Once again, the month is nearly over, and I haven’t dug into this piece nearly the way I would have liked to. All the same… some thoughts.
Did Wagner get the idea of leitmotiv from Beethoven, or was it simply in the air? I’m no musicologist, so someone will have to answer the question for me. Beethoven’s Lebewohl motive in the first movement is a prototypical–just as the entire Ring cycle comes out of the descending Eb major triad, Beethoven chooses mi-re-do… what else for a Classical composer who knows that the music will end up there at some point anyway. Yes, I still think Beethoven is a classical composer, despite the steady appearance of more and more Romantic-era traits.
Compare the two sonata forms in this piece to those in Brahms’ Op. 1. Brahms and Beethoven are using the same harmonic concepts for the most part, but Beethoven thinks in motivic terms, while Brahms is very clearly writing themes most of the time. Beethoven is creating an organic, living piece of music in the only way he really knows how; Brahms has chosen sonata form from several other possibilities and is putting things where they are supposed to be.
In the first movment, we seem for once to have an instance where the development section is extended, but on second inspection, the exposition and the development are in roughly equal proportions–if the repeat sign on the exposition is observed. The form is well-balanced, too, with the inclusion of the opening Adagio.
The second movement is loads of fun–harmonically evasive, and brooding in character. Is it a developmental core without an exposition or recapitulation? Is there any way to see the complete sonata as one large sonata form? There might be a paper in that.
I’m absolutely in love with the two places in the last movement (one in the exposition and one in the recapitulation) where Beethoven uses triads with roots a minor second apart. Gb and F the first time, Cb and Bb the second time. Both times, the passage ends with a rarity that I just taught last week in Sophomore Theory–an augmented-sixth chord that resolves to a tone that is not the root of its triad (the third in this case). If any of my students are reading this… hint, hint… finals are coming up! Not only that, an enharmonic passage right at the beginning of the development. Why play in Cb when you can play in B?
On a somewhat-related note… I had time this morning to compose, and the piano piece is ready for the computer.