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View Diary: Thursday Classical Music OPUS 62: Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (33 comments)

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  •  Wow, thanks so much for your detailed response! (1+ / 0-)
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    Dumbo

    I'm really learning a lot from your diaries.

    I'm sure I'm misunderstanding Adorno. I find a lot of his prose nearly impenetrable, and I actually haven't read too much of his writing on Beethoven.  When I wrote "dominant logic" in my comment above, I was trying to paraphrase Adorno's writing in his essay "Parataxis," published in volume two of his Notes on Literature. "Parataxis" is mostly about Friedrich Hölderlin's poetry, but Adorno does mention Beethoven a couple of times in the piece.  Here's one instance:

    In a manner reminiscent of Hegel, mediation of the vulgar kind, a middle element standing outside the moments it is to connect, is eliminated as being external and inessential, something that occurs frequently in Beethoven's late style; this not least of all gives Hölderlin's late poetry its anticlassicistic quality, its rebellion against harmony. What is lined up in sequence, unconnected, is as harsh as it is flowing.

    As I try to follow Adorno's argument, my understanding is that by placing "moments" in series without explicit logical connections between these moments, Hölderlin was able to

    evade the logical hierarchy of a subordinating syntax.
     And instead of undertaking the typical Enlightenment quest for an understanding of cause and effect in nature (and therefore of control of nature), Hölderlin allows nature to unfold one moment at a time and
    takes the side of a fallen nature against a dominating Logos.

    So while I didn't intend to allude to dominant chords -- and I am also at the limits of my head here -- your response with your discussion of some of the choices Beethoven was making has me wondering whether he was, as Adorno put it, eliminating "inessential" connecting elements between the moments in his symphony and allowing the music to move in a way "as harsh as it is flowing."

    Thanks again!

    •  Interpreting that is probably out of my (1+ / 0-)
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      Fresno

      league, but I'm game for trying.

      If you're saying that Beethoven deliberately leaves out connecting material necessary to smooth out the musical moments and prepare from one to the next, in his Late Period (which is what Adorno mentioned -- and the Ninth is Beethoven's only Late Period symphony), then, yeah, I can see that.  And in his late quartets.  There's a deliberate cutting out of the fat that you would normally expect, leaving it strangely harsh at times.

      The Grosse Fuge quartet piece stands out as probably the greatest example of that -- so dissonant they wouldn't publish it, and possibly the most brilliant work of them all.  But there are other examples of that, where he just launches from one key to another unrelated key without all the necessary SET UP that you would expect from Mozart and Haydn.  And since he knew very well how to do all that, the fact that he didn't do it was a deliberate statement in itself.

      Here's a moment from his Beethoven String Quartet #16, the final movement, which is in Sonata-allegro form, like just about everything.

      The interesting point here is at 2:18, the end of the first exposition, before the repeat of the exposition.  (My little blue graphic outline at the top would indicate we're talking about the end of 2c, beginning of 3a, if you prefer to understand it that way.)  He goes back to the main key, but he starts in an alien key... and Beethoven deliberately does barely ZILCH to get us back comfortably to the home key before starting the 3a repeat.  It's unusual and jarring.  That would not be unusual at all in a 20th century piece by somebody like Prokofiev.  Not a bit.  But for that time in history, those kinds of things were STRANGE.  Back up a bit before 2:18, get all comfortable in that key he's playing, and then wait for the sudden disconnect he gives you at 2:18.  And all he is doing there is beginning the exposition again!  He just left out the shock absorbers.  

      I'll have to think now if there are any moments like that in the Ninth, one where something normal is given without the usual preparation, and thus shocks us.

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