Free «Melodic or rhythmic motifs» Essay Sample

In 1814, Beethoven returned to serious composition with one major project; the Piano Sonata in E minor op. 90. One major aspect of Piano Sonata op. 90 is its compression of numerous passages in various numbers of the opera (Kinderman, 1995). Beethoven developed melodic and rhythmic motifs in the 1st movement by eliding the formal divisions between the exposition and development and between the development and recapitulation. According to Wu (2007), op. 90 is one of the smaller compositions among the thirty two piano sonatas. It involves two contrasting movements. The whole point of the sonata lies in the contrast between a movement full of passionate and lonely energy and a movement devoted to the utmost luxuriance of lyric melodies developed in Rondo form (Wu, 2007).

Beethoven’s compositions held special fascination for analysts because of their profundity, complexity and individuality. Broyles (1997) says that Beethoven developed melodic and rhythmic motifs in the first movement by breaking beyond the boundaries of the individual movement and by linking movements directly to each other or by extending organicism to include entire pieces.

Schenker (1980) noted that the musical image created by his repetition need not be in all cases, a painstakingly exact reproduction of the original series of tones. Beethoven used and developed melodic and rhythmic motifs in this movement by using the associative effect of more or less exact repetitions and therefore delimiting the individualities of various patterns.

In the above example the upbeat of the first bar (marked by the first bracket) consists of an eighth note followed by an eighth rest. Schenker (1980) says that under the second bracket this upbeat is repeated without any change. Under the third and fourth brackets it can be noted that the upbeat shows certain contrasting changes whereby the eighth-note is transgormed into full quarter note, emphasized in its fourth recurrence even by a portamento (Schenker, 1980).

The above example demonstrates most strikingly how a rhythmic motif can arise without reference to melody or form. Beethoven used and developed melodic and rhythmic motifs for first movement through his genius composition in the clear and formal separation of subject from transition. In this context, Schenker (1980) says that “the subject engenders a purely rhythmical motif which radiates through that separation into the transition where it experiences its obligatory repetitions” (p. 8).

Beethoven developed melodic and rhythmic motifs of the 1st movement by beginning quietly in bar 82, on the pitch B, drawn from the preceding dominant chords that close the exposition. Kinderman (1995) says that the melodic and rhythmic motifs of the 1st movement were based almost entirely on the first theme, though the accompaniment in repeated notes and chords was drawn from the second group.  In the above example the entire second half of the development (bars 113 ff) employs a different accompaniment texture outlining broken chords in the right hand.

In the above example Beethoven changes the key signature to one sharp, indicating E minor which is treated in the ensuing canonic passage to allow the recapitulation to emerge. Kinderman (1995) further says that Beethoven developed melodic and rhythmic motifs of the 1st movement by ensuring that this bar already contained the essence of the recapitulation in its second and third beats, in particular in the descent of the third G-E in the high register. It can be noted that after three repetitions bar 131 this figure is isolated and stressed dynamically in the next bar with an imitation an octave lower (Kinderman, 1995).

In addition Beethoven achieved rhythmic motifs by using a series of canonic mutations which elongates the figure in three successive rhythmic augmentations. Kinderman (1995) says that instead of defining a single structural moment, the recapitulation represented a process that extended over the 18 bars that preceded the literal point of recapitulation. Beethoven’s melodic first movement is also linked to the slow movement, with its despairing mood, which is resolved or superseded in the unhampered gaiety of the beginning of the fugue. Kinderman (1995) noted that the intensity of the contrapuntal operations lends weight to the finale, thereby anchoring the sonata as a whole. Melodic character of each part in no way indicates its anacrustic position if anything it suggests a downbeat.

Beethoven’s indication suggests the kind of expressive touch the passage demands, a delicate vibration that dies away surprisingly into its resolution. Rosen (1998) argues that Beethoven developed the melodic and rhythmic 1st movement by putting down the damper pedal at the point of the accent. The extra resonance was not audible beyond six inches from the instrument, but the delicate thump of the pianist foot was interpreted as a musical event (Rosen, 1998).  The two Sonata in C major and D major of op. 90were Beethoven’s important works of 1815. The C major Sonata opened with unaccompanied phrase in the cello, as did the op. 69 sonata in A major. The effect of op. 90 was broader but his treatment of the opening phrase in the C major Sonata went perhaps still deeper because the thematic material was immediately worked out contrapuntally with the entry of the piano (Kinderman, 1995).  The form of the whole also took on some unprecedented features for lyrical opening of the first movement is recalled, in slightly varied form shortly before the beginning of the finale.


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