Sonata no. 29 (“Hammerklavier”), Largo e Allegro Risoluto.  Alfred Brendel, piano.

On this date in 1827 Beethoven died.

Here’s the 19 year old Frye on Beethoven:

Beethoven’s attack on the sonata form is more subtle [than Wagner].  Broadly speaking, it centres around the pictorial approach, and, hence, the compression and economy of the Mozartian sonata disappears, and the sonata takes on a greatly enlarged aspect.  The speed no longer swings about a balance, but the various movements (Beethoven expanded the three‑movement form to a four‑movement one) are rhythmically contrasted.  The middle theme of Mozart is expanded to a tremendous development section*a purely pictorial idea which analyses every implication of the given themes and holds them up to the light, as it were.  A similar impulse leads Beethoven to develop the coda.  The egocentricity of his later forms is, if often exaggerated, nonetheless present, and it can hardly be altogether an accident that the greatest of romantic musicians became deaf in his later years, whereby the individual concentration power would be so much augmented.  There is in Beethoven, however, a good deal of the will‑to‑power spirit as well.  In his later works he is no longer content merely with a spatial attack on the sonata form; he must probe deeper and analyse the fundamental secrets of the time‑problems in his art form.  In consequence, the two works of his last period which are on perhaps the largest scale deal first of all with an exhaustive and distinctly pessimistic and despairing analysis of the sonata form, ending in a slow movement, and followed by a terrific burst of energy which tears to pieces, in the one case the fugue, in the other the oratorio.  The two works in question are Hammerclavier Sonata, op. 106, and the Choral Symphony. (Student Essays)

(Thanks to Bob Denham for the quote.)

Finale of the 9th Symphony after the jump.


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5 thoughts on “Beethoven

  1. Clayton Chrusch

    Of course I am joking, ruefully. It doesn’t seem fair that I will never be as smart as Frye was when he was 19.

    I would really like to read what some of the other readers of the blog wrote when they were 19. Consider it a challenge.

  2. Michael Happy Post author

    I can answer that challenge, Clayton, this way: I read Frye’s student essay, “Romanticism”, when I was 38 and joked at the time that I was twice Frye’s age and knew half as much.

    And I was being way too generous to myself.

  3. Trevor Losh-Johnson

    At 19 I wrote a long poem about the death of William Howard Taft, eaten by wolves.

    The next year I actually dropped out of a class because of my inability to write anything remotely like this about Beethoven.


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