Well, the end of another month, and I didn’t spend as much time with my Beethoven sonata as I had hoped, but there were other musical experiences taking place. My first-year theory students are through the “fundamentals” and we can now start to talk to each other about theory–today we discussed a definition of “tonal harmony.” On September 21, the Harrington String Quartet came to OPSU and played a fantastic concert of Mozart, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich, and last Sunday was my first premiere in Oklahoma. Add to that a couple of football games to eat up a Saturday or two, and finishing the horn and marimba piece, and it’s been a little busy. But mostly good work, and I can’t complain.
But the Beethoven sonata–No. 24 in F# major, Opus 78. I did get a chance to revisit it this afternoon, knowing that I would need to write tonight. It really is a wonderful miniature among the giants that precede it. I’m always amazed that Beethoven wasn’t stuck on one plan or another for his sonatas. Myself, I tend toward the three-movement fast-slow-fast structure, so much so that in this horn and marimba piece I’ve just finished, I deliberately departed from that model–it begins in a quick tempo and ends slowly (I couldn’t resist the four-mallet tremolo at the low end of the instrument, pianissimo with soft mallets). We’ll see what the player who commissioned it thinks. So many of Beethoven’s earlier sonatas have that “standard” sonata cycle–like a little symphony for piano–he clearly got tired of being stuck with that.
Some things I need to work out. My second-year theory students are studying modulation right now, and it strikes me that the development section of the first movement of Op. 78 begins in the parallel minor. Should the parallel key be added to the list of “closely related keys?” It certainly is easier to get to than any other key–no real pivot chord is required, only a dominant function that remains a dominant function. Something to think about. Similarly, in the rondo, Beethoven visits the key of (yes!) D# major, and along with it, D# minor. Where Schubert or Chopin would have changed the key to Eb, Beethoven soldiers on through with six sharps–a real stretch for an ersatz pianist like myself. More than ever I am in love with rondo form–the last movement of Brahms’ second symphony is what I think music will sound like in heaven.
So–here’s to next month–may I get to this writing earlier and have more intelligent things to say. Op. 79, here I come!