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Thread: If Beethoven never lived...

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    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    Well, it's an interesting thought, if a similar figure would have emerged anyway, epitomizing more or less what Beethoven has become to symbolize and has been used for (the exact content of which I won't digress into now).

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joen_cph View Post
    Well, it's an interesting thought, if a similar figure would have emerged anyway, epitomizing more or less what Beethoven has become to symbolize and has been used for (the exact content of which I won't digress into now).
    From today's perspective, it's hard to identify just who such a "similar figure" might have been. There seem a precious few candidates.


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    I agree that there isn't much of a figure to point to among those we know. Possibly Schubert (would more support have gained him more lifetime?) or Schumann, but both later arrivals, of course. I guess Berlioz provided a glimpse of it too, but he didn't excel in chamber or piano music. Probably not Weber, and even less so Hummel, Chopin or Raff.
    Last edited by joen_cph; Oct-06-2019 at 06:43.

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    I suspect that if Beethoven had never lived, nothing like his late works would ever have been created.

    Beyond that, I don't really have good answers to my own questions.

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    If Beethoven never lived, then it would be necessary to invent him.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Oct-12-2019 at 18:02.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post



    Oh, so music "evolves?" That gives me carte blanche to ask "What if Schoenberg had never lived?"
    Leaving the door wide open for unkind comments about Mr. Schoenberg

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    If Beethoven never lived, then it would be necessary to invent him.
    Necessity may be the mother of invention, but in this case good luck finding a father.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    If Beethoven never lived, then it would be necessary to invent him.
    I got that quote from "Easy Rider."
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Oct-13-2019 at 01:19.

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    He clearly has had influence and one can only speculate how music would be different without him. That said his over all impact I do believe is less than what many of his fans often suggest, and on looking at his music closer even his impact on the Romantic era is less than what I used to think it was.

    "The great harmonic innovations of the Romantics do not come from Beethoven at all, and have nothing to do either with his technique or his spirit. They arise from Hummel, Weber, Field and Schubert...and from Italian opera."

    "A new conception of harmonic tension was later developed by Schumann, Mendelssohn, and, above all by Chopin, but they could not start from the classical style at its most highly organized, and Beethoven was of no use to them. The Romantic style did not come from Beethoven, in spite of the great admiration that was felt for him, but from his lesser contemporaries and from Bach."

    -Charles Rosen
    Last edited by tdc; Oct-15-2019 at 01:25.

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    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    Or if Bach didn't, or Wagner, or Schoenberg, or Josquin...

    How different would music be? Does erasing any one composer from history change everything, or does the world-spirit of music history carry on unperturbed?

    Does it depend on the composer?

    Just idle thoughts inspired by the "If Beethoven died young" thread.
    For the most part, I think the differences would be superficial. Someone else would've been celebrated by the nineteenth century romantics.

    Most of the history of music is technological development and social change. If Y had been the most famous composer rather than X, different particular works would have come down to us, but the broad sweep would be the same.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by amfortas View Post
    This thread got me thinking: If *I* never lived . . .

    Way too depressing.
    Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life. He wasn't too happy about it.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Oct-15-2019 at 03:36.
    "That's all Folks!"

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    He clearly has had influence and one can only speculate how music would be different without him. That said his over all impact I do believe is less than what many of his fans often suggest, and on looking at his music closer even his impact on the Romantic era is less than what I used to think it was...
    I think that's quite true. But I also think Beethoven had a deeper influence, nothing to do with his technique or formal innovations or anything like that. Beethoven redefined the limits of music, what music can and should be. I'm not sure how thoroughly that message would have gotten across if he had died, say, in 1800.


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    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    He clearly has had influence and one can only speculate how music would be different without him. That said his over all impact I do believe is less than what many of his fans often suggest, and on looking at his music closer even his impact on the Romantic era is less than what I used to think it was.

    "The great harmonic innovations of the Romantics do not come from Beethoven at all, and have nothing to do either with his technique or his spirit. They arise from Hummel, Weber, Field and Schubert...and from Italian opera."

    "A new conception of harmonic tension was later developed by Schumann, Mendelssohn, and, above all by Chopin, but they could not start from the classical style at its most highly organized, and Beethoven was of no use to them. The Romantic style did not come from Beethoven, in spite of the great admiration that was felt for him, but from his lesser contemporaries and from Bach."

    -Charles Rosen
    I've been curious about this. We know what people always say about Beethoven's late works: "the late works are so hard to understand, they weren't fully appreciated until the 20th century." Or "Nobody tried to emulate them."

    If the major post-Beethoven 19th composers did not appreciate certain late Beethoven works, and did not model their own works on those late Beethoven works, how can we say those late Beethoven works were influential and inspirational to the later composers in their creativity?

    Were Beethoven's late works such as the Hammerklavier Sonata really more influential than the works of other greats throughout history, for example?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_...29_(Beethoven)
    "Richard Wagner held reservations for what he perceived as a lack of succinctness in its composition."

    https://books.google.ca/books?id=QafEkYAEX8QC&pg=PA116
    "In 1857 open letter on Liszt's symphonic poems Wagner mentions having first truly appreciated the "Hammerklavier" and C-minor sonatas (opp. 106, 111) after hearing private performances of them by Liszt."

    Johann Nepomuk Hummel's influence on the Romantics is overlooked in comparison:
    https://www.earlymusicamerica.org/fi...er07Hummel.pdf

    In short, I'm saying - just because we consider some works "great" today, it doesn't necessarily mean they were "important" throughout history.
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Oct-15-2019 at 05:18.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    He clearly has had influence and one can only speculate how music would be different without him. That said his over all impact I do believe is less than what many of his fans often suggest, and on looking at his music closer even his impact on the Romantic era is less than what I used to think it was.

    "The great harmonic innovations of the Romantics do not come from Beethoven at all, and have nothing to do either with his technique or his spirit. They arise from Hummel, Weber, Field and Schubert...and from Italian opera."

    "A new conception of harmonic tension was later developed by Schumann, Mendelssohn, and, above all by Chopin, but they could not start from the classical style at its most highly organized, and Beethoven was of no use to them. The Romantic style did not come from Beethoven, in spite of the great admiration that was felt for him, but from his lesser contemporaries and from Bach."

    -Charles Rosen
    Every comment above concerns harmony, reflecting the myopic focus of mid-20thc theory. Beethoven's primary influence on the Romantics wasn't in harmony, although, contra Rosen, he had substantial influence there as well. His primary influence was on thematic processes, multimovement structure, and aesthetics.

    After Beethoven's essays in the thematic unification of multimovement cycles (Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, Appassionata, some of the late sonatas and quartets) nearly every Romantic composer took up the practice: Schubert, Schumann, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Franck, Liszt, Dvorak, Brahms occasionally, Rimsky-Korsakoff and countless minor figures. The practice was even more pervasive in the 20thc, especially among the Russians. After Beethoven, and influenced by his example, the majority of Romantic Era sonatas and symphonies beginning in the minor mode ended in the major mode. All of this reflected a new aesthetic ideal of imbuing large-scale works with a dramatic, quasi-narrative expressive continuity.

    Beethoven changed the profile of first movement sonata forms in ways that were highly influential on Chopin and nearly every major Russian and Eastern European composer through Shostakovich.

    And it's worth remembering that composers are not only influential for the paths they open, but for those they close or make perilous as well. Someone above mentioned Brahms's reluctance to compete in the symphonic genre, and I imagine many hearing Beethoven's late sonatas and quartets found the prospect of trying to extend or add something to that madness bewildering or daunting. That too is impact and influence on the future.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Oct-15-2019 at 15:20.

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    Senior Member Simon Moon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joen_cph View Post
    Well, it's an interesting thought, if a similar figure would have emerged anyway, epitomizing more or less what Beethoven has become to symbolize and has been used for (the exact content of which I won't digress into now).
    This is pretty much my feeling.

    Beethoven, as the phrase goes, was "standing on the shoulders of giants". In other words, his work took into account everything that came before. If it wasn't him, someone else would have filled the same shoes. Not that the would have gone in the same direction as Beethoven, but their innovations would have been equally as huge.

    You can't point at the exact person it would have been that would have taken Beethoven's place, or that it would have been the same years, but something would have happened. Artistic styles can't be static for too long without someone stepping up with major evolutionary changes.
    And if there were a god, I think it very unlikely that he would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence - Russell

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