Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Beethoven's Music

Traditionally, Beethoven's works are grouped into early, middle, and late periods. The early works, up to about 1802, show a progressive mastery of the high classical style of Haydn and Mozart. During this period he wrote primarily for the Piano and for chamber ensembles dominated by the piano. His first six string quarters, op. 18, date from 1798 to 1800, the first symphony from 1800 and the second from 1801 to 1802.

A general growth, in the proportions and rhetorical power of Beethoven's work in the period 1798 – 1802 culminates in the highly dramatic compositions that mark the beginning of the middle period in 1803. The earliest of this – the third symphony (Eroica, 1803), the opera Fidelio (1803 – 05), and the Waldstein (1804) abd Aooassionata (1804) sonatas - have a heroic cast that Beethoven's deafness. In the work composed from about 1806 until 1812, this heroic character alternates with an Olympian serenity. The characteristic symphonic and chamber works from this period are the fourth (1806), Fifth (1805 – 07), and Sixth (1807 – 08) symphonies; the fourth (1805 – 06) and Fifth (Emperor, 1809) piano concert; the Violin Concert (1806); the Rasumovsky quartets (1806); the piano trios, op. 70 (1808) and op. 97 (Archduke, 1811); the Coriolanos Overture (1807); and the incidental music for Geothe's drama Egmont (1810).

Beginning in 1815, Beethoven's music became generally less dramatic and more introspective. The first group of works in this new, late-period style includes the song scycle An die ferne Geliebte, op. 98 (to the distant Beloved, 1816); the piano sonata, op. 102 (1815). In these works and in a large group of late sonatas, and string quartets. Beethoven favored looser musical structures and variation and fugal procedures in which the hidden implications of his themes emerge gradually. Hammerklaveir sonata, the Missa Solemnis (1818 – 23), and Ninth (Choral) symphony (completed 1823) are colored by new immediacy of expression. Beethoven then grew more isolated, from both his physical surroundings and the popular stylistic tendencies of the day, his music tended increasingly to expressive extremes. Passages of sublime contemplation join with simple folk melodies, impassioned recitatives, and abstract archaisms in a wholly personal synthesis.

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