Similiarity between Beethoven's 2nd and 9th Symphony

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Similiarity between Beethoven's 2nd and 9th Symphony

Postby goombaruskirusky » Sat Jun 30, 2007 2:30 am

In the 2nd symphony, 1st movement, about 2 minutes into it there is a descending arpeggio played in unison in D minor.

In the 9th symphony, 1st movement, about 35 seconds into it there is a descending arpeggio played in unison in D minor.

coincidence? i think not.

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Postby Yagan Kiely » Sun Jul 01, 2007 10:50 am

There are tonns of examples of people copying other composers and them selves. Beethoven's Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky's 1812 is one example, as is Mozart's 41st's last movement main theme and (I think) symphony 33 aswell as a couple Brahms and Beethoven also share the melody.

I can't seem to find the spot in the 2nd symphony, do you mean 2 minutes into the first movement after the intro?

Beethoven's 3rd symphony motif is also in Mozart's Bestein and Bestienne.

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Postby goombaruskirusky » Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:17 pm

2 minutes into the entire movement. you cannot miss it.

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Re: Similiarity between Beethoven's 2nd and 9th Symphony

Postby sbeckmesser » Mon Sep 21, 2009 8:21 pm

I myself cannot find a descending d-minor arpeggio in unision in the exposition of the 2nd symphony. The closest thing is the passage at measure 114, which isn't a true arpeggio due to the stepwise descent in measure 115 and besides is not in full-orchestra unison (due to the independent activity in the 2nd violins). The famous passage in the 9th (starting at measure 17) is in full-orchestra unison, a fact not lost on Bruckner.

Assuming the above passage in the 2nd is the one in question, there might be a loose similarity but the two passages differ in several significant respects and to me do not function or sound the same in context. The rhythms are completely different, for one, and the corresponding descending passages (2nd: measure 115, 9th: measure 20) have completely different shapes, both aspects disqualifying the 9th from being a direct quotation from the 2nd. Furthermore, the passage in the 9th is the start of the main theme of the exposition and the first firm statement of the tonic key (D minor). The passage in the 2nd is a "throwaway" harmonic deflection into d-minor designed to highlight the establishment of the dominant (A major), a typical thing to do at the end of an exposition (iv of V). The passage in the 2nd Symphony (and the corresonding passage in the recapitulation) can be successfully rewritten so as not to sound even remotely like the 9th, with no great damage to the 2nd. But the reverse cannot be done, since that would start impinging on the whole of the 9th's musical discourse -- fragments of the opening theme form most of the material of the movement, a fact not lost on Brahms.

One has to be careful in tonal music not to hear something as a quotation that is merely one of the conventional ways of doing things, like firmly establishing a key at the end of an exposition. Sometimes a D-minor arpeggio is just a D-minor arpeggio. Besides, composers in the Classical era were not very big on deliberately hidden self-quotations, as opposed to obvious quotations (i.e. those set apart from the main discourse, as if in quotation marks). Note that the use of quotations is different from using similar or even identical motifs throughout a single piece, which is rather more common.

--Sixtus

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Re: Similiarity between Beethoven's 2nd and 9th Symphony

Postby goombaruskirusky » Mon Sep 21, 2009 8:33 pm

So you do not believe Beethoven thought of the measure in the Second Symphony, First Movement as he was writing the Ninth Symphony, First Movement (measure 17)?

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Re: Similiarity between Beethoven's 2nd and 9th Symphony

Postby pml » Mon Sep 21, 2009 9:59 pm

Sixtus,

I believe the original poster is claiming the bar in the slow introduction of Op. 36 - bar 23 - which is not a complete unison (because of horns, trumpets, drums, and multiple stops in strings) but is a proper arpeggio figure.

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Re: Similiarity between Beethoven's 2nd and 9th Symphony

Postby goombaruskirusky » Mon Sep 21, 2009 10:04 pm

I suppose that is an accurate interpretation of my original post. Thanks, PML

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Re: Similiarity between Beethoven's 2nd and 9th Symphony

Postby sbeckmesser » Tue Sep 22, 2009 12:09 am

No, I don't think the arpeggio in the 9th is a deliberate quote of the one in the 2nd's introduction. The arpeggio in the 2nd's intro is used just as the arpeggio as covered in my previous post, and serves the same harmonic function: to set up A as the dominant of D, here making the arrival of the Allegro con brio all the more harmonically intense. Haydn and Mozart do similar things with use of introduction material in the body of a sonata-allegro movement. All these passages in the 2nd are subsidiary -- they can be rewritten, eliminating the arpeggios while maintaining their harmonic function, with only slight damage to the rest of the piece (an interesting exercise "for the student").

To me, for a perceived quotation to be an intentional quotation (rather than an absolutely coincidental mirroring of earlier material when heard in hindsight) there has to be some reason for the quotation: the composer would have to be deliberately telling us something. What purpose would a quote from the 2nd serve here? Why the 2nd and not one of the other symphonies? Would Beethoven's listeners have heard the arpeggio as a quotation (none of the early reviews of the 9th caught it)? Why quote the arpeggio and not something considerably more prominent, like an incipit or a principal melodic figure? Why quote an earlier symphony rather than another genre? Other unison arpeggios are probably found elsewhere in Beethoven's music, not to mention all the music by other composers Beethoven might have heard or read earlier in his life. If Salieri, say, had a similar arpeggio in one of the overtures to his operas could not Beethoven have been quoting that instead? Is this "quote" followed up in the 9th by others? If one can find other quotations in the 9th, do they all add up to some expressive end, like the extensive network of nostalgic quotations in the works of Ives?

Occam's Razor, applied here, would rule out a quotation. Our 21st Century ears, attuned to the use of quotations in the works of Ives and others, and filled with earlier music like no other ears in history, tend to hear quotes and borrowings where the composer would likely claim none would exist. There are lots of hard-core musicological papers on such topics, many of which I find specious, except sometimes for the case of Mahler. He actually conducted many of the pieces he seems to quote. But even I may be imagining things when I hear the "stinger" chord at very end of Mahler's 6th as a borrowing of the very last moments of the 2nd act of Puccini's Tosca. And don't get me started on Bach and claims that he used numerology.

--Sixtus


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