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Thread: What Musical Genres Did Beethoven Invent?

  1. #16
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    Someone once wrote that despite the reputation Beethoven was a rEvolutionary with a capital E. Unfortunately, there is silly tradition of mentioning small, superficial things as "big innovations" (which they usually are not) and then there is usually some 3rd rate composer who did it earlier anyway, like having trombones or contrabassoon in a symphony, or even the choir in the symphony (I once read this somewhere but I cannot find details).

    Beethoven strongly transformed virtually any genre he touched so that his exemplars mostly "screened off" the predecessors and served as a paradigm for later generations. This includes "odds" like small piano pieces (bagatelles), songs, ouvertures that turned into quasi-symphonic poems, even choral music (less the two masses but a strange piece like "Calm sea and prosperous voyage") and of course "Fidelio" with its almost continous second act and more symphonic style than earlier operas.
    In some cases, like piano sonatas this was almost an exhaustion and of the few great romantic piano sonatas (after Schubert whose are contemporary with LvB) many seem to avoid Beethoven. Or a total transformation of the form as in op.131 that had no follower until ca. 1900.
    In spite of many Beethoven works (especially symphonies) serving as paradigms for late 19th century composers, I think he is far more "end of an era" or even so by himself that he is quite separate from the typical early romantics.
    Last edited by Kreisler jr; Sep-17-2021 at 10:39.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    Beethoven invented the symphonic scherzo. Prior to him, it was a Menuet or something akin that Mozart, Haydn and others put into the work. The modern Scherzo was demonstrated first in his Second Symphony and even more prominently in the Eroica.
    Right, he also greatly expanded the instrumentation of the orchestra...not sure this is an "invention" as such, but it hugely increased the colors and the power of the orchestra -

    piccolo
    Contrabassoon
    added horns - 3[Eroica], 4 [Sym #9]
    Trombones
    chorus, solo voices [9]

    He also added movements to established forms - like symphonies, string 4tets, etc...
    Last edited by Heck148; Sep-17-2021 at 16:57.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    I will say looking at these answers it seems to me that Beethoven and Bach both were similar in their 'inventiveness'. Neither responsible so much for brand new forms as much as enriching existing ones. Beethoven's contributions were more an expansion in the horizontal sense, and Bach's was an expansion mainly in the vertical sense, in other words a harmonic/contrapuntal expansion.
    Enriched? Horizontally expanded? Retained a classicist structure? That's how one proves in a few words that one just doesn't get Beethoven. Beethoven's innovations were deeper and more fundamental than mere changes in formal design. Most important, perhaps, is a new approach to thematic processes as exemplified in the first movement of the Eroica and a number of his other most daring works. Beethoven created themes with internal motivic conflicts and made the changing dramatic relationships among their motives the subjects of development. He also invented ways to create tension, through thematic processes, that persists beyond the tonal-harmonic resolutions of a movement's final cadence. This kind of tension is the motive force for his influential cyclic structures — which, in case you hadn't noticed, were imitated by nearly every major tonal composer who followed.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Sep-17-2021 at 19:48.

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    One difference is that Bach was really the end of an era. There was no composer of note in the second half of the 18th century who took a Bach concerto or suite as a model and composed an important piece by emulating or expanding on it. (Maybe there are a few such works by minor composers but they are hardly known.) Most of the forms were obsolete after Bach, except in some niches (like organ playing and choral music) that were irrelevant for the major genres of instrumental music or opera.

    Whereas the expansions and transformations of the symphony by Beethoven made the genre central for 100 more years. Obviously this is not lack of skill or imagination but mostly a difference in the historical situation. But if Bach had done to ANY baroque genre what Beethoven did with the sonata genres, composers would have been working against the backdrop of such Bach works for two or three following generations. But they didn't, maybe some minor pupils like Krebs or Goldberg, but even Carl Philipp Emanuel mostly went his own rather different path. Maybe one could make a case for keyboard concertos. But I have never seen the claim that the later classical concerto by Mozart and contemporaries had a direct connection to JS Bach. I think the concerti of Bach's own sons are already quite different and I doubt that the next generation even knew Bachs's concerti.

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    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kreisler jr View Post
    Whereas the expansions and transformations of the symphony by Beethoven made the genre central for 100 more years.
    Mozart's K.475/K.457 borrow extensively from Bach's Musical offering. And I already refuted your points about the symphony in another thread:
    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    As I said, I don't object to any points made by Brahmsianhorn and Xisten267, but all your logic in [post#168] is just absurd. I could argue that the 18th century classicists did not write 1-hour long symphonies and comparing their works with the 19th century works just cause they're all labelled "symphonies" isn't fair, or that the symphony also became less important (especially the Beethovenian Classical symphony) when guys like Wagner, Liszt, Berlioz deemed the practice "obsolete", and replaced it with the symphonic poem and other newer orchestral genres. (Somehow Brahms wasn't "outdated" in his time, according to you) Since then, the symphony has been a vague concept, it could be anything as long as it's playable by an orchestra and labeled a "symphony", just like what Mahler said "it must now contain everything". Bruckner's are nothing like any 18th century symphony. Sibelius 7th could have been named "fantasia for orchestra". Likewise, I could argue any work that that utilizes religious text/title or old church modes is "religious music" (ie. Beethoven Op.132/iii, which can be "sung" in SATB voices, like a motet piece).
    Just like what like what you said in another thread: "There was a time in the early 20th century when some composers like Berg, Bartok and others avoided "symphony" in pieces that might as well have been called symphonies: Instead they used "(Orchestral) pieces", "Music for...""
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Sep-18-2021 at 02:48.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    You can't say Beethoven "invented" the string trio, exactly (specifically, violin, viola, and cello.) There are antecedents from Cambini, Albrechtsberger, and someone named Mozart, not to mention the legacy of Baroque trio sonatas which could utilize this specific combination.

    But truly elevating the string trio into a major chamber music form (at least in his early period, Op. 3, Op. 8, Op. 9), and treating all three voices as equal? You gotta give Luigi van B at least some props for that.
    Last edited by Knorf; Sep-17-2021 at 21:24. Reason: Eliminating redundancy

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    Mozart was influenced by Bach. Beethoven played through both books of the WTC, and probably realized that he could not compete with Bach in counterpoint, so he went in a more homophonic direction. All of Beethoven's grand dramatic musical gestures to me sound like someone compensating and distracting from the areas where the compositional style is boring.

    Classical structure and romantic approaches to structure differ significantly, so to say that Beethoven was imitated by nearly every major composer tonal composer that followed is misleading and inaccurate. I've already shown that the first romantic composer was not particularly interested in Beethoven. Charles Rosen suggests Bach had more influence on the origins of Romanticism than Beethoven.

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    But truly elevating the string trio into a major chamber music form
    What do you think of Mozart's k. 563?

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    What do you think of Mozart's k. 563?
    It's a great & lovely piece, "but" it's still committed as an exemplar of the divertimento genre and form, i.e."light entertainment,"* and it's the only example by Mozart for this instrumentation. And, as I recall, the violin part is almost always the lead voice, the others yet largely subordinate, compared to future developments. Less so than your average Baroque trio sonata, admittedly.

    Of course even "light entertainment" by Mozart is elevated to an extraordinary degree by his craft and imagination, but most importantly: it's a one-off. Beethoven wrote five, and pulled no punches.

    But anyway, I had already acknowledged Mozart as an antecedent in my post above.

    *To be fair, so are Beethoven's Op. 3 and Op. 8. But the three published as Op. 9 go somewhere new.
    Last edited by Knorf; Sep-17-2021 at 23:54. Reason: Clarification

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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    You can't say Beethoven "invented" the string trio, exactly (specifically, violin, viola, and cello.) There are antecedents from Cambini, Albrechtsberger, and someone named Mozart, not to mention the legacy of Baroque trio sonatas which could utilize this specific combination.

    But truly elevating the string trio into a major chamber music form (at least in his early period, Op. 3, Op. 8, Op. 9), and treating all three voices as equal? You gotta give Luigi van B at least some props for that.
    I was under the impression Mozart already did this with his k.563, which isn't at all a divertimento despite the title Mozart gave to it. The texture constantly shifts from solos given to the violin, viola, or cello, to duets with accompaniment, and then to purely polyphonic as in the development of the first movement. This is in stark contrast to the early string trios Beethoven wrote in response to Mozart's piece where on some occasions, like Beethoven's e flat string trio, opus 3, where you have 9 whole bars where the viola doesn't play anything.

    Your description probably better describes what Beethoven did with the piano trio where he gives more independence to the cello rather than having it double the left hand of the keyboard.
    Last edited by trazom; Sep-17-2021 at 23:57.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Again. I already acknowledged Mozart as a clear antecedent.

    I also feel the supposed equal footing of the three instruments in K. 563 is exaggerated by those pushing a narrative of Mozart as a innovator, to a degree that's not really supportable. I will acknowledge its textures do involve the accompanying instruments more than most of Mozart's other divertimenti. Still, compare it to the Piano and Wind Quintet, where the five instruments (admittedly winds & piano, not strings) have far more melodic independence.

    But the three trios of Beethoven's Op. 9 were something really different, and truly extraordinary. Some aspects of Op. 9 are more boundary pushing than the Op. 18 Quartets! That's what I'm getting at. Unfortunately the string trio as a genre languished somewhat before other composers with something like the boldness of Beethoven took it up.

    ETA: as for the piano trio genre, absolutely. Beethoven took them new directions, beyond Mozart or Haydn or anyone. But didn't someone already mention them up thread? Maybe not. If so, sure, maybe I should have mentioned them first, even given there were many examples in the genre well before Beethoven's Op. 1, unlike string trios. I still think there are really special elements to Op. 9 Nos. 1-3 that often get overlooked.

    EATA: to my ears, Mozart's K. 563 still has more in common with his other divertimenti than his more "serious" chamber music, for example the string quartets. K. 563 is highly inventive, but not at all as innovative as the likes of K. 452, K. 464, K. 581...
    Last edited by Knorf; Sep-18-2021 at 00:44.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    Mozart was influenced by Bach. Beethoven played through both books of the WTC, and probably realized that he could not compete with Bach in counterpoint, so he went in a more homophonic direction. All of Beethoven's grand dramatic musical gestures to me sound like someone compensating and distracting from the areas where the compositional style is boring.
    Beethoven's more homophonic approach in many of his compositions, especially in his earlier works, has everything to do with... the principles of the classical style, the music of his time, which Beethoven actually enjoyed (Mozart was his idol) as all of his peers and his audience. The theory that Beethoven avoided counterpoint because he thought he couldn't compete with Bach is just hilarious.

    That's not to say that you should like the classical style, and it's totally fine to find it boring -- I, myself, am not the biggest fan of the classical style either... But I'm not psychoanalysing the inner motivation of the composers from that era to justify my biases...

    More importantly, you're completely missing the fact that Beethoven was actually great at counterpoint, especially in his later years. Do you actually listen to Beethoven at all?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kreisler jr
    One difference is that Bach was really the end of an era.
    Beethoven was as well.
    But if Bach had done to ANY baroque genre what Beethoven did with the sonata genres, composers would have been working against the backdrop of such Bach works for two or three following generations.
    Beethoven did work against that backdrop in his late works. Bach did that with the fugue and counterpoint in general. Plus the last movement of the Op. 109 sonata is like a mini-Goldberg Variations.
    Last edited by dissident; Sep-18-2021 at 00:56.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    I also feel the supposed equal footing of the three instruments in K. 563 is exaggerated by those pushing a narrative of Mozart as a innovator, to a degree that's not really supportable. I will acknowledge its textures do involve the accompanying instruments more than most of Mozart's other divertimenti. Still, compare it to the Piano and Wind Quintet, where the five instruments (admittedly winds & piano, not strings) have far more melodic independence.

    But the three trios of Beethoven's Op. 9 were something really different, and truly extraordinary. Some aspects of Op. 9 are more boundary pushing than the Op. 18 Quartets! That's what I'm getting at. Unfortunately the string trio as a genre languished somewhat before other composers with something like the boldness of Beethoven took it up.
    I didn't think I was writing anything about k.563 that hadn't already been extensively discussed by musicologists like Alfred Einstein, Cliff Eisen, Simon Keefe, or musicians who've talked about the piece like Arthur Grumiaux, or the Emerson String Quartet. Unless you feel they all exagerrated the features of the work under discussion to push a narrative of Mozart as innovator? I love the quintet for piano and winds by the way. I know the work very well. Still I don't recall any passages from that work with the same independence as this trio, for example:

    https://youtu.be/npQJP_nF7NI?t=318

    and https://youtu.be/npQJP_nF7NI?t=1623

    and https://youtu.be/npQJP_nF7NI?t=2308

    as some standout exampls from 3 different movements, but there are others. Hopefully the links work.

    But the three trios of Beethoven's Op. 9 were something really different, and truly extraordinary. Some aspects of Op. 9 are more boundary pushing than the Op. 18 Quartets! That's what I'm getting at. Unfortunately the string trio as a genre languished somewhat before other composers with something like the boldness of Beethoven took it up.
    I don't disagree with any of this. I am just saying I don't think giving equal primacy to all 3 voices was what makes these works stand out, at least in relation to Mozart's.

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