Author: Ofcarcik, Judith
Title: A Structural-Aesthetic Study of the Variation Movements of Beethoven\'s Late Period\"
Institution: Florida State University
Begun: August 2009
Completed: May 2013
The variation movements of Beethoven’s late period form an enigmatic repertoire. Characterized by lyric themes and slow tempos, the movements make use of strikingly different formal strategies and expressive trajectories. In this dissertation, I propose four stylistic markers that provide an approach to the analysis of this corpus. These stylistic markers—temporal plasticity, formal plasticity, sub-thematicism, and expressive narrativity—allow for a detailed discussion of both formal and expressive features of the variation movements.
Temporal plasticity, a concept proposed by Frank Samarotto, is most commonly manifested in moments of metric ambiguity as well as expansions within the voice-leading framework that affect the expected proportions. Formal plasticity is closely linked to temporal plasticity, and results from alterations to the phrase structure or overall form of a movement, notably through phrase expansions or unexpected episodic material. Sub-thematicism, as defined by Carl Dahlhaus, characterizes the treatment of the theme in these late works, where the variations focus on individual motives or imitative structures rather than the theme’s complete harmonic-melodic complex. Expressive narratives arise from a variety of musical and expressive events including the aforementioned markers, and differ significantly from movement to movement.
These four stylistic markers lead to insights about the three movements discussed in detail in this study: the slow movements of the Op. 109 piano sonata, Op. 125 (the Ninth Symphony), and the Op. 127 string quartet. All of the late variation movements are discussed and compared in the course of the dissertation. Finally, a brief analysis of the “Cavatina” from the Op. 130 string quartet illustrates the applicability of these stylistic markers to works from Beethoven’s late period that are not in variation form.
Keywords: Beethoven, variations, narrative, temporality, quartets, sonatas, late style
1. INTRODUCTION 1
1.1 Purpose and Scope 5
1.2 Aesthetics and Expressive Analysis 7
1.3 Stylistic Features of Beethoven’s Late Period 10
1.4 Conclusions 17
2. OP. 127: THE AESTHETICS OF EXCESS 19
2.1 Excess and Plasticity 21
2.2 Expressive Narrativity: Sublime and Transcendence 42
2.3 Conclusions 53
3. OP. 125: THE AESTHETICS OF RUPTURE 54
3.1 Adorno’s Concepts of Durchbruch and Rückung 58
3.2 The Two Themes and their Expressive Trajectory 61
3.3 Approaching the End 68
3.4 Conclusions 83
4. OP. 109: THE AESTHETICS OF ENDING 86
4.1 Counterpoint and Song 86
4.2 Temporal Plasticity in Op. 109 92
4.3 Expressive Narrativity in Op. 109 101
4.4 Conclusions 104
5. COMPARISONS AND CONCLUSIONS 108
5.1 Comparative Analyses of All Late Variation Movements 112
5.2 Conclusions and Further Applications 117