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euphony131
02-07-2001, 03:44 AM
Hi all,

I've understood that the 5-year span from 1815-20 marked Beethoven's dry spell in which he produced hardly anything, so consumed by legal haggling for his nephew.

However, he did produce the Hammerklavier during this period and also started on the Missa Solemnis, did he not? I believe he also created a lot of non-opus works as well -- didn't he set his Irish folk song arrangements at this time?

So, isn't the 5-year dry spell a little over-exaggerated? Certainly compared to his earlier output it wasn't as prolific, but compared to other composers -- was it really so much "empty time?" But then again, with Beethoven hardly anything is really "empty time." Probably more like a gestation period, readying the guns for the next assault.

Peter
02-07-2001, 09:29 AM
I think you're right Euphony - the successes of 1814 (when B was able to purchase 8 bank shares) may also have alleviated any financial pressures. This was also the transition to the 3rd or late period, so B was undergoing a spiritual and artistic metamorphis.

------------------
'Man know thyself'

Roehre
11-15-2009, 08:42 PM
Was it such a dry spell?
In terms of published works most definitely.
And in the year 1815 hardly any sketches saw the light of day either.
In 1817 he published only less than a handful of tiny works.

But this is only half the story.

Apart from the year 1815 Beethoven sketched as extensively as he used to do during his "productive" years 1800-1812.
From 1813 onwards however relatively few works came to fruition. We do have fragments of a piano trio, the complete score of half the 1st mvt of a piano concerto (Hess 15), the reworking of Fidelio, a bunches of folk song arrangements. Especially the latter -nowadays considered part of the "lesser" Beethoven works - caused him quite a lot of trouble, but guaranteed him a kind of steady income from Scotland whereas the Austrian currency was unstable and his "continental" income plummeting. Barry Cooper's book on these arrangements show that rather clearly.

Then of course Beethoven's deafness reached the first really existential crisis: the forced retirement from his career as performer (with the Archduke trio, 1815).

On top of that, with the Restoration movement more or less ending the "grandiose" revolutionary atmosphere as well as the uncertain years of the Napoleonic era, which for Beethoven meant that his republican dreams came to an end, and as a consequence his heroic style became old fashioned.

Beethoven had to change his style, and internal factors (deafness, the definite feeling he wouldn't find a love of his life which he could marry) as well as external ones (end of Napoleonic era, begin of Biedermeyer) were causing this.
These years saw -from 1815 onwards- the legal battle too for nephew Karl, in whom Beethoven saw his substitute son, and himself as a ditto father.
This did cost him physically (psychosomatic illnesses on top of his deafness) as well as mentally (the law suits, the behaviour of a child in its puberty) dearly.

So: many sketches, hardly any works completed; but in the end Beethoven cocooned: the late works -many of these incomprehensible for a larger public - began to emerge, and what was to become the final phase of his life began. For those interested in those years startin 1817: Martin Cooper's Beethoven - the final decade offers interesting insights, as do Maynard Solomon's Beethoven Essays.

Peter
11-17-2009, 12:08 PM
Was it such a dry spell?
In terms of published works most definitely.
And in the year 1815 hardly any sketches saw the light of day either.
In 1817 he published only less than a handful of tiny works.

But this is only half the story.

Apart from the year 1815 Beethoven sketched as extensively as he used to do during his "productive" years 1800-1812.
From 1813 onwards however relatively few works came to fruition. We do have fragments of a piano trio, the complete score of half the 1st mvt of a piano concerto (Hess 15), the reworking of Fidelio, a bunches of folk song arrangements. Especially the latter -nowadays considered part of the "lesser" Beethoven works - caused him quite a lot of trouble, but guaranteed him a kind of steady income from Scotland whereas the Austrian currency was unstable and his "continental" income plummeting. Barry Cooper's book on these arrangements show that rather clearly.

Then of course Beethoven's deafness reached the first really existential crisis: the forced retirement from his career as performer (with the Archduke trio, 1815).

On top of that, with the Restoration movement more or less ending the "grandiose" revolutionary atmosphere as well as the uncertain years of the Napoleonic era, which for Beethoven meant that his republican dreams came to an end, and as a consequence his heroic style became old fashioned.

Beethoven had to change his style, and internal factors (deafness, the definite feeling he wouldn't find a love of his life which he could marry) as well as external ones (end of Napoleonic era, begin of Biedermeyer) were causing this.
These years saw -from 1815 onwards- the legal battle too for nephew Karl, in whom Beethoven saw his substitute son, and himself as a ditto father.
This did cost him physically (psychosomatic illnesses on top of his deafness) as well as mentally (the law suits, the behaviour of a child in its puberty) dearly.

So: many sketches, hardly any works completed; but in the end Beethoven cocooned: the late works -many of these incomprehensible for a larger public - began to emerge, and what was to become the final phase of his life began. For those interested in those years startin 1817: Martin Cooper's Beethoven - the final decade offers interesting insights, as do Maynard Solomon's Beethoven Essays.

I think if you glance at a list of Beethoven's compositions from 1815 on there is a marked decline and excluding the last quartets I counted only 10 major works written 1815-27 in my chronological list of Beethoven works. www.kingsbarn.freeserve.co.uk/comp.html

I agree that the events of 1815 which resulted in the distraction of karl combined with an increase in deafness contributed to this. However I think the change in style was not a conscious reaction to historical events, rather a natural internal development, a process of going deeper into himself. This is an interesting point because Beethoven's style effectively changed twice in his lifetime and we have to ask how is this possible? Can a composer force himself to change or does this happen on a subconscious level?

Roehre
11-17-2009, 01:32 PM
I think if you glance at a list of Beethoven's compositions from 1815 on there is a marked decline and excluding the last quartets I counted only 10 major works written 1815-27 in my chronological list of Beethoven works. www.kingsbarn.freeserve.co.uk/comp.html

Sorry for the misunderstanding: obviously Beethoven did not complete many major works between 1815- november 1826. But that does not mean that his composing habits as well as the annual amount of sketches changed dramatically.
He did produce quite a lot of minor works (the variations opp.105 and 107 e.g. took quite some time, not to mention the last badges of Folk songs), but what is of more importance here is that the amount of sketches is at least similar, and with likely exception of 1817, even significantly more than in the previous more productive (in terms of major works) years. Beethoven was not less productive, he only didn't complete many projects, like the piano concerto in D.

Between the Landsberg 6 sketchbook (1803/04, a.o. opp. 53, 54, 56, 85) to and including the Dessauer and Landberg 9 books (both 1814, both mostly -but not exclusively- Fidelio sketches), at least 680 pages of sketches in bundlings/desktop-sketchbooks were dotted.
apart for the year 1806 there are no major gaps in the series of sketches which have come down to us. Of pocket sketch books we possess 40 pages, totalling to [at least] 720 pages of sketches

From Mendelssohn 6 (1814, opp.89, 126, Hess 15) to the last desktop sketch book Kullak (1825/26) we possess 565 pages, with probably a gap between 1816 (the Autograph 11/1) and 1819 (Wittgenstein). On top of that however the pocket sketch books present 764 pages of sketches.
That makes a total of 1329 pages.



I agree that the events of 1815 which resulted in the distraction of karl combined with an increase in deafness contributed to this. However I think the change in style was not a conscious reaction to historical events, rather a natural internal development, a process of going deeper into himself. This is an interesting point because Beethoven's style effectively changed twice in his lifetime and we have to ask how is this possible? Can a composer force himself to change or does this happen on a subconscious level? ]

Of course the changes in style at least partly were subconscious. But external factors do contribute. Good example of consciously changes of style can be found in Stravinsky's output, a.o., but I think that the more Handelian style of Beethoven's orchestration in the Missa solemnis or the Weihe des Hauses overture were unsconcious reflections on seeing Handelian scores.

Beethoven himself expressed more than once how he wanted to compose differently as he had done up to that point: "more simple" is an expression IIRC to be found among the sketches for either opus 10 or 31. He also expressed that he wanted to compose a diffferent genre of works in his last years.
And IMO the last quartet shouldn't be considered the last one of the present series of late quartets, but as the first one of works in a more simple, more classical style (as the present finale of 130 ultimately shows).

Style changes are a mysterious phenomenon.

Peter
11-17-2009, 02:23 PM
Of course the changes in style at least partly were subconscious. But external factors do contribute. Good example of consciously changes of style can be found in Stravinsky's output, a.o., but I think that the more Handelian style of Beethoven's orchestration in the Missa solemnis or the Weihe des Hauses overture were unsconcious reflections on seeing Handelian scores.

Beethoven himself expressed more than once how he wanted to compose differently as he had done up to that point: "more simple" is an expression IIRC to be found among the sketches for either opus 10 or 31. He also expressed that he wanted to compose a diffferent genre of works in his last years.
And IMO the last quartet shouldn't be considered the last one of the present series of late quartets, but as the first one of works in a more simple, more classical style (as the present finale of 130 ultimately shows).

Style changes are a mysterious phenomenon.



Generally I'd agree, but I think the influences of Handel in the Consecration of the House overture and the earlier influences in the Missa (such as Palestrina) were actually conscious - he actively sought these out and indeed the terribly unreliable Schindler had said in reference to Op.124 that Beethoven had long cherished the idea of writing a work in the strict Handelian style. Your observations on the sketchbooks are very interesting.