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Ludwig van Beethoven

(1770-1827)

Beethoven’s Early Period

COMMENTARY

Gluck

CHARACTERISTICS OF FIRST PERIOD

           Fusion of old and new elements and experimentation

           Strong influence of Haydn and Mozart

           NEW THINGS:

           compactness of ideas and fragmentary writing

           shift of weight towards FINALE and away from 1st movement

           introduction of the SCHERZO

           new harmonic ideas, THIRD RELATIONSHIPS

Note:  the shift in weight from the first movement toward the finale, which was counter to the prevailing aesthetic of the Classic Period (which saw the finale as a “light” rondo, etc.) was a major development, shifting towards the “Romantic” conception of the finale as apotheosis or RESOLUTION.

The Early Period

The "Early Period" of Beethoven traditionally goes from 1793 (i.e. shortly after his arrival in Vienna) to 1802, with two sub-divisions:

  • 1793-1799: studies with Haydn, gains control of Viennese style, asserts his individuality WITHIN it (important)
  • 1800-1802: increasingly experimental pieces and the transition to the middle period. Shows signs of dissatisfaction with the more FORMAL aspects of the Classical style and reaches for something new.

INFLUENCES

Gluck (he revered Gluck as one of the supreme composers). According to Donald Francis Tovey, "Beethoven's aesthetic system has arisen from the sonata style, which is…intimately connected with the revolution, or rather the birth, of dramatic music style in the operas of Gluck".

According to Romain Rolland, Gluck had a tremendous influence on Beethoven with regard to "dramatic expression, energy of accent, concision of musical speech, breadth and clarity of design". Can you see this influence in the Joseph Cantata? Handel, Bach, Mozart, and Haydn were also of course the four pillars of musical achievement for Beethoven.