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Thread: An "alien" subject in LvB's Eroica...admiration & question

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    Senior Member GrosseFugue's Avatar
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    Default An "alien" subject in LvB's Eroica...admiration & question

    One of my fave parts in Ludwig's Eroica symphony is when he brings in a wholly new subject (theme?) in the development section of the 1st mvt (after the brutal climax). You can hear it starting 9:26 in this Abbado version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVaJ...ature=emb_logo

    And it comes back in the coda.

    Bearing in mind I'm not a musician, could anyone tell me of other instances where he does this so late in a movement? This is like introducing a new main character halfway through a novel.

    I like how he does stuff that is "technically" wrong yet feels so right (e.g., the "wrong horn"). Though as a lay listener I've never heard anything as "wrong" per se.
    Last edited by GrosseFugue; Jan-18-2021 at 04:29.

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    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
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    I can't answer without listening and studying the score your question about this Beethoven piece, but it was not unusual for Classicists to introduce a new theme in the Development. Mozart did that from time to time and even sometimes never "developed" anything else except the new material during that section.
    Last edited by Vasks; Jan-18-2021 at 05:17.
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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    Senior Member GrosseFugue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasks View Post
    I can't answer without listening and studying the score your question about this Beethoven piece, but it was not unusual for Classicists to introduce a new theme in the Development. Mozart did that from time to time and even sometimes never "developed" anything else except the new material during that section.
    Oh wow, I'd read it was considered "unprecedented" and "astonishing" what LvB did. Maybe it's not just because it's a new theme but also in a remote key that's unusual?

    Here is a brief analysis with the score part: https://www.beethovenseroica.com/Pg3_****/1mov/1m30.htm

    For some reason, the link seems fickle but here is verbatim what's written. Wish I could reproduce the score. Can't.

    As the storm suddenly evaporates, we are presented with something unprecedented and astonishing. In the midst of this extended development, Beethoven introduces an entirely new subject. What's more, it arrives in the unlikely key of E-minor. For the uninitiated, presenting new material at this stage of the movement was unheard of and the choice of the remote key of E-minor adds to brilliance of this divergence from convention. This daring stroke is amplified by the sheer contrast of the ferocity of the previous example and this exquisite passage.

    Last edited by GrosseFugue; Jan-18-2021 at 05:29.

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    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
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    Read this little snippet from an article

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/763994?seq=1
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
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    And also read about Mozart's Sonata in C, K.330's last movement "Allegretto"

    https://www.classicalconnect.com/Pia...n_C_Major/1087
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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    Senior Member GrosseFugue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasks View Post
    And also read about Mozart's Sonata in C, K.330's last movement "Allegretto"

    https://www.classicalconnect.com/Pia...n_C_Major/1087
    Thank you!

    In a nutshell about Mozart's piece: The brief development section, however, introduces a new melodic material instead of using that given during the exposition.

    So, LvB wasn't the first. But it appears he took the idea and just ran with it, doing his own spin. To paraphrase your previous article: "What is new...is its dramatic and dissonant preparation...the extremely remote key...and five-fold repetition of the theme." The "five-fold" part (with the varying keys) is over my head as a lay listener. No way in the world I'd have ever known that. But still cool to find that out. Cheers.
    [
    Last edited by GrosseFugue; Jan-18-2021 at 07:29.

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    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    "There is already an example of free serial technique in Mozart's early C major Quartet, K. 156 (1772). The passage in question, i.e. the opening of the first movement's development (Ex. 2 (b)), has baffled Einstein to the point of non-comprehension: "It [the development] bears indeed no relation to the themes of the exposition." (Mozart, London, 1946).
    s.jpg
    Heard serially, however, it bears the closest possible relation to the first subject (Ex. 2 (a)), which is in fact treated with the greatest respect for the rules of the game (Ex. 2 (b)). The basic set is transposed to E minor, where Křenek's rules come into force. The one "concerning repetition of tones" has already been observed in the arrangement of the basic set, note 3; it is now also applied to note 1, where we get the sort of shake-like formation of which Křenek is thinking. On the other hand, in the octave skip to the viola's b' and again in the overlapping octave on note 3, Mozart allows himself a degree of freedom that is almost Bergian. In its first statement, the basic set appears in the thematic shape (as it does in the outer sections of the Strawinsky piece), but in the development Mozart follows Křenek's first rule assiduously: the rhythmic structure and the row intercut to an extent that made the theme unrecognisable to Einstein or anyone else. It is indeed no longer the theme, but simply a restatement of its row, completely different melodically, texturally and rhythmically. In this transformation, it is helped by the typically dodecaphonic octave transpositions which Mozart uses as radically as Strawinsky in the Dylan Thomas piece; he may indeed plead in his defence that if he breaks a rule in the octave doubling of note 3, it is only order to employ a typically serial device. At the same time, there is, of course, again intense "tonal corruption" (i.e. harmonic unity) which, however, produces a special kind of diatonic serialism: strictly speaking, the row is not one of notes, but of diatonic degrees.
    Nevertheless, our analysis shows that even this early Mozart example is far more Schoenbergian, more serial than the late Beethoven example which Schoenberg himself quotes, and which we have seen to be rhythmically committed. Now, I happened to know that K. 156 was the first string quartet which Schoenberg played as a boy. (His first teacher, quartet leader, and best friend, became generations later, my teacher, quartet leader, and best musical friend). Somewhat mysteriously, Schoenberg has described himself as Mozart's pupil."

    < Strict Serial Technique in Classical Music | Hans Keller >
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Jan-18-2021 at 09:54.

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    Senior Member pianozach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrosseFugue View Post
    Oh wow, I'd read it was considered "unprecedented" and "astonishing" what LvB did.

    [/I][/I][/I][/B]
    There are some unquestioning LvB fanatics that would consider it "unprecedented" and "astonishing" for any clever thing he did. Cheerleaders. "Beethoven, Beethoven, sis boom bah! You used a musket in Wellington's Vict'ry!"

    Yes, I too think Beethoven is great. But even Beethoven put it best: "What I sh•t is better than anything you could ever think up!"
    Last edited by pianozach; Jan-18-2021 at 17:23.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Chapter One of Scott Burnham's Beethoven Hero, a whole book about the Eroica and the history of its interpretation and reception, has an excellent discussion of the New Theme (NT). Burnham observes that most early writers on the symphony emphasized the NT's otherness or, as you've put it, its alien nature. But there is a more recent but still long tradition of hearing it as a derivative of the opening theme. August Halm heard the outline of the opening theme in the NT's countermelody, the cello line:

    B3 Halm.jpg

    He hears the first five notes of the main theme, all members of the tonic chord, echoed in the cello line, but on an E minor triad rather than one on E-flat. Others have noted a striking parallel in the rhythms of the two themes (the examples are from an article I published).

    B3 rh.jpg

    I find these alleged relationships tenuous in purely technical terms.

    Several critics who interpreted the movement as a heroic narrative about Napoleon (or Beethoven or Prometheus) heard the NT as an "alter ego" or, in Burnham's words, a "photographic negative" of the opening theme — as a dark side of the hero's personality. Interpreting the movement in dramatic terms, I've made a similar argument based on how both the opening theme and the NT are juxtaposed to the disruptive duple meter passage that occurs first in mm. 23-36. This passage is an antagonistic force in the opening theme and the structure as a whole. At its first appearance it is overcome and followed by a louder more assured assertion of the opening idea (mm. 37ff). In the development the disruption on the same antagonistic idea lasts much longer, culminating in a harrowing, dissonant climax. Rather than being followed by an heroic reassertion of the main theme it is followed by its troubled alter ego, the NT. This contrast of outcomes is the main dramatic tension of the movement.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Jan-19-2021 at 15:19.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    But there is a more recent but still long tradition of hearing it as a derivative of the opening theme. August Halm heard the outline of the opening theme in the NT's countermelody, the cello line:
    ...
    He hears the first five notes of the main theme, all members of the tonic chord, echoed in the cello line, but on an E minor triad rather than one on E-flat. Others have noted a striking parallel in the rhythms of the two themes (the examples are from an article I published).
    ...
    I find these alleged relationships tenuous in purely technical terms.
    That's how I hear it: as an echo of the opening theme, or an echoing the harmony around the opening theme. It doesn't sound different or new or alien to me.

    But I should hasten to add, I don't have the background to discuss it technically.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrosseFugue View Post
    You can hear it starting 9:26 in this Abbado version:
    right before that point, a murder occurs as heard in the music.

    then, a lament comes on at nine twenty six and, back to the main theme.

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    Senior Member TalkingHead's Avatar
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    Philip G. Downs also discusses this theme and other interesting analyses in his 1970 article Beethoven's "New Way" and the "Eroica" (The Musical Quarterly): https://www.jstor.org/stable/740928?seq=1

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    I've been listening to the Eroica for almost 60 years (it was about the fifth record I owned), and it always sounded organic to me. I never realized the NT was a NT until I saw it mentioned on TC sometime within the last 6 months. Of the revolutionary things about that symphony, the NT is not high on my list.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkW View Post
    I've been listening to the Eroica for almost 60 years (it was about the fifth record I owned), and it always sounded organic to me. I never realized the NT was a NT until I saw it mentioned on TC sometime within the last 6 months. Of the revolutionary things about that symphony, the NT is not high on my list.
    The newness isn't the thing. It's the way the theme is integrated into the structure.

    Your frogs make me shudder with intolerable loathing and I shall be miserable for the rest of my life remembering them.
    — Mikhail Bulgakov, The Fatal Eggs

    When a true genius appears on the earth, you may know him by this sign, that all of the dunces are in confederacy against him.
    — Jonathan Swift

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