Beethoven's Symphonies: An Artistic Vision
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An exploration of the unswerving artistic vision underlying Beethoven’s symphonies, from one of the world’s leading scholars of the composer’s works.
More than any other composer, Beethoven left to posterity a vast body of material that documents the early stages of almost everything he wrote. From this trove of sketchbooks, Lewis Lockwood draws us into the composer’s mind, unveiling a creative process of astonishing scope and originality.
For musicians and nonmusicians alike, Beethoven’s symphonies stand at the summit of artistic achievement, loved today as they were two hundred years ago for their emotional cogency, variety, and unprecedented individuality. Beethoven labored to complete nine of them over his lifetime―a quarter of Mozart’s output and a tenth of Haydn’s―yet no musical works are more iconic, more indelibly stamped on the memory of anyone who has heard them. They are the products of an imagination that drove the composer to build out of the highest musical traditions of the past something startlingly new.
Lockwood brings to bear a long career of studying the surviving sources that yield insight into Beethoven’s creative work, including concept sketches for symphonies that were never finished. From these, Lockwood offers fascinating revelations into the historical and biographical circumstances in which the symphonies were composed. In this compelling story of Beethoven’s singular ambition, Lockwood introduces readers to the symphonies as individual artworks, broadly tracing their genesis against the backdrop of political upheavals, concert life, and their relationship to his major works in other genres. From the first symphonies, written during his emerging deafness, to the monumental Ninth, Lockwood brings to life Beethoven’s lifelong passion to compose works of unsurpassed beauty.
10 illustrations; 10 music examples
Overture, Op. 84, 241n24 Fidelio Overture, Op. 72, 138 Leonore No. 1 Overture, Op. 138, 247n6 Leonore No. 2 Overture, Op. 72, 87 Leonore No. 3 Overture, Op. 72, 81, 87, 90 marches, 44–45, 61, 161–62, 242n30 “Österreich Über alles” sketch, 220 Namensfeier Overture, Op. 115, 201 Piano Concerto No. 1, 25 Piano Concerto No. 2, 86 Piano Concerto No. 4, 81, 85, 86, 125, 247n6, 249n15 Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor,” 145, 173, 214 piano concerto sketches, 148, 172–73, 233 Triple Concerto,
210, 252n5 to Kanka, 56, 243n9 to Malfatti, 124 to Moscheles, 236–37n20 to Neefe, 7 to Ries, 192 Tagebuch, 186, 187, 191, 192, 210 to Wegeler, 38–39, 57, 77, 95, 121, 148 Beethoven, Ludwig van, sketchbooks. See also specific sketchbooks; specific sketches in “Index of Works” catalogue of, xiv concept sketches, xiv–xv, 13–15, 146, 148–50, 173–74, 231–34 importance of, xiii–xiv scholarship on, xiv thoughts on characteristic music in, 132 Berlin State Library, 229 Berlioz, Hector on
(The awakening of joyous feelings on getting out into the countryside) 2. Andante molto moto 12/8 B major “Scene am Bach” (Scene by the brook) 3. Allegro 2/4 F major “Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute” (Joyous gathering of country folk) 4. Allegro 4/4 F minor “Gewitter. Sturm” (Thunderstorm) 5. Allegretto 6/8 F major “Hirtengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm” (Shepherd’s song. Happy and thankful feelings after the storm) These headings underwent changes in
dominant harmony over an enormous expanse of time, then raises the tension another notch by having a solo horn enter two bars too soon with the long-awaited opening tonic motif against the sustained dominant harmony—whereupon the whole orchestra, first in forte then fortissimo, sets matters straight with two bars of the full dominant harmony and moves swiftly to the long-awaited tonic recapitulation. In the Fourth, instead of using the dominant harmony, Beethoven holds the long period of
discrepancies between the movement-headings in the handbill and those in the first edition. 12 ESk, 159. This brief musical idea appears to be in A major, 4/4 time, and does not have any thematic resemblance to the Pastoral Symphony (as do several other entries in this sketchbook). For this reason Brandenburg, editing the autograph of the “Pastoral” Symphony, ruled out any likely connection. But the important fact remains that in this short entry Beethoven was expressly thinking about a “joyous”