Academic journal article The Beethoven Newsletter

The Role of Dynamics in Beethoven's Instrumental Music

Academic journal article The Beethoven Newsletter

The Role of Dynamics in Beethoven's Instrumental Music

Article excerpt

Beethoven Dissertations in Progress

Until now there have been studies of individual dynamic signs (such as the sforzando or the crescendo) in Beethoven's works, or of the proper manner of performing his dynamic indications, but there has not yet been - to my knowledge - a comprehensive, systematic, analytical study of dynamics in Beethoven's music. A fuller understanding of the function of dynamics in Beethoven's music throughout his life is needed, especially since he himself considered it to be of vital importance for the proper performance of his works.

The aims of this research are, first, to study the role of dynamics as a means of clarifying and reinforcing the structure of a composition on different levels (movement, section, and phrase); second, to discover how dynamic action is related to patterns of action of other musical elements (such as texture, melody, or rhythm); and third, to determine whether and how Beethoven's approach to dynamics varied according to the medium of performance. An important issue is the relationship between dynamics and expression; how do dynamics help convey a mood, highlight a special moment, or raise (or shatter) expectations?

The first chapter surveys the theoretical writings of the eighteenth century with regard to the correct performance of dynamics. The second includes a comparison between Beethoven's compositions and selected works of his contemporaries (Haydn's Symphony No. 103, Mozart's Symphony No. 41, and three of dementi's pianoforte sonatas). The main body of this study is a detailed stylistic comparison of nine compositions chosen to form a representative group of the three periods and the different mediums - solo.keyboard, chamber, and orchestral. …

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