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Customer Discussions > Classical Music forum

Great Beethoven Tunes


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Showing 1-25 of 60 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 12, 2012 1:31:10 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:55 AM PST]

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 1:53:01 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 12, 2012 2:12:38 PM PST
KenOC says:
So the big question is: Was Ludwig really deaf, like they say, or was he just tune-deaf???

Seriously, Beethoven went through a kind of "melody phase" after the Eroica in 1805-6. There are some real good tunes, not just "motifs." Listen to the Violin Concerto, 1st movement's second theme. Same for the Piano the Concerto #4, and also the 2nd main theme from the last movement (appears about a minute in). Schubert would have been proud of this one!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 12, 2012 2:11:28 PM PST
DavidRFoss says:
The finale of the Pastoral has a great theme
The famous Pathethique adagio has a great theme
The Waldstein rondo is a very nice.

In the other thread, I was thinking there were a lot if you dug deeper into his oeuvre. I'm listening to the slow movement of the Op. 10/1 sonata in C minor right now and its quite lyrical. That's not the work of a guy who couldn't write a tune.

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 2:19:33 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:55 AM PST]

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 2:20:27 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:55 AM PST]

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 2:34:59 PM PST
Dammit Tees - Bub the Zombie from Day of the Dead
even zombies like "Ode to Joy"
This t-shirt is a still from the film 'day of the dead" where Bub the zombie is listening to that section of the ninth...
(if my t-shirts didn't get us into too much trouble)

actually, more will come from me no doubt. But I wanted to be the first to snag this one.

the biggest beethoven 'ear worm' has always been the rondo theme from the third movement of the Violin concerto....

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 4:57:41 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 12, 2012 5:10:56 PM PST
scarecrow says:
Sorry I don't see it, He loath the fact that "melody" for some is everything and nothing more, He said Rossini's melodies come from a place much lower than his heart, keep going down!!, well He liked to eat. . . But a little lower please. . . .

Beethoven's genius was that he exploited all the parameters of music being the first modernist---all to great effect-- harmony,rhythm, register of instruments and or motifs, lines, (as Diabelli Variations,not his melody),texture, density,(Hammerklavier) registral power,(Ninth Symphony, Fifth Piano Concerto);stasis of harmony as the Sixth Symphony, where there is not much harmonic movement. . .representing the open-ness of nature,freedom. . or the Seventh Symphony, the A-minor movement. .

With the Symphonies He was more concerned with how time compresses, contracts and expands, the ''Scherzi'' being a contraction and an expansion of time, well in relation to the other movements. . .
then you have effectsfor effects---, like the opening of the Waldstein Sonata,(or Pathetique); just chords, or Appassionata Sonata, (the power of the melody there (in his hands) is merely a broken chord, broken chord(s); where is the melodic design?the craft the beauty?, the sophistication? He was refined,elegant on another level. . .
melody for him was ::tool:: in the box, not THE "tool", same with any composer. . .

Leonard Meyer said someplace in one of his books, that you cannot be good at all the parameters of music, You gotta pay a price, and you can't emphasize all the parameters of music simultaneously; ; ; ; sorry music is "hardwired" that way. . .

So the most beautiful melody he wrote, was the A-Flat one,(middle movement) in the "Pathetique Sonata", and that is dependent on the harmonic progression. . .

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 5:06:31 PM PST
Dichterliebe says:
That's in 'Music, the Arts, and Ideas'. Good book.

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 8:18:08 PM PST
HB says:
The slow movement of the Violin Sonata No. 2 is really wonderful. Another great tune comes from the finale (2nd movement) of the Piano Sonata No. 27. The "Harp" String Quartet has a really great opening theme.

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 8:36:24 PM PST
I'd say that An die ferne Geliebte is a very successful song-cycle tune-wise.

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 8:46:40 PM PST
MF says:
I confess to struggling in this context to distinguish 'tune' from 'non-tune', but I was just listening to the third movement of Beethoven's 5th symphony and thought it a great 'tune'.

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 9:05:31 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 12, 2012 9:20:16 PM PST
WH says:
I have this overall sense of Beethoven's tunefulness. But as I have been wandering around his works over the last hour, I have tried to pinpoint where that intuitive feeling about his work comes from. First, it seems to me that Beethoven's melodies are not, for the most part, a singer's melodies (one exception noted above: "Ode to Joy"). In the main, his melodic sensibility is deeply shaped by his preferred instrument: The piano. His melodies are not readily singable, but they are often catchy. Many have intervals that are natural to the piano, not the voice. A few that I noted:
Piano Sonata #8 ("Pathetique"), movement #2 ("Adagio cantabile")
Piano Sonata #14 ("Moonlight"), movement #1 ("Adagio sostenuto")
Piano Sonata #21 ("Waldstein"), movement #3 ("Rondo").
Piano Sonata #15 ("Pastorale"), movement #1 ("Allegro")
Piano Sonata #26 ("Les Adieux"), movement #1 at the 1:45 mark.

His melodies are also deeply shaped by the medium he's working in. His symphonic melodicism differs from his pianistic melodicism. As I listened to Symphony #1, fourth movement ("Finale"), it's catchy once it comes in (around the 0:20 mark), but one is hard pressed to sing along with it. I can't recreate with my voice what the strings are doing. The melodic play, say at around the 3:30 mark, is deeply tuneful, but the way he shares the melodic material with different parts of the orchestra makes it very hard to vocalize.

Certain of his string quartets have certain singable melodies, most notably: String Quartet #15, movement #5 ("Allegro appassionato"). But for me, Beethoven's genius is melodic invention, to hear unexpected possibilities. He was certainly a master of what the Baroque theorists called "the art of division." But it was much richer than that. He shape-shifts on a dime, hears melodic potential that seems to come out of nowhere.

I'm not saying this very well. I guess that I'm trying to name what I hear in the horizontal dimension of his writing. I'm sure that if I dug up some good musicological analyses, I could say this with better precision. I simply am continually astounded by Beethoven's inventiveness not only harmonically (the vertical dimension), but horizontally, moving bar to bar--the melodic inventiveness. It's the element of surprise that pervades his work, the unexpected shifts from one melody to another in a way that lets you savor both the continuity and the unexpected possibility of something very different. I'm listening to the Presto of the "Moonlight" Sonata, and such unexpectedly shifts pervade the work.

Where's a musicologist when we need one?

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 9:56:31 PM PST
Dichterliebe says:
WH,

I think you're expressing yourself very well and I completely agree. I think what I find most fascinating about Beethoven's tunesmithing is his sense of direction. A melody's rhythm, shape (including range and domain), harmonic underpinning, tempo, connective material, the choice of the starting and ending notes, register (Symphony no. 7, first movement), telescoping (right down to the foreshadowing of future development), and on and on -- all of this has such a sense of propulsion, even in his slowest movements. Perhaps what we describe as 'catchy' might also be described as an ability to write something that both intrigues and satisfies the ear, i.e. goes in a particular direction that our minds resolve, to be satisfied either with what we expected or delighted (and satisfied) with what is unexpected. I believe this is in keeping with what you mean re. Beethoven's horizontal dimension and it is what I mean when I use the expression 'lyric energy'. Yet another aspect of Beethoven's melodic genius is his ability to continue a theme by evading or frustrating what would be a more typical or normal conclusion. One might think he would require long melodies for this technique to work but in Beethoven's case, he did the exact opposite by reducing his melodic material to mere scraps or motifs and using them in combinations such as repetition, intensifying their power of harmonic and rhythmic direction.

I also agree with your point that Beethoven's melodies generally tend to have an instrumental rather than a vocal nature (vocal in the sense of pure vocalism or the ability to be sung; I don't mean the type of lyrical melody that is of a generally 'singing' quality such as a piano 'sings a tune'). Some of Beethoven's most memorable music is in this lyrical, singing vein such as the Sonata op. 14 no. 2, first movement; I don't even think Mozart wrote a sonata with such melodic intensity and with such a continual outpouring of beautiful themes, one after the next.

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 4:40:35 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:56 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2012 7:19:22 AM PST
scarecrow says:
great music we can all agree has always been an integration of all the parameters, the elements, not only melody, melody is really the surface, the first thing we notice, which is why it is most important; but not always;

Again Leonard Meyer has brilliant essays on what makes a ""good"" effective melody,i.e. rise n'fall, length, balance, climax, beginning middle and end. . .
and Beethoven really is never a good example of any of this, better to go to Mozart, Bach, or Schubert. . .

Robert Schumann was really a horrible melodist; his melos are basically broken chords, but then my argument is Schumann inherited the Beethoven paradox, paradigm, whatever it is called-technique where everything is important.
I think Brahms is a stronger argument where melodic shape, the power of the line is what really carries the music., ,nothing can stand alone in Brahms except melody--- not the independence of rhythm or harmonic progression;think of the Fourth Symphony, or any of the piano solo music, the Rhapsodies;many times in Brahms the harmonic progression is a sequence; always predictable really, yet effective. but again this is only true in isolated cases, and development of the ideas was most important to Brahms, where they go, was more important than their beauty of melodic shape. . .
His Waltzes for example are horrible, very "factory-like",plain, unadorned, peasnat-like; compared to say Chopin, or R.Strauss----

Brahms by the way knew Johann Strauss quite well, as friends. . .nothing rubbed off for Waltzes at least. . .

there are certainly countless ''good'' melodies in Stravinsky, like the "Rite of Spring"(mostly borrowed) but if you stop there at the exquisite melos, their shapes and design you miss the substance of the music itself. / / / rhythm, harmony,orchestration, the timbre of what is written; is a focus, harmpony sometimes is important but isolated, like the beginning of Part 2,"Rite of Spring" where d-minor and e-flat minor are combined misterioso.

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 7:32:15 AM PST
Dichterliebe says:
For the record and since this keeps coming up as an issue, here's what Mahlerian most recently wrote:

"My contention has nothing to do with Beethoven's ability. Why do you keep repeating that?

Look. Some people are inclined towards melody writing and building works out of melodies. Beethoven was not. Beethoven was inclined towards building works out of motifs, and he had a harder time writing a melody. He could do it with some effort, of course, but it did not come naturally to him as it did to others, hence "not a natural melodist". I don't see how you can keep misinterpreting this."

1. When Mahlerian asserts that Beethoven "...had a harder time writing a melody. He could do it with some effort, of course, but it did not come naturally to him as it did to others...", he's implying that Beethoven had difficulty with melodic writing, that he was not a natural melodist as were other composers. This refers to Beethoven's *ability* as a melodist. How could it mean otherwise? And so I find Mahlerian's statement contradictory when he claims that "My [Mahlerian's] contention has nothing to do with ability."

2. Motifs, as I use the term, are melodies, melodies reduced to small units but still melodies or melodic material. Take for example the opening measures of Beethoven's Symphony no. 3 after the two huge chords. The following cello theme outlines the E-flat triad in the second inversion. This is a melody that is motivic, a motif. Is it accompaniment? Nope. Is it counterpoint? Nope. (Although Beethoven certainly uses this tune for both purposes later in the movement.) Is it a random collection of notes? Hardly. It is the melodic unit that generates so much of what follows. It is *melody*. Mahlerian is using the terms 'melody' and 'motif' differently, attempting to draw distinctions between them when in fact they serve the same function and are the same thing, certainly in Beethoven's case.

3. I was not present during Beethoven's life and so I cannot presume to know for certain what Beethoven 'had a harder time with'. The best information we have is in his music and his sketchbooks which give us a window into his compositional process. He sketched voluminously. He sketched motifs, tunes, melodies over and over, getting them just right. He also sketched developments, counterpoint (fugues in particular), orchestration, and all else. Does this mean he 'had a harder time with melody'? Well, there are many works of Beethoven for which we don't have many sketches (not that he didn't sketch but if he did, they haven't come down to us). I conclude that determining whether Beethoven was a gifted melodist is best decided by listening to and studying the music itself and I've concluded that Beethoven was a veritable fountain of great melodic invention, a spinner of tunes -- one of the very greatest tunesmiths of all time. We have barely scratched the surface of just how many great melodies he wrote.

4. There are many different types of melodies. a) motifs or short, motivic units of melodic material (although I believe that 'motif' is used to describe just about any melody, particularly in languages other than English -- I've seen the term used to describe Bruckner's tunes and melodic periods and areas); b) lyrical, linear melodies implying the human voice or a similar instrument; c) folk-like melodies implying geography and/or culture; d) the color-melody; e) a more mathematically inclined or generated melody such as a seemingly random series of notes that in fact may strictly adhere to a tone row; f) aleatoric technique; and on and on. Most of the composers we discuss write melodies of the first three types and Beethoven is no exception.

Much Beethoven scholarship that I've read concentrates on Beethoven's motivic development, i.e. his ability to take a small melody such as the 'Eroica' example and build upon it. While his ability to do so is remarkable, I also think he was a genius at writing an extremely effective melody of the second type I mention above. I cannot say that Beethoven's talent for lyricism was without 'effort' (to use Mahlerian's measurement) because again, I wasn't there when he wrote his music; his sketchbook indicates that Beethoven put effort into just about every type and aspect of music he wrote (including melody). And so I think presuming to make generalizations about what a genius found difficult isn't particularly useful when his music gives every evidence of the opposite. Why do I say so? Would Beethoven's music be as revered as it is were he not a truly great melodist? Does the last movement of op. 7 or the first movement of op. 78 or the entire op. 96 strike anyone as the work of someone who 'had a harder time with melody'? Do the effectiveness and 'catchiness' of the motivic melodies such as those that open his Symphonies 3 and 5 strike anyone as someone who 'had a harder time with melody'? Does any of this sound 'unnatural' or the product of 'not a natural melodist', as Mahlerian contends? Was Beethoven not "...inclined toward melody writing..." as Mahlerian asserts?

Had Mahlerian written "Beethoven had a knack for inventing small melodic segments (motifs) and building larger works from them", I would absolutely agree with him. But he didn't stop there. He attempted to use 'motif' and 'melody' as if they are two separate, different entities, insisting that 'melody' refers to the lyrical, linear type I mentioned above and that 'motif' is something very different. Furthermore, he went on to assert that Beethoven found writing melodies 'harder', that it took him effort, and that he wasn't a 'natural melodist'. I disagree strongly with this characterization simply because the music, to me, says otherwise. No one who writes so many great tunes could be anything other than a natural melodist. His melodies are dynamic, tend to be instrumental in nature rather than vocal but as I stated above, 'melody' is a very broad topic and encompasses many kinds of writing.

I for one think it's healthy to discuss these aspects of music and to define and refine what we mean. Discussion is good. I hope Mahlerian will reappear and correct any misunderstandings on my part. And as I stated in the other thread, it's fine to disagree. I apologize in advance for any misstatements or anything I might have to correct later -- I've only finished one cup of coffee and have a busy day ahead!

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 8:07:43 AM PST
DavidRFoss says:
One of Mozart's most memorable hooks is:
C EG E GC' G C'E' C'

and the earworm melody that precedes that hook is just:
G.GE G.GE G.GF D F.FD F.FD F.FE C

Nothing says you can't make a great tune from just a broken chord.

I know Beethoven exceled at making great and memorable movements like Symphony 5:i and 9:ii which one can "sing" along to but really aren't great tunes. And I know if even he did get a great tune, that it might be fairly chord-y and he wouldn't be afraid to develop the snot out of it.

What I was asking for in the other thread was a list of examples from some of the less famous pieces. I have complete cycles for the sonatas and quartets but I don't know then backwards and forwards like I know his symphonies. He's the "great adagio composer" and that label doesn't come only from development short motifs does it?

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 8:16:36 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 13, 2012 8:48:14 AM PST
WH says:
[EDIT: What follows was written after March's post. The three posts in-between (Scarecrow's, Dichterliebe's and David's) were posted while I was trying to write. So I didn't have Mahlerian's exact comments when I wrote the following]:

Dichterliebe, Thanks for your account. You put your finger on it, I believe--what you call "lyric energy." In most music, the forward energy comes from harmony (thus the term "harmonic progression"). But with Beethoven, the drive, while harmonically rooted, comes from the art of variation, that restless unexpectedness. Part of the genius is, as you note, is what you called "telescoping". For a lot of composers, connective material is just that, connective, but for Beethoven, it is the ever-shifting seedbed for future melody. The result is that everything is fair game for moving forward, everything matters. I should note that part of my background is in jazz. And in jazz, improvisation is of the essence. And in jazz, all preceding material, even "mistakes," become fodder or springboards for the direction of one's ongoing soloing. I hear that all over the place in Beethoven. Unlikely passing material becomes the unexpected grounding for future melody. That's why his melodicism catches us off-guard, emerging in odd places, songs when we don't expect them. I suspect that the surprise element of Beethoven lay in his own improvisational abilities as a pianist. I've never read any book-length biography, but have run across comments in various venues that Beethoven was a brilliant improviser. Example: Listen to the all the sudden turns beginning around the 14:00 minute mark in the opening movement of Piano Concerto #5 that open into the grand closing melody that the orchestra announces and that leads to the climax of the movement. The grand lyricism of the climax comes out the muted lyricism of those inchoate threads interweaving earlier so that the grand orchestral statement has an 'ah-hah' feel and provokes a sense of melodic grandeur in its march-like contrast.

I was not part of the earlier discussion, but I gather Mahlerian used the traditional concept of "motive" (or "motif"), as opposed to the concept of "melody"--that "melodies" are made up of a sequence of "motives". I presume that he argued that Beethoven is more motivic in his compositional architecture. That's often true. But there is something else at work. As a wind player, I am used to a certain single-line melodicism, something akin to what vocalists deal with. And that's not Beethoven. Nor is it the sort of contrapuntal patterns one finds in Bach and baroque composers. It is tied, I believe, to the inherent resources of the piano.

Enough for now. Got to go to work. I also need to do a little homework on this.

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 8:55:32 AM PST
HB says:
"I know Beethoven exceled at making great and memorable movements like Symphony 5:i and 9:ii which one can "sing" along to but really aren't great tunes"

David,

Do you think that is the reason why Beethoven only composed on opera compared to Mozart's dozen or so?

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 9:06:24 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 13, 2012 9:09:42 AM PST
Mahlerian says:
"Motifs, as I use the term, are melodies, melodies reduced to small units but still melodies or melodic material."

No they aren't. They are motifs, and your further discussion just conflates the two again. An arpeggiated E-flat triad, could, perhaps, be the beginning of a melody, but Beethoven pointedly interrupts whatever melodic flow was generated by his opening by going down to the flattened seventh. It's part of the dramatic thrust of the piece. But that doesn't make it a melody. A melody is a complete unit by itself. A motif can be more or less melodic, in conforming to our expectations, and you can form a melody from motifs, but it is not, itself, a melody. And if you want to use a melody motivically, you have to break it up. It's extremely difficult to develop a melody, which is why Tchaikovsky had problems with symphonic writing (his more successful and popular symphonies generally don't try to develop their melodies, like the first movement of the sixth, in which the "big melody" in the second theme is completely absent during the development).

"This is a melody that is motivic, a motif. Is it accompaniment? Nope. Is it counterpoint? Nope. (Although Beethoven certainly uses this tune for both purposes later in the movement.) Is it a random collection of notes? Hardly."

You imply that musical material has to be one of these things. Something can be a motif without being a melody. You can create a melody that is a random collection of notes (although it wouldn't be very interesting, most likely).

You have yourself acknowledged that we're working from two different conceptions of melody here. Of course I agree that "Beethoven had a knack for inventing small motifs and building larger works from them". He was amazing at it, and he could take material that never added up to any kind of melody, string whole bunches of it together, and create a dynamic flow of music, as in the first movement of the 5th symphony. The lyrical second idea would never stand on its own. Contrasted with the harsh dotted rhythms and descending thirds of the first, it makes for beautiful contrast, though, and something that did stand on its own would take too much of the spotlight away from the first theme that dominates the entire movement. Think of the second theme from Tchaikovsky's Pathetique. It makes most listeners forget the turbulent B minor theme that precedes it (until the launch into the development), and steals the show, so to speak. The second theme in Beethoven's 5th is not there to draw attention to itself in that way, but to keep the dramatic flow of the symphony moving, and it does that wonderfully. But it could never, in any work, be that kind of "big tune".

"Would Beethoven's music be as revered as it is were he not a truly great melodist?"

This is the wrong question to ask. Obviously Beethoven's music is revered, not least by myself. Therefore I, at least, think that being "a great melodist" is not a necessary condition for being a truly great composer.

"a more mathematically inclined or generated melody such as a seemingly random series of notes that in fact may strictly adhere to a tone row"

Can you stop it with these weird attacks against 12-tone writing? It doesn't seem random at all. Schoenberg is no more random than Beethoven, and their styles have a good deal in common. It's also no more or less inherently mathematical than any other type of music. If you dislike it, that's fine, that's your own opinion. If you hate it with all your being and want to tell others so, that's fine, that's your own opinion. If you try to imply that it is random, or necessarily seems random, then you are factually incorrect.

"He's the "great adagio composer" and that label doesn't come only from development short motifs does it?"

Look at the adagio of the 9th, for an example. It has a wonderful sweep, and the melody he uses is part of that, but it's more because of the dramatic force of its shifting over time. Look how easily he modifies or discards the melody later on.

"But there is something else at work. As a wind player, I am used to a certain single-line melodicism, something akin to what vocalists deal with. And that's not Beethoven. Nor is it the sort of contrapuntal patterns one finds in Bach and baroque composers. It is tied, I believe, to the inherent resources of the piano."

That would be an interesting topic to look into further. Whatever it is, it's what makes Beethoven resonate with so many people.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2012 9:56:55 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 13, 2012 9:57:22 AM PST
DavidRFoss says:
HB says:
David,
Do you think that is the reason why Beethoven only composed on opera compared to Mozart's dozen or so?
-----------------
No. There's something about writing full operas that is different from stringing together the individual numbers. Schubert wasn't known for his stage works (I was surprised to find that he even had any when I just googled him, these works are mostly forgotten). Britten wasn't the melodist that some of his Russian contemporaries were but he's quite well known for his operas.

My point wasn't that Beethoven wasn't a melody-driven composer. My point was that you could probably find a couple of dozen legitimately good melodies scattered throughout his oeuvre. But there's little room for nuance in these discussions sometimes. :-) If the program notes say his wheelhouse was duh-duh-duh-DUH, than that makes for a fun stereotype.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2012 10:11:03 AM PST
Mahlerian says:
"Schubert wasn't known for his stage works (I was surprised to find that he even had any when I just googled him, these works are mostly forgotten)."

But he is known for his songs, unlike Beethoven.

"Britten wasn't the melodist that some of his Russian contemporaries were but he's quite well known for his operas."

His music is quite lyrical, though, and again, he made his name with song and operatic writing.

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 10:22:23 AM PST
Dichterliebe says:
Mahlerian,

"No they aren't."

'Motif' refers to a melodic idea, a type of melody. That's how I'm using the term (because that's what I'm discussing). In the Eroica's opening, the cello theme is clearly the melody with the other strings as accompaniment, i.e. melody and accompaniment. And once again, 'motif' can refer to melodies of all shapes and sizes, from fragments to long periods. I don't understand how someone can hear the Erioca's cello theme and state that it isn't, categorically, the melody. It is. It is motivic in nature but that describes its character, not redefines it as some other animal.

"You imply that musical material has to be one of these things. Something can be a motif without being a melody."

Sorry if I implied that but I was merely listing a few examples of what you (or someone else) might think it is. I didn't intend that those were the only choices. Yes, a motif can be a rhythmic motif, for example, but we're discussing melody and so I thought that might be understood in the context of this discussion. I've never stated that a motif cannot be used for other purposes (such as the counterpoint or accompaniment in Beethoven's 3rd as I mentioned in my prior comment) but that in the context of melody, a motif is a type of melodic writing, a melody or melodic unit. There are many examples of melodies that according to your definition are motifs.

"This is the wrong question to ask. Obviously Beethoven's music is revered, not least by myself. Therefore I, at least, think that being "a great melodist" is not a necessary condition for being a truly great composer."

Since we're discussing Beethoven and not any composer or 'a composer', what I mean is that had Beethoven's melodic abilities been significantly less distinguished or distinctive, the results of his music would be different and, I believe, we would not regard him as highly. It's a contention that I don't spend much time on (because he *was* a melodic genius in my estimation and we thankfully don't have to consider it) but when faced with questions as to Beethoven's difficulty in writing tunes, it's something to consider. He was rather good at it.

"Can you stop it with these weird attacks against 12-tone writing? It doesn't seem random at all."

Perhaps you're mistaking me for some other participant but I haven't attacked 12-tone technique in the past and I'm not doing so now. Instead of writing "... such as a seemingly random series of notes that in fact may strictly adhere to a tone row" might be more clear to you had I written "...what may sound to some listeners as a seemingly random series of notes might in fact and upon closer examination reveal strict adherence to a tone row". Is that more clear and less of an attack? I certainly meant no harm nor do I think my statement is at all weird. I did, after all, use the word 'seemingly' and to some listeners of 12-tone, such music does seem random. You need not fear: I was required to write rows in theory classes; I respect the technique even if I don't often listen to music written with it. Don't be so defensive, please.

And I still disagree with you as to the whole difficulty issue as it pertains to Beethoven and your contradiction that you are implying something about his natural ability as a composer to write melodic material while claiming you're not. In my opinion, his music simply doesn't support such an assertion.

Some myths die hard deaths and music has its share. One of them is that Mozart dreamed up all his music in his head and then simply wrote it down in full score in a single sitting. I think perhaps some of what we're discussing might be related to myths about Beethoven. Similar to what I wrote above, Beethoven's beautiful lyricism, his ability to write a gracious theme is rivaled by few composers. Did melodic material cost Beethoven effort? It certainly did. So did most things musical. It turns out that Mozart's sketchbook reveals that he spent much more time working out his themes, forms, and development than many had thought in the past, that the idea of perfect music pouring out of him is a myth.

Anyway, thanks for responding. I apologize if my disagreeing with you hurt your feelings. That was not my intention.

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 10:41:38 AM PST
Dichterliebe says:
Schubert's operas aren't well-known not for reasons having to do with musical worth (or his ability to write for the voice!) but mainly because their libretti are terrible, their stories unbelievable, difficult to stage, etc. The same thing is true for Weber's final two operas: the musical writing is masterful but as dramas, they are complete failures. The incidental music and the choral and solo music I've heard of Schubert's operas is wonderful. Perhaps this is a myth re. Schubert or at least we could suspend our disbelief long enough to enjoy some magnificent music were his stage works taken seriously enough to produce.

I also think that opera-writing takes an understanding of timing and pace. Perhaps Beethoven found it difficult to submit his musical ideas to the meter of the text or the requirements of certain scenes, stage direction, etc. I believe it was Beethoven who complained that Rossini takes as many weeks as a German takes years to write an opera. For Rossini, the balance of action and music was different than for Beethoven and he had little trouble setting any situation to music. Also, Beethoven didn't grow up around the theater -- but Schubert did.

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 10:45:37 AM PST
KenOC says:
Beethoven wrote some excellent "melodies," but in general he tended to avoid them. Because he couldn't write them? Who knows. But in fact he could and did write *exactly* the melodies, or motifs, or whatever, that he needed for his purposes.

A true "melody" often doesn't lend itself to development, which was of course one of Beethoven's strengths. Just listen to that great melody Schubert uses as the subsidiary theme in the 1st movement of his Quintet. Wonderful tune, no doubt, but he can't do a lot with it except change keys, score it differently, maybe fiddle with the harmonies. But basically all he can do is repeat it, again and again. And again in the expo repeat. And again in the recap... Sorry, Franz, buy hey, it's a wizard tune!
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
Participants:  17
Total posts:  60
Initial post:  Dec 12, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 14, 2012

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