Returning Cycles: Contexts for the Interpretation of Schubert's Impromptus and Last Sonatas

By Charles Fisk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Beethoven in the Image of Schubert
The Sonata in C Minor, D. 958

I

More than any of Schubert's other sonatas—more, indeed, than any of his other works—the C-Minor Sonata is compared to Beethoven. Virtually every discussion of the sonata draws parallels between it and one or another—or, more often, several—of Beethoven's works. The gestural and thematic reasons for this comparison are obvious. Like both of Beethoven's early sonatas in this key, op. 10, no. 1, and op. 13, Schubert's C-Minor Sonata (see ex. 7.1a) begins aggressively with a full-voiced, forte tonic triad; as in both of these Beethoven sonatas, forceful accents, dotted rhythms, and abrupt silences impart to this theme's opening a defiant tension. And most tellingly, the theme itself begins almost as a clone of the theme of Beethoven's Thirtytwo Variations in C Minor (see ex. 7.1b). 1 Walther Dürr, hearing this CMinor Sonata as a tribute to Beethoven, also compares the chordally accompanied second theme (see ex. 7.2, mm. 40ff.), immediately repeated with triplet figuration, to that of the “Waldstein” Sonata. 2 Dürr is not alone in hearing the figuration of Schubert's development (see ex. 7.3, mm. 99ff.) as Beethovenian, or in relating the character of Schubert's Adagio (see ex.2.1a) to that of the slow movements of the early Beethoven sonatas already mentioned. 3 Cone and Godel also associate the finale with Beethoven; Godel invokes particularly the finale of the Sonata in E♭ Major, op. 31, no. 3. 4

Less obvious than the similarities between Schubert's C-Minor Sonata and certain Beethoven works is the nature or import of this relationship. Godel's comments seem to align him with Dürr in regarding Schubert's

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