.

Yet this would not be normal for Beethoven, who tries to avoid stem directional changes within phrases if possible. It would be particularly unlike Beethoven to change stem direction in this case, because the chord continues on in the next measure with a down stem as shown by the second arrow, and he would not want to create an additional visual barrier given the rests. Of course, there could be some other "special" reason for the stemming. But that possibility seems remote. Therefore my immediate reaction was to down stem the chord on no "historical" basis whatever, but simply my feeling for his notational style.

Then I checked the passage as it occurs later. To my delight, it reads as follows:
op 10 no 1.1 stem B.jpeg
op 10 no 1.1 stem B.jpeg (62.41 KiB) Viewed 267 times
So this is possibly another example of "progressive correction". Perhaps the error occurred because there is a line change at this point in the lost MS. Beethoven sometimes slipped up in his stemming at the line changes, or even used them to resolve irreconcilable stem direction issues.
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Den
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Re: Correcting Small Errors in Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

Post by Den »

A good example and observation.
We even have a similar situation in the middle of both examples ... See where the slurs and the position of the notes are ...

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John Ruggero
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Re: Correcting Small Errors in Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

Post by John Ruggero »

Great point! Yes, what happens with the triplets that follow is very interesting, but I don't think that it is an instance of progressive correction.

The different stemming is probably intentional, because in the first example the triplets lead to an up-stemmed chord. In the second example the triplets lead to a down stemmed single note, C, which is down-stemmed to show its voice leading connection to the down-stemmed D flat that follows in the left hand. He was probably concerned to show this clearly since there is such an abrupt change of key at this point.

The slurring follows his preference for placing the slurs on the note head side in single-note lines, and goes with the greater number where the stem direction changes mid phrase.
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Schonbergian
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Re: Correcting Small Errors in Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

Post by Schonbergian »

Re: triplets - John, I follow your logic when it comes to the second example of the E-flat being a structurally different voice than the C and D-flat; this also explains the different division of notes between the staves. However, this doesn't make as much sense in the first example and I fail to see why the first arpeggio should be notated differently than the other two. To me, preserving the notation as in the first example makes an unnecessary distinction between three structurally similar chords and I find the notation of keeping all three chords on the upper stave (with the right hand all up-stemmed) to more clearly present the musical material; by contrast, the second example's notation directly foreshadows the treatment of the Neapolitan modulation and preserves one stem direction as much as possible, which is less jarring to my eye.

Is this just Beethoven trying to avoid ledger lines/more evenly divide the notes between the staves or is there some deeper musical reason for this distinction in the first example that I'm missing?

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John Ruggero
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Re: Correcting Small Errors in Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

Post by John Ruggero »

The division of the notes between the hands is only to avoid ledger lines for the right hand, which was the common practice of the time. They usually avoided three or more ledger lines when it was possible to put the note in the lower staff. Two ledger lines were borderline and depended on the situation. Here Beethoven keeps the G on the lower staff because it resolves the A-flat of the previous triplet. The B natural that follows continues from the C in the previous measure and is therefore placed on the upper staff.

I don't think the E flat you mentioned is part of a different structural line, but rather part of a long line that ends with the final C. For this reason, Beethoven starts the triplets with up stems to continue from the stem direction of the previous octaves. He would then wish to continue similarly, but changes the pattern as in the second example because of the D-flat, as discussed previously. It is the appropriate time to do this because the latter two pairs of triplets are part of its own little group that expresses the melodic progression D-C-B natural (see the slurred group 2-1-7) which in turn elaborates the single note D within the larger line over the final II-V bass progression. Schenker considered this very common event to be a dropping of the top line into an inner voice, the leading tone. Here is an analysis of the passage:
op 10 no 1.1 analysis.jpeg
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Last edited by John Ruggero on 27 Feb 2020, 03:56, edited 2 times in total.
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Den
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Re: Correcting Small Errors in Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

Post by Den »

Wowww!
What happening with slurs???? (Schenker)
That's not good and I mean that's not correct ...
Am I right or ?.... ;) :ugeek:

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John Ruggero
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Re: Correcting Small Errors in Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

Post by John Ruggero »

Not quite sure what you mean, Den, but If you are referring to the slurs on the lowest staff, Schenkerian analysis adapts normal notation for analytic purposes: in this case, the slurs delineate "linear melodic progressions", they don't mean legato. This type of analysis analyzes melody as well as harmony and shows how these aspects plus rhythm influence each other in common practice style music to create a multi-level structure. If you are interested in learning more about this, you might do some online research.

I did leave out some slurs on the top lines so the main points would stand out.
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Anders Hedelin
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Re: Correcting Small Errors in Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

Post by Anders Hedelin »

I have often felt that Schenker's brilliant analysis of the pitch aspect of music (the melodic lines), should be supplemented with an as thorough rhythmic analysis.
As often with the Classicists the symmetric periodicity isn't as innocent as it might seem. What are strong and weak measures here really?:
Beethoven periodicity.JPG
Beethoven periodicity.JPG (63.77 KiB) Viewed 78 times
Counting from the beginning of the excerpt the measures are strong-weak obviously, but then on the second staff system there's a I64 V7 cadence, with Beethoven rarely placed otherwise than in strong-weak position. So where does the strong-weak pattern change really?

BTW I love this kind of ambiguity, especially when you hardly notice it! That's mastership for me.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Correcting Small Errors in Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

Post by John Ruggero »

Anders, I agree whole-heartedly that the greatest music sounds so natural that its subtleties can be overlooked, and this is exactly what these composers intended, which might explains why they were relatively close-mouthed about their craft. No long explanations about what they intended to do in the piece you were about to hear; the music had to speak for itself or it was a failure.

Schenker did deal with meter and rhythm throughout his works and devotes a chapter in Der Frei Satz to how the rhythms created by melodic and harmonic events can conflict with the meter. This creates the ambiguities that these great composers reveled in to create form and which are seen in your example. Unfortunately he died before he could devote even more attention to this but later Schenkerian theorists have dealt with this subject even more extensively.
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Anders Hedelin
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Re: Correcting Small Errors in Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

Post by Anders Hedelin »

Thanks, John. Actually you inspired me to order Schenker's "Free Composition" (the volume of text) from Amazon. I already own a copy of the music examples - in German. Now it remains to be seen how they match the English edition, which, as I understand it, is thoroughly edited and supplemented.

Occasionally I may have been sceptical to some of Schenker's ideas, and/or the application of them, but that's not to say that I haven't a great respect for his understanding of music.
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