Lost Notation 5

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John Ruggero
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Re: Lost Notation 5

Post by John Ruggero »

Then I guess there is no excuse for me. I'm 74! ;)
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Anders Hedelin
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Re: Lost Notation 5

Post by Anders Hedelin »

We are as old as we feel, I guess. Both ways.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Lost Notation 5

Post by John Ruggero »

The moments of parody certainly don't detract. In fact, the Diabelli Variations are largely high-spirited and often comic, as befits the theme. It's as if having passed through the death and transfiguration of op. 111, he can now kick up his heels.
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Anders Hedelin
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Re: Lost Notation 5

Post by Anders Hedelin »

John Ruggero wrote:
11 Jun 2020, 20:56
I couldn't think of another piece originally written for the piano that has the scope, unity, variety, humanity, universality, and profundity of the Diabelli Variations.
There's one aspect more, I think (or it's already included in what you say) - foreshadowing. In the variation XX there are some very unorthodox, mind-bending harmonic progressions. And, what's more, they are repeated, which adds to their mysteriousness.
Diabelli Variations XX.PNG
Diabelli Variations XX.PNG (68.52 KiB) Viewed 472 times
A similar repetition is found in Debussy's "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune".
Debussy Prelude.PNG
Debussy Prelude.PNG (104.47 KiB) Viewed 472 times
Debussy's chord progressions in themselves might be found in traditional harmony (as a part of the cadence ii65, V65/V, unlike Beethoven's chords, which are much more strange, really) but they are effectively emptied of their traditional meaning by the repetition (and, additionally, by the voicing of the orchestration).
Debussy Harmonic comparison.PNG
Debussy Harmonic comparison.PNG (42.54 KiB) Viewed 472 times
I don't for a second suggest that Beethoven's and Debussy's intentions were the same, far from it. Debussy might have had a happily sensual feeling of liberation, Beethoven might have had a ponderous glimpse into something utterly other-worldly. In a fascinating way it's about the same thing in both cases, though - the dissolution of the harmonic language, feared or welcome.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Lost Notation 5

Post by John Ruggero »

As you said, Anders, Beethoven never stood still and continued to push the envelope to the very end of his life, anticipating the chromatic harmony of the following several generations.

Here is the whole first part of the Variation:
Diabelli no 20.jpg
Diabelli no 20.jpg (78.89 KiB) Viewed 448 times
Most of the interesting harmonies in this variation are produced by the prolonged use of chromatic passing tones. The boxed measures (the last two measures in Anders excerpt), however, illustrate how Beethoven could take the simplest means and make it extraordinary by thinking outside the box:
Analysis 1 Var. 20.jpeg
Analysis 1 Var. 20.jpeg (79.29 KiB) Viewed 448 times
Ex 1 shows two pairs of double neighboring tones decorating two tones of a G triad. This creates a chromatic cross relationship between the soprano and bass that is not objectionable.

Ex 2 shows the addition of a suspension in the bass

Ex. 3 shows elaboration by repetition of the double neighboring tones and creation of a V7/V by decorating the alto voice.

Ex 4 shows how the weird effect is created: the soprano and bass voices are inverted in the last two measures, which displaces the resolution of the suspension up into the soprano voice, makes the cross relationship less pleasing, and seems to orphan the soprano double neighboring tones, which is disorienting until the tones resolve to the high D later in m. 14-15.

Here is a more complete picture of the first half of the variation:
Analysis 2 Var. 20.jpeg
Analysis 2 Var. 20.jpeg (62.85 KiB) Viewed 448 times
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Anders Hedelin
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Re: Lost Notation 5

Post by Anders Hedelin »

Thanks for the analysis, John. The 'weirdness effect' in ms. 11-12 I hear somewhat differently, though. To me it's created by the progression from a diminished seventh chord to a plain major triad in root position, and the wrong one at that (a G major triad in first inversion would have been much more 'right'). To make it even worse it's repeated. It would be difficult to create something more harmonically illogical than this.

The repetitions in ms. 9-12 obviously variate the same section in the theme.
Diabelli Variations Theme.PNG
Diabelli Variations Theme.PNG (96.14 KiB) Viewed 434 times
Bearing in mind that Beethoven at first had a very low opinion of Diabelli's waltz, 'with its Schusterflecke' (shoemaker's smears), you may stumble on another interpretation of this enigmatic variation: that it's all about mock profundity. Or, again, it could be something really heartfelt - or both at the same time.

So, in addition to its many other stunning qualities, it seems that the Diabelli variations anticipate the Romantic irony of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Schumann et al. (Irony in this sense is perhaps more often synonymous with ambiguity than with sarcasm.)
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David Ward
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Re: Lost Notation 5

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Anders Hedelin wrote:
14 Jun 2020, 05:52
… … …Bearing in mind that Beethoven at first had a very low opinion of Diabelli's waltz, 'with its Schusterflecke' (shoemaker's smears), you may stumble on another interpretation of this enigmatic variation: that it's all about mock profundity.… … …
FWIW and for the record the usual idiomatic English translation (at least here in the UK) for Beethoven's description of Diabelli's waltz having Schusterflecke is ‘cobbler's patches’.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Lost Notation 5

Post by John Ruggero »

You are very welcome, Anders. What I tried to illustrate is that this is a voice-leading phenomenon, not a a harmonic one. Just because something is in long notes doesn't mean that it is structurally significant or expresses harmonic root tones. Beethoven has taken what are usually short chromatic decorative notes and expanded them to cover large areas, which is what the later Romantics were doing. Beethoven would never write something that is illogical; it was against his religion, the eternal religion of counterpoint.
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David Ward
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Re: Lost Notation 5

Post by David Ward »

What is your opinion (both of you, John and Anders, if either of you have read it) of William Kinderman's Beethoven's Diabelli Variations (Studies in Musical Genesis, Structure & Interpretation) ? I've not read it, but am wondering whether or not to buy it for further enlightenment. One of the effects of lockdown (continuing still here in Scotland) is that at present I find reading a great deal easier than writing (words or music) - or maybe that's just old age.
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Anders Hedelin
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Re: Lost Notation 5

Post by Anders Hedelin »

I have not read Kinderman's book but found a downloadable paper by the same author on this address:
https://online.ucpress.edu/jams/article ... eethoven-s

It looks promising, but it seems that the book also contains Beethoven's sketches with comments, which sounds even more interesting.
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