The Third Symphony’s Finale: Creativity, and Heroic Humor Notes by Fred Haight
In two recent episodes of Daily Doses of Beethoven, we examined the monumental first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”, which addresses the idea of a hero—a world-historic figure. We also heard his epic second movement, a Funeral March, expressing the loss felt at the demise of such a Heroic. How did Beethoven combine such seemingly irreconcilable opposites, to bring about a satisfactory conclusion to his “Eroica” symphony?
Today we present the amazing fourth movement. The great French poet, Francois Rabelais, expressed it best when he said “laughter is appropriate to man”. Heroism always involves creativity, and thus laughter and joy!
After a brief fanfare, we hear a simple, yet playful theme, in 2/4 time, played pizzicato, with long rests between the notes.
At first hearing, the audience must have been asking themselves if Beethoven was being serious. Such a trivial theme to end such a titanic work? The theme however, came from the Finale of Beethoven’s only ballet, “The Creatures of Prometheus”. In ancient Greek drama, Prometheus was a God, a Titan, who defied the head God, Zeus, by giving the gifts of fire—the gift of knowledge of science and art to man. Beethoven would never have treated such a concept in a trivial manner. He lived for it.
Sometimes though, Beethoven would put a theme forward as an hypothesis. The proof of that hypothesis lie not in itself, but in its contrapuntal development. He developed this theme in three different works, The Finale of “The Creatures of Prometheus”, his Variations and Fugue for Piano in E♭ major, Op. 35—so called the “Eroica Variations”, and this symphony. It starts out simple, but grows.
However, if you compare the opening of the symphonic movement to the Finale of the ballet, you might be hard pressed to find the resemblance. That’s because Beethoven does not quote the main theme, but the underlying, and scarcely heard bass line—the foundation—as his source.
This symphonic movement is a “Theme and Variations”. We have heard two such movements in this series, the “Variations on God Save the King” on April 7th, and the slow movement of his Piano Trio in C Minor, Op. 1 No. 3, on March 31st (look back on those posts to see where we gave the times of each variation.)
If you wish to hear Beethoven’s tremendous progress over a few short years, simply make the comparison. The earlier works are inventive, but relatively linear by comparison. The Finale of the Third Symphony is easy to follow as a set of variations for a short time (though the melody as presented in earlier versions does not enter until 2:12). At 3:09 it suddenly becomes a fugue! Try following in a linear way now!
From here on, Beethoven overturns the form, while remaining true to it. Reason, not form, must lead, if you desire to follow him. Reason alone, will allow you to understand what he is doing.
We have omitted discussing the short third movement of this great work. We leave it to your genius, to figure our where it fits.
The Funeral March of the Third Symphony “Eroica” Notes by Fred Haight
Previously, we presented the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “The Eroica” (Heroic). Today, we present the second movement, “The Funeral March”. What does a funeral march have to do with the joyous celebration of creativity and courage that we heard in the first movement?
One might see the introduction of a funeral march as “killing the Vibe,” and might see the sudden switch back to joy in the third movement, as undermining the seriousness of the second movement.
We again turn to Friedrich Schiller for guidance. In his “Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man”, Schiller wrote that the purpose of art is to educate our emotions so that we are able to pass from joy to sorrow, and back to joy, without losing a beat, because our intellects and emotions becomes developed in such ways that they are integrated. We remain the same person in both joy and sorrow; because we have thought through these matters and developed an inner strength, depth, and sense of self, that “looks on tempests, and is never shaken.”
Beethoven’s deep grief in this movement, mirrors his profound joy in the first. This movement invokes something greater than personal loss: Perhaps the grieving of an entire society over the loss of a universal leader; the changing of the course of history itself when no-one arises to fill their shoes. The cases of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Indira Gandhi, Socrates, and Beethoven himself, are but a few that come to mind.
At 5:00, the performance invokes a happy memory of that unique individual’s life, and of what they gave to humanity that lives on after them. At 8:12, we hear a fugal section that summons the crisis posed for the whole of society by the hole left, from the death of an unique person. That hole can come, not just at the moment of death, but at the moment of sell-out, like Napoleon.
There is a lot of life in this Funeral March. Rather than going on, we invite you share your own personal relation with Beethoven, and tell us what you hear.
Beethoven and the Heroic Part 4: The Egmont Overture Notes by Fred Haight
Part 4: The Egmont Overture
The cause of human liberty and freedom led political discussion around the late 18th-early 19th century, and the poets Goethe and Schiller collaborated to tell the story of Switzerland’s fight for freedom. In his play Wilhelm Tell, Schiller updated the “Rutli Oath” (taken in the year 1291), in a manner that echoed the U.S. Declaration of Independence, written almost 500 years later:
“No, there is a limit to the tyrant’s power, when the oppressed can find no justice, when the burden grows unbearable-he reaches with hopeful courage up unto the heavens and seizes hither his eternal rights, which hang above, inalienable and indestructible as the stars themselves.”
It is no accident that Schiller’s played was staged, with Goethe directing, in 1804, the same year as Napoleon crowned himself emperor.
Both men also wrote about the 16th century fight for the independence of the Netherlands from Spain: Schiller in his “Don Carlos” and “History of the Revolt of the Netherlands”; and Goethe, in his play “Egmont”.
If you wish to see the level of brutality presented by the Spanish Inquisition in the Netherlands, examine Pieter Breughel’s 1562 painting, “The Triumph of Death”. (Painting below).
Count Egmont was a Dutch nobleman who sided both with his people and King Phillip of Spain. His peer, the much wiser William the Silent, fled Brussels, and warned him of potential betrayal by Spain’s treacherous Duke of Alba. Egmont foolishly accepted a dinner invitation to discuss his grievances with Alba. He was arrested at that dinner, and soon executed, along with 1,000 others in 1568.
Though Alba was seeking to dominate through a reign of terror, it backfired on him. “Sometimes a long train of usurpations and abuses, leads people to think that they have no recourse, but to throw off such government.”
Though not immediate, the execution of Egmont contributed to a popular uprising. Beethoven’s “Egmont” Overture to Goethe’s play, condenses the long historical process into one optimistic moment of change. Listen to this recording, and you will hear the representation of the public executions, beginning at 6:42, with the execution of Egmont coming at 7:02. After a moment of quiet sorrow and reflection, something begins to swell up, out of the silence. Beethoven’s magnificent ending displays the spirit of the people, rising up against tyranny.
BEETHOVEN: CREATING THE FUTURE Notes by Margaret Scialdone
Legend has it that during a rehearsal of one of his quartets, a violinist complained that the music was incomprehensible – to which Beethoven replied, “Oh, it is not for you, but for a later age”.
The beautiful “Abendlied unterm gestirnten Himmel” (Evening Song under a Starry Sky), speaks of a soul yearning to break free of the limits of space and time. It’s beautifully sung by Peter Schreier, accompanied by András Schiff.
Wenn die Sonne niedersinket, Und der Tag zur Ruh sich neigt, Luna freundlich leise winket, Und die Nacht herniedersteigt;
Wenn die Sterne prächtig schimmern, Tausend Sonnenstrahlen flimmern: Fühlt die Seele sich so groß, Windet sich vom Staube los.
Schaut so gern nach jenen Sternen, Wie zurück ins Vaterland, Hin nach jenen lichten Fernen, Und vergißt der Erde Tand;
Will nur ringen, will nur streben, Ihre Hülle zu entschweben: Erde ist ihr eng und klein, Auf den Sternen möcht sie sein.
Ob der Erde Stürme toben, Falsches Glück den Bösen lohnt: Hoffend blicket sie nach oben, Wo der Sternenrichter thront.
Keine Furcht kann sie mehr quälen, Keine Macht kann ihr befehlen; Mit verklärtem Angesicht, Schwingt sie sich zum Himmelslicht.
Eine leise Ahnung schauert Mich aus jenen Welten an; Lange nicht mehr dauert Meine Erdenpilgerbahn,
Bald hab ich das Ziel errungen, Bald zu euch mich aufgeschwungen, Ernte bald an Gottes Thron Meiner Leiden schönen Lohn.
When the Sun sinks downward And the day inclines toward rest, Luna, friendly, gently beckons, And Night climbs downward.
When the stars shimmer magnificently, A thousand sunbeams flicker: Then the soul feels itself so great, Pulls itself upward, out of the dust.
It loves so much to look toward those stars, As if looking toward its homeland, Out toward those distant bright things, And forgets the world’s foibles;
It wants only to struggle, to strive, To rise up above its mortal shell: For it, the Earth is too confined, too small; On the stars is where it wants to be.
Though storms rage on Earth, False fortune rewarding evil, It reaches up, filled with hope, Where the starry judge has His throne.
No fear will then torment it, No power can then command it; Its visage transfigured, It swings itself up to the heavenly light.
A quiet premonition sends me shivers From those distant worlds; It won’t be long before My earthly pilgrimage comes to an end.
Soon I will have reached the goal, Soon swung myself up to you, And, on God’s throne, I’ll reap My sufferings’ beautiful reward.
Beethoven and the Heroic Part 3: Leonore’s Aria: A study in finding one’s courage. Notes by Fred Haight
An aria in opera, is like a soliloquy in a play. The actor shares his or her struggle with their innermost self, directly with you, the audience.
Leonore gains great courage in this aria. To comprehend that though, we must return to an earlier installment, where we quoted Schiller’s, “On the Pathetic”:
“It is not art, to become master of feelings, which only lightly and fleetingly sweep the surface of the soul; but to retain one’s mental freedom in a storm, which arouses all of sensuous nature, thereto belongs a capacity of resisting that is, above all natural power, infinitely sublime.”
If Leonore were not upset, something would be wrong. The warden of the prison, Pizarro, not knowing who she is, has just told her of his intention to murder her husband Florestan. She lacks any means to oppose him. In the first section of her Aria, she displays great anger and rage. There is no melody, and little rhythm. At 1:09 in this recording, the image of a rainbow begins to introduce a calming influence, and a degree of self control.
“You monster! Where will you go? What have you planned in cruel fury? The call of pity, the voice of mankind, Will nothing move your tiger’s wrath? Though ire and anger surge like ocean’s waves in your heart, A rainbow still shines on my path, Which brightly rests on somber clouds: It looks so calmly, peacefully at me, Of happier days reminding me And soothes thus my troubled heart.”
Upon contemplating the idea of a rainbow, she begins to regain her composure.
The second section of her aria, is a beautiful, slow song of hope, and inner peace, starting at 2:15
“Come hope, let not the last bright star Be obscured in my anguish! Light up my goal, however far, Through love I shall still reach it.”
In the third, fast section, starting at 5:11, she finds her resolve, and becomes determined to act, on behalf of not just her husband, but on behalf of justice!
“I follow my inner calling, I shall not waver I derive strength From faithfulness and love. Oh you, for whom I bore so much, If I could penetrate Where malice has imprisoned you And bring to you sweet comfort! I follow my inner calling, I shall not waver, I derive strength, From faithfulness and love.”
This is an amazing transformation, and gives us a comprehensible notion of finding one’s courage, rather than a static image of a fixed courage.
Beethoven lived in a time of great hope and optimism. The world was changing, and the future looked bright.
The poet Friedrich Schiller, expressed this in “The Artists”:
“How beautifully, O man, with your branch of palm, You stand on the century’s slope In proud and noble manliness, With open mind, with spirits high, Stern yet gentle, in active stillness, The ripest son of time.”
Schiller further said to his fellow artists that they must be leaders:
“The dignity of Man into your hands is given, Its proctector be! It sinks with you! With you it will be risen!”
It seems that Beethoven heeded Schiller’s words. In his admiration for the success of the American Revolution and the ideals of the French Revolution, Beethoven dedicated his 3rd symphony, “The Eroica” (Heroic), to Napoleon Bonaparte, at a time when it seemed he might actually liberate mankind. When Napoleon crowned himself Emperor in 1804, Beethoven ripped out the title and said ” Now, he too will trample on the rights of mankind.” He rededicated it to “The memory of a Great Man.”
You can hear that heroic and inspiring quality in the first movement: The crisis-ridden middle (development section) of the movement, was the longest ever written up to that point. In this recording, it lasts a full 6 minutes from 3:12 to 9:12. The Coda, or ending, is also magnificent. If the main theme, reminds us of a hero on horseback, the last minute and a half sounds more like Pegasus, the horse with wings!
Beethoven Piano Sonata “Pathetique” in C minor Notes by Fred Haight
Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, in 3-PARTS (the second of the C-Minor Series)
Part One: Why is this work called “Pathetic”?
Beethoven’s electrifying Piano Sonata #8 in C minor, op.13, known as the “Pathetique”, was composed in 1798, when he was 28 years of age. It shook the musical world. Nothing like it had ever been heard. Today, we often listen passively, like it is old hat. Put yourself in the shoes of someone hearing it for the first time, and imagine the shock they felt.
Though it was his publisher who chose to call it “Grand Sonate Pathetique”, Beethoven approved of the title! Why would he approve of his work being called pathetic? Perhaps the word meant something different back then than it means today. Throughout this series, we will identify how the kindred spirits of Beethoven and the great poet Friedrich Schiller collaborated, though they never met. We have to consult Schiller in order to understand what pathetic actually means.
In his essay, On the Pathetic Schiller wrote:
“Representation of suffering (pathos)-as mere suffering-is never the end of art, but, as a means to that end, it is extremely important. The ultimate end of art is the representation of the super-sensuous, and the tragic art in particular effects this…in that it makes sensuous, our moral independence from the laws of nature, in a state of emotion.
“Only the resistance, which it expresses to the power of the emotions, makes the free principle in us recognizable; that resistance, however, can be estimated only according to the strength of the attack…nature must have first demonstrated… its entire might before our eyes..
“It is not art, to become master of feelings, which only lightly and fleetingly sweep the surface of the soul. But, to retain one’s mental freedom in a storm, which arouses all of sensuous nature, belongs to a capacity of resisting that is above all natural power; that is infinitely sublime.”
Thus, the Pathetique sonata, is not born out of personal suffering, nor does it wish to make us feel sorry for the individual who suffers—a feeling which, however heartfelt, cannot change anything. Rather, it demonstrates to us the potential to bring about change, by summoning something deep within, that rallies us to: “take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them.”
We provide a recording of the first movement, by the late Claudio Arrau, who resisted an overly-rushed tempo. We will discuss the scientific aspect, in the next episode.
December 16, 2020 marks the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven. As part of the international celebrations this year and next year, in honor of Beethoven, the Schiller Institute is happy to inaugurate a new feature on our website. We will regularly post selections of Beethoven’s music with short discussions of the pieces.
Friedrich Schiller’s beautiful words from his poem “Ode To Joy” are magnificently memorialized in the last movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium, Wir betreten feuertrunken, Himmlische, den Heiligtum. Deine Zauber binden wieder, Was die Mode streng geteilt, Alle Menschen werden Brüder, Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Seid umschlungen Millionen! Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt! Brüder – überm Sternenzelt Muß ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Joy, thou beauteous godly lightning, Daughter of Elysium, Fire drunken we are ent’ring Heavenly, thy holy home! Thy enchantments bind together, What did custom stern divide, Every man becomes a brother, Where thy gentle wings abide.
Chorus. Be embrac’d, ye millions yonder! Take this kiss throughout the world! Brothers—o’er the stars unfurl’d Must reside a loving Father.
Schiller’s words and Beethoven’s music speak to us even more passionately and powerfully today, in these times of pandemic disease, famine, economic crisis social unrest, and the threat of war. Let us take Schiller and Beethoven to our hearts and minds and forge a new paradigm of peace and development for all humanity. Listen, and let Beethoven instruct us!