Beethoven Stems 6

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John Ruggero
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Beethoven Stems 6

Post by John Ruggero »

A very unusual case of stem direction occurs in the first edition of the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata op. 10. no 3 at the boxed area after A in the first example:
op 10 no 3.1 ex 1.jpeg
op 10 no 3.1 ex 1.jpeg (124.83 KiB) Viewed 991 times
One might think that the down stems on the upper staff have something to do with the distribution of the lower right hand notes on the lower staff, but this idea is not supported by the corresponding passage in the recapitulation. In the boxed area after C the third right hand quarter note has its stem drawn upward rather than downward:
op 10 no 3.1 ex 2.jpeg
op 10 no 3.1 ex 2.jpeg (125.34 KiB) Viewed 991 times
A possible explanation concerns the interesting structure of A. As shown in the following analysis, this apparently single-voiced tune, is actually a soprano line and its supporting bass line played not simultaneously, but in succession. This “unfolding” technique was first explained by Schenker. So Beethoven seems to be delineating the two voices by means of stem direction. He can’t carry it out perfectly because he also wants to place the final note A on the lower staff to bring out the large jump in register from the ending of one phrase to the beginning of the next.
op 10 no 3.1 ex 3.jpeg
op 10 no 3.1 ex 3.jpeg (78.3 KiB) Viewed 978 times
(On the stylistic side, it is perhaps worth mentioning that Beethoven loved to use what are usually cadential bass lines to give gravity to the ending of his melodies. Examples: op. 2 no. 1 4th mov. ending theme; op. 27 no. 2 1st mov. ending of most of the phrases; Ode to Joy theme ending of the middle part etc.)

Another curious thing occurs in these passages. Despite the difference in key, A and C both start on F sharp and B and D both start on F natural! And D is a measure longer than B! How this happened is to me quite interesting:

If Beethoven had simply transposed the melody to the tonic key if would have looked like this:
op 10 no 3.1 ex 4.jpeg
op 10 no 3.1 ex 4.jpeg (55.38 KiB) Viewed 991 times
This places the theme too low for the following section.

Putting the staccato part up an octave would have worked, except that section D is too high for the rest of the piece and for Beethoven’s keyboard:
op 10 no 3.1 ex 5.jpeg
op 10 no 3.1 ex 5.jpeg (53.18 KiB) Viewed 991 times
Beethoven’s ingenious solution was to add four higher notes ahead of each staccato entry to gain the higher register and thus gain a smooth transition to the following section. The four notes in each case were the first four notes of A and B! The fact that the first notes at both B and D were the highest on his keyboard is also no accident!
op 10 no 3.1 ex 6.jpeg
op 10 no 3.1 ex 6.jpeg (56.44 KiB) Viewed 985 times
The addition of these notes necessitated the reworking of C including the addition of the low dominant note (starred) which has often been considered an error and replaced by a C sharp. Schenker retained the low A because the dominant must appear here In root position as in the corresponding place in A. This made C the same length as A to maintain the meter. This was not necessary at D because of the following silence, and Beethoven allows the phrase to have an extra measure.
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