[Smt-talk] Beethoven's Sonatas

Gregory Karl gregkarl at frontier.com
Thu Feb 23 07:47:21 PST 2012


Is your question related to a research or writing project you are  
engaged in or considering? This might help in knowing how to frame a  

In any case, while I could answer your question in the spirit it was  
asked, I can't do so on your terms. To answer it well and with the  
necessary qualifications would require an essay. The problem is that  
I believe attributing to any given musical passage the expression of  
a specific emotion, especially one defined by complex cognitive  
content (hope, regret, etc.), is fraught with peril and that doing so  
convincingly can require a monumental analytic and interpretive  
effort, when it is possible at all. Philosopher Jenefer Robinson and  
I demonstrated how this might be accomplished in an essay titled  
"Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony and the Musical Expression of  
Cognitively Complex Emotions" (in Music and Meaning, ed. Robinson,  
Cornell UP, 1997). The bibliography and notes for this essay would  
likely be helpful if your question is related to an ongoing or  
prospective research project on expression in the music of Beethoven.

Okay, I will relent and give a short answer just for the hell of it:  
I think measures 21-25 in the Largo e mesto from Op. 10, No. 3  
express an anguished grappling with an inevitable and depressing  
conclusion. Of course, this statement is as much a summary of  
analytical data as it is an expressive interpretation. I'll leave it  
to you to work out how this is so.

Greg Karl
Jay NY
On Feb 22, 2012, at 10:52 AM, Joshua Albrecht wrote:

> Dear collective wisdom,
> I'm interested in some of the most expressive moments in  
> Beethoven's piano sonatas.  What are some of your favorite excerpts  
> that you feel express the most powerful emotions? Any emotion is  
> fine (joy, sorrow, agitation, passion, jealousy, etc.), but ideally  
> it would be an exemplar of that emotion.  If you would like to  
> share your favorite moments, please pass on the Sonata number (or  
> Op. number), which movement it is, in what measures it happens, and  
> what emotions you feel that it represents.
> For example, I find the opening of the sonata No. 26 (Op. 81a, "Les  
> adieux") to be very moving.  The C minor triad seems to exude a  
> mournful, resigned spirit after the Eb-G of the first sonority and  
> the Bb-F open fifth almost establish Eb major.  Or, I've always  
> found the "E" major modulation in ms. 42-44 in the second movement  
> of the Pathétique to exhibit an almost paradoxical joyful, resolved  
> feeling that is yet colored by the agitation and unease expressed  
> by the dense, insistent triplet chordal figures underneath the melody.
> Thanks for your thoughts!
> Joshua Albrecht, ABD
> School of Music
> Ohio State University
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