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Topic: The Pain of a Deaf Composer  (Read 2883 times)

Offline kellyzoo

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The Pain of a Deaf Composer
on: June 12, 2017, 01:21:13 AM
Hey guys! I have written an analysis on the Pathetique Sonata and how Beethoven conveys his emotions within the sonata. Take a quick read and tell me whether or not you agree. Feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks! ;D


Pathetique Sonata: The Pain of a Deaf Composer

Ludwig van Beethovenís Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 13 or Pathetique Sonata is widely regarded as one of the most emotionally and physically challenging piano sonatas of all time. It not only requires the dexterity and proficiency of a skilled pianist, but also an emotional understanding of the passion behind the piece itself. This sonata was composed by Beethoven to reflect the pain he felt from his loss of hearing. Through utilizing a minor key to damper the mood, dramatic tremolos to build tension, and powerful German 6th chords to express his pain, Beethoven orchestrated an outstanding composition that successfully conveys his pain and sorrow to the audience.   

Through the use of a minor key, Beethoven develops the underlying mood of the sonata which he would build later upon through ornamental features and accessories. The solemn mood of the Pathetique Sonata is demonstrated through the use of C minor in the exposition, which is also the tonic key. The sonata commences with a forte C minor chord which immediately establishes atmosphere of the sonata. Within the first two bars of the introduction, Beethoven successfully conveys his pain and agony to the audience through the repetition of harsh and bitter chord. As Beethoven continues to develop his motives, the key transposes the E-flat major and a pleading melody is heard in the right hand. The key of E-flat major gives the sonata an innocent and pure sound. However, this innocent pleading is immediately followed by rejection as C minor chords return back in the bass clef. This pleading and rejection motive is repeated several times before the introduction concludes in a descending chromatic scale which conveys the hopelessness in Beethovenís heart.

The dramatic tension of the Pathetique Sonata is enhanced through the use of tremolos in the bass clef. Starting from theme one, the left hand plays an quick, alternating pattern from tonic to tonic. This tremolo has a major influence over the first theme. It builds the tension in the left hand as the right hand plays ascending chords up to the climax. As the right hand ascends toward the climax, the left hand ascends in unison as well. This creates an interesting harmony and it is enhanced by a grand crescendo that concludes of theme one. Theme two begins with a slightly more cheerful tone but the tremolo effect makes its reappearance in the bass clef again. However, this time, the use of tremolos is subtler and it only appears in short bursts. Through the use of tremolos in the bass clef, Beethoven builds up tension to express how he never felt at ease due to his loss of hearing.

Although it is often debated that Beethoven achieves the solemn mood of this sonata through the use of diminished chords, the true chord that expresses Beethovenís pain is the dramatic German 6th chord. Also known as an augmented 6th chord, the German 6th is often used by Beethoven and other German composers to enhance the power of their music. By using the German 6th chord in theme one of the exposition, Beethoven develops the foundation of his music which he will later build upon. Since the German 6th chord is always succeeded by the dominant, it provides a fulfilling conclusion to the phrases. This cadence is often compared to Beethovenís resolution of his pain and suffering. However, this ďresolutionĒ is false because the sonata continues to build the tension after the cadence. The alternation between the tremolos and German 6th chords conveys the perception of false reassurance that Beethoven sometimes feels during his depression. Therefore, Beethoven uses the German 6th chord to express the mood swings that he sometimes feels during his periods of anguish and sadness.

In conclusion, Beethoven successfully uses his innovative thinking and compositional skills to convey his emotions within the Pathetique Sonata. By employing a minor key, dramatic tremolos, and the German 6th chord, Beethoven manages to express his deepest fears and emotions to the rest of the world. It takes a lot of skill to compose a sonata, but to be able to convey emotion and passion within the sonata requires a deeper understanding of the music itself.

Offline beethovenfan01

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Re: The Pain of a Deaf Composer
Reply #1 on: June 12, 2017, 02:41:27 AM
The theory seems pretty accurate. However, I do disagree with a number of the assertions you made, as well as the strong language you used to describe Beethoven's emotions.

Is the Pathetique really one of the most challenging sonatas? Perhaps out of his first ten or so, yes. But if you look at the later ones (Tempest, Appassionata, Hammerklavier, Sonatas Opus 109, 110, and 111, to name a few) are deeper, more passionate, and even more difficult (not that the Pathetique isn't hard ...  ;)). So it might be overkill to call it one of the most difficult.

One thing that I think makes Beethoven uniquely difficult to interpret, though, is that his music is never based out of just one emotion or one situation. Yes, I think the Pathetique is largely affected by his fear of hearing loss. I think you do a great job explaining how the opening sets the mood for the rest of the piece, and especially how his use of the German sixths provides false, temporary resolutions, thank you!

Here's how I think of the Pathetique (be warned, this is my own opinion!): At this time in his life, he is just starting to experience hearing loss. His fear is very well communicated in the first movement, which, to date, may have been one of the most passionate pieces of music ever written. It was revolutionary in its scope and intensity. However, you also need to consider the entire sonata: The second movement is also full of pain, but this pain is far deeper, though also less visible. His music he still has, but his love he has lost. Some people try to separate Beethoven's romances from his music, but I think that is a great mistake. The second movement of the Pathetique is a love song, but one of unrequited love, a premonition of the passionate nocturnes of Chopin. The third movement is bittersweet humor, biting sarcasm--masked rage, even. Full of twists and outbursts, I think it's full of a resolution to keep going, to forge ahead into the unknown, even with everything else he's gone through. Overall, I believe the Pathetique sonata, as a whole, is Beethoven taking stock of his life, and becoming "a philosopher at the age of 28."

This is my own opinion--if you feel differently, by all means feel that way. I do agree that his deafness was encroaching, but at this time in his life, it was still only very slight, more a hint of what was to come that what already had happened. The strong adjectives you used (innocent pleading, hopelessness in Beethoven's heart, anguish, sadness, etc., etc.) may well apply to the Pathetique sonata, but not to as great an extant as you seem to be using them--if you were to apply these to the Appassionata, perhaps it would be more believable.

Is this helpful? BTW, it's written like an essay for a music class. If it is, good luck!
Practicing:
Bach Chromatic Fantasie and Fugue
Beethoven Sonata Op. 10 No. 1
Shostakovich Preludes Op. 34
Scriabin Etude Op. 2 No. 1
Liszt Fantasie and Fugue on BACH

Offline kellyzoo

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Re: The Pain of a Deaf Composer
Reply #2 on: June 12, 2017, 03:10:43 AM
The theory seems pretty accurate. However, I do disagree with a number of the assertions you made, as well as the strong language you used to describe Beethoven's emotions.

Is the Pathetique really one of the most challenging sonatas? Perhaps out of his first ten or so, yes. But if you look at the later ones (Tempest, Appassionata, Hammerklavier, Sonatas Opus 109, 110, and 111, to name a few) are deeper, more passionate, and even more difficult (not that the Pathetique isn't hard ...  ;)). So it might be overkill to call it one of the most difficult.

One thing that I think makes Beethoven uniquely difficult to interpret, though, is that his music is never based out of just one emotion or one situation. Yes, I think the Pathetique is largely affected by his fear of hearing loss. I think you do a great job explaining how the opening sets the mood for the rest of the piece, and especially how his use of the German sixths provides false, temporary resolutions, thank you!

Here's how I think of the Pathetique (be warned, this is my own opinion!): At this time in his life, he is just starting to experience hearing loss. His fear is very well communicated in the first movement, which, to date, may have been one of the most passionate pieces of music ever written. It was revolutionary in its scope and intensity. However, you also need to consider the entire sonata: The second movement is also full of pain, but this pain is far deeper, though also less visible. His music he still has, but his love he has lost. Some people try to separate Beethoven's romances from his music, but I think that is a great mistake. The second movement of the Pathetique is a love song, but one of unrequited love, a premonition of the passionate nocturnes of Chopin. The third movement is bittersweet humor, biting sarcasm--masked rage, even. Full of twists and outbursts, I think it's full of a resolution to keep going, to forge ahead into the unknown, even with everything else he's gone through. Overall, I believe the Pathetique sonata, as a whole, is Beethoven taking stock of his life, and becoming "a philosopher at the age of 28."

This is my own opinion--if you feel differently, by all means feel that way. I do agree that his deafness was encroaching, but at this time in his life, it was still only very slight, more a hint of what was to come that what already had happened. The strong adjectives you used (innocent pleading, hopelessness in Beethoven's heart, anguish, sadness, etc., etc.) may well apply to the Pathetique sonata, but not to as great an extant as you seem to be using them--if you were to apply these to the Appassionata, perhaps it would be more believable.

Is this helpful? BTW, it's written like an essay for a music class. If it is, good luck!

Thanks so much for the feedback! I really appreciate your opinions. I can definitely see how I might've exaggerated certain elements in my analysis. I'll try to tweak some of those adjectives to make them more appropriate. And yes, this is for a class project. ;)

Offline mikebat321

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Re: The Pain of a Deaf Composer
Reply #3 on: June 12, 2017, 10:32:25 PM
On the topic of Beethoven's deafness, if you havent already read this its a heartbreaking read. For me he's arguably THE greatest hero who ever lived. Hands down.

https://www.lvbeethoven.com/Bio/BiographyDeafness.html

 
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