Volume 3, Number 1, January 1997
Copyright © 1997 Society for Music Theory
Review of Nicolas Marston’s Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E, op. 109, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
KEYWORDS: Beethoven, Schenker
 Nicholas Marston’s ten-year-old article in Nineteenth-Century Music on Beethoven’s sketches for the Piano Sonata op. 109 has found its logical successor in Marston’s new book on the same sonata in Clarendon Press’s series Studies in Musical Genesis and Structure.(1) Whereas the article dealt with the first movement and the theme for the variation movement, the volume under review addresses the entire sonata and gives a comprehensive survey of the sketches.
 Marston’s approach is informed by a Schenkerian view of structure, although not an entirely orthodox one. For Marston, the introduction, intensification and resolution of a large-scale dissonance (Rosen, 1971) is encapsulated by the fate of the dominant representative tone B in relation to the tonic representative
 The second movement provides a similar motivic dichotomy for Marston’s speculations on structure and closure. Here, it is the opposition between
 The theme of the third movement supplies this analysis with the convincing
 Marston’s guiding idea, to take the purposefully engineered incompleteness of each movement as the inspiration for a close examination of the linkages between the movements and to invest in the unity of the whole at the expense of the parts, comes from Schenker. However, many of the specifics directly contradict Schenker’s own commentary and the general precepts of his background structures, none more so than Marston’s overall “Urlinie” for the whole sonata:
 Allen Forte’s monograph also takes its inspiration from Schenker, and is itself a study of the sketches. Marston is critical of Forte’s selection from among the sketches: Forte only uses those sketches which serve to illuminate a direct path to the final version of a given movement or passage. Marston strongly feels that an inclusive view of all the sketches demonstrates the composer’s all-pervasive concerns, only some of which are manifested locally, i.e. in the passage being sketched. Marston is convinced that a complex of concerns which are crucial for the final draft of the sonata can be connected to the sketches, albeit via an indirect route. These overriding concerns are the articulation of degrees of closure (utilizing the
 Although the structural study of sketches as well as the analysis of the final whole provide the author with ample material for his study, one is surprised that the striking similarity between the opening of op. 109 and that of the second movement of the relatively slight Sonata in G, op. 79 remains unmentioned. The double stemming of downbeats in the opening of op. 109 emphasizes the correspondences of those melodic tones to the parallel notes of the earlier sonata, a connection which plays an important role in one’s concept of performance of the work. Although Beethoven’s sketches for the opening indicate a monumental creative struggle, his final idea was literally indebted to a relatively simple-minded earlier work. Marston does draw convincing structural and chronological connections between the song “Abendlied unterm gestirnten Himmel,” WoO 150, and the first movement of op. 109.
 Such concerns as the tempi of the movements (N.B. the extreme prestissimo of the second movement as well as the vivace and adagio espressivo of the first movement) and the relations between them also constitute untouched territory in Marston’s volume. The inattention to the significance of tempo is connected to the analyst’s unwillingness to engage with the “topical” and stylistic narrative of the work a la Ratner and Agawu. Whereas the “introversive semiosis” (Agawu, 1991) which engages the degrees of closure is at the center of Marston’s work, the “extroversive semiosis” which is fascinatingly engaged by the duality of the first movement and the progress of the variations plays as central a role.(4) Marston’s priorities are clarified by his treatment of the suggestive words quoted from Beethoven’s first sketch of the first movement at the moment (measure 9) which eventually becomes the first adagio expressivo:
 None of these omissions vitiates the great value of Marston’s numerous brilliant insights into the sketches of op. 109 as well as the final work. One is fascinated by such a clearly constructed and convincing chronological narrative of the order of the sketches linked to the compositional concerns. Moreover, the lucid transcription of the sketches would in itself justify the existence of this book.
 There can be no question as to the location of this book on the spectrum between theory and analysis. Clearly, Marston is more interested in exploring the uniqueness of Beethoven’s sonata op. 109 than in advocating an agenda involving new post-Schenkerian paradigms of overall structure. Ironically, his engagement with the specificity of his task that stimulates the inquisitive reader to further speculations on the meaning of “cyclic” structure, on degrees of closure and its purposeful prevention, and on a broader range of significance in the relation between sketch and final draft. One cannot help but admire Marston’s devotion to and engagement with this supremely beautiful work as well as the intellectual robustness which results from his focus on the work, a priority which can only result in theoretical outcomes which are rooted in genuine musical experience rather than the momentum of pure speculation.
Nicholas Marston, “Schenker and Forte Reconsidered: Beethoven’s Sketches for the Piano Sonata in E, op. 109,” Nineteenth Century Music 10 (1986–87), pages 24–42.
Charles Rosen, The Classical Style, Norton Books, New York, 1971.
Allen Forte, The Compositional Matrix (Da Capo Press, New York, 1974.
V. Kofi Agawu, Playing with Signs, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1991.
Copyright © 1997 by the Society for Music Theory. All rights reserved.
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