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BEETHOVEN

like those of op. 7 and a few other early works, shows a thrilling solemnity that immediately proves the identity of the pupil of Haydn with the creator of the 9th symphony. The little scherzo no less clearly foreshadows the new era in music by the fact that in so small and light a movement a modulation from A to G sharp minor can occur too naturally to excite surprise. If the later work of Beethoven were unknown there would be very little evidence that this sonata was by a young man, except, perhaps, in the remarkable abruptness of style in the first movement, an abruptness which is characteristic, not of immaturity, but of art in which problems are successfully solved for the first time. This abruptness is, however, in a few of Beethoven’s early works carried appreciably too far. In the sonata in C minor, op. 10, No. 1, for example, the more vigorous parts of the first movement lose in breadth from it, while the finalé is almost stunted.

But Beethoven was not content to express his individuality only in an abrupt epigrammatic style. From the outset breadth was also his aim, and while he occasionally attempted to attain a greater breadth than his resources would properly allow (as in the first movement of the sonata, op. 2, No. 3, and that of the violoncello sonata, op. 5, No. 1, in both of which cases a kind of extempore outburst in the coda conceals the collapse of his peroration), there are many early works in which he shows neither abruptness of style nor any tendency to confine himself within the limits of previous art. The C minor trio, op. 1, No. 3, is not more remarkable for the boldness of thought that made Haydn doubtful as to the advisability of publishing it, than for the perfect smoothness and spaciousness of its style. These qualities Beethoven at first naturally found easier to retain with less dramatic material, as in the other trios in the same opus, but the C minor trio does not stand alone. It represents, perhaps, the most numerous, as certainly the noblest, class of Beethoven’s early works. Certainly the smallest class is that in which there is unmistakable imitation of Mozart, and it is significant that almost all examples of this class are works for wind instruments, where the technical limitations narrowly determine the style and discourage the composer from taking things seriously. Such works are the beautiful and popular septet, the quintet for pianoforte and wind instruments (modelled superficially, yet closely and with a kind of modest ambition, on Mozart’s wonderful work for the same combination) and, on a somewhat higher level, the trio for pianoforte, clarinet and violoncello, op. 11.

It is futile to discuss the point at which Beethoven’s second manner may be said to begin, but he has himself given us excellent evidence as to when and how his first manner (as far as that is a single thing) became impossible to him. Through quite a large number of works, beginning perhaps with the great string quintet, op. 29, new types of harmonic and emotional expression had been assimilated into a style at least intelligible from Mozart’s point of view. Indeed, Beethoven’s favourite way of enlarging his range of expression often seems to consist in allowing the Titanic force of his new inventions and the formal beauty of the old art to indicate by their contrast a new world grander and lovelier than either. Sometimes, as in the C major quintet, the new elements are too perfectly assimilated for the contrast to appear. The range of key and depth of thought is beyond that of Beethoven’s first manner, but the smoothness is that of Mozart. In the three pianoforte sonatas, op. 31, the struggle of the transition is as manifest as its accomplishment is triumphant. The first movement of the first sonata (in G major) deals with widely separated keys on new principles. These are embodied in a style which for abruptness and jocular paradox is hardly surpassed by Beethoven’s most nervous early works. The exceptionally ornate and dilatory slow movement reads almost like a protest; while the finale begins as if to show that humour should be beautiful, and ends by making fun of the beauty. The second sonata (in D minor) is the greatest work Beethoven had as yet written. Its first movement, already cited above in connexion with the dramatic sequences in op. 2, No. 2, is, like that of the Sonata Appassionata, a locus classicus for such powerful means of expression. And it is worth noting that the only sketch known of this movement is a sketch in which nothing but its sequential plan is indicated. In the third sonata Beethoven enjoys on a higher plane an experience he had often indulged in before, the attainment of smoothness and breadth by means of a delicately humorous calm which gives scope to the finer subtleties of his new thoughts.

Beethoven himself wrote to his publisher that these three sonatas represented a new phase in his style; but when we realize his artistic conscientiousness it is not surprising that they should be contemporary with larger works like the 2nd symphony, which are far more characteristic of his first manner. His whole development is entirely ruled by his determination to let nothing pass until it has been completely mastered, and long before this his sketch-books show that he had many ambitious ideas for a 1st symphony, and that it was a deliberate process that made his ambitions dwindle into something that could be safely realized in the masterly little comedy with which he began his orchestral career. The easy breadth and power of the 2nd symphony represents an amply sufficient advance, and leaves his forces free to develop in less expensive forms those vast energies for which afterwards the orchestra and the string-quartet were to become the natural field.

In the “Waldstein” sonata, op. 53, we see Beethoven’s second manner literally displacing his first; that is to say, we reach a state of things at which the two can no longer form an artistic contrast. The work, as we know it, is not only perfect, but has all the qualities of art in which the newest elements have long been familiar. The opening is on the same harmonic train of thought as that of the sonata, op. 31, No. 1, but there is no longer the slightest need for a paradoxical or jocular manner. On the contrary, the harmonies are held together by an orderly sequence in the bass, and the onrush is that of some calm diurnal energy of nature. The short introduction to the finale is harmonically and emotionally the most profound thing in the sonata, while the finale itself uses every new resource in the triumphant attainment of a leisure more splendid than any conceivable in the most spacious of Mozart’s rondos. Yet it is well known that Beethoven originally intended the beautiful andante in F, afterwards published separately, to be the slow movement of this sonata. That andante is, like the finale, a spacious and gorgeous rondo, which probably Beethoven himself could not have written at an earlier period. The modulation to D flat in its principal theme, and that to G flat near the end, are its chief harmonic effects and stand out in beautiful relief within its limits. After the first movement of the Waldstein sonata they would be flat and colourless. The sketch-books show that Beethoven, when he first planned the sonata, was by no means inattentive to the balance of harmonic colour in the whole scheme, but that at first he did not realize how far that scheme was going to carry him. He originally thought of the slow movement as in E major, a remote key to which, however, he soon assigned the more intimate position of complementary key in the first movement. He then worked at the slow movement in F with such zest that he did not discover until the whole sonata was finished that he had raised the first and last movements to an altogether higher plane of thought, though the redundancy of the two rondos in juxtaposition and the unusual length of the sonata were so obvious that his friends ventured to point them out. Beethoven’s revision of his earliest works is now known to have been extensive and drastic; but this is the first instance, and Fidelio and the quartet in B flat, op. 131, are the only other instances, of any later work needing important alteration after it was completely executed. From this point up to op. 101 we may study Beethoven’s second manner entirely free from any survivals of his first, even as a legitimate contrast; though it is as impossible to fix a point before which his third manner cannot be traced as it is to ignore the premonitions of his second manner in his early works. The distinguishing features in Beethoven’s second style are the result of a condition of art in which enormous new possibilities have become so well known that there is no need for stating them abruptly, paradoxically or